House amends terrorism law, al-Faisal held at bay
Edmond Campbell, Senior Staff Reporter
ON A day when Parliament debated and passed amendments imposing tougher sanctions against acts of terrorism, deported Muslim cleric Abdullah al-Faisal, who has been accused by the United Kingdom of preaching racial hatred, was barred from entering Gordon House.
Al-Faisal was told by the police that he would not be allowed entry because he was inappropriately attired.
The controversial Muslim cleric, who has been linked to terrorists and in 2007 was deported by the UK government, told The Gleaner he was disappointed he could not enter the precincts of Parliament to observe the day's sitting.
In January, al-Faisal was sent back to Jamaica by Kenyan authorities.
Parliamentary guidelines stipulate that persons visiting the House should not wear slippers, sneakers, shorts, T-shirts or garments without sleeves.
Al-Faisal, who wore khaki pants and a long-sleeve shirt along with leather sandals, said his visit to Gordon House was impromptu. He expressed ignorance of the dress code for Parliament, saying he had visited the House of Lords in the UK and had not been turned away.
"I have never seen the Jamaican Parliament, just curious," he said. "It's my country, I want to see how the Parliament operates."
Asked whether he would return to Gordon House, al-Faisal said he would turn up "appropriately" dressed at another time.
In the House, Leader of Government Business Andrew Holness described the amendment to the anti-terrorism law as a "minor but nevertheless important change to the legislation to allow for penalties greater" than those prescribed in the parent statute.
Central Kingston Member of Parliament and attorney-at-law Ronald Thwaites wanted to know why "financial flows" into the country from the multilaterals and other international financial institutions were contingent on the amendment.
Holness, who piloted the bill on behalf of Dr Ken Baugh, foreign affairs and foreign trade minister, told the House that Jamaica could run the risk of being "locked out of the international financial processes".
"The importance of passing this piece of legislation is in fulfilment of our obligations to an international body known as the Financial Action Task Force," he said.
Holness said the job of this task force was to ensure that governments and international organisations promoted policies to combat money laundering and terrorism financing.
He said Jamaica was a member of the task force and as such, had to comply with the measures it recommended.
Anti-terrorism law was passed in Jamaica in 2005 following the September 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, which claimed the lives of nearly 3,000 people.