Daraine Luton, Senior Staff Reporter
AMID CONCERNS about the legality of aspects of the Law Reform (Special Provisions) Act, 2013, a key legislative tool in the fight against the lottery scam, the Senate yesterday delayed the passage of the bill until next week.
Justice Minister Senator Mark Golding yesterday opened debate on the bill in the Upper House, but the debate was suspended shortly thereafter.
A.J. Nicholson, the leader of government business, indicated that the debate would resume next Thursday. He said the Senate would be sitting over two days next week to allow for the clearing of items that are currently on the order and question papers.
Nicholson said suspending the debate would "give senators on both sides a chance to examine the issues that have been raised on the outside.
"Out of an abundance of caution, let us have another look," Nicholson said, arguing that it would redound to the benefit of the country if further examination determines whether there is substance to the issues raised.
Among the critics of the bill is defence attorney Bert Samuels, who has described provisions in the proposed lottery-scam legislation as scary, predicting they will lead to people being afraid to conduct business in the country.
Samuels said the language in the act is too loose. He has taken issue with Section (6) subsection (2) which states that a person could be found guilty of an offence if he is aware that the money being used in a transaction is the proceeds of "some form of unlawful activity".
He noted that that clause could capture lawyers, cambio and money-transfer operators, car dealers, real-estate agents, and almost anyone who offers a good or service in Jamaica.
'TOO MUCH BURDEN'
"I am now going to have to become a police," asserted the defence attorney. According to him, before conducting business with anyone, he would have to scrutinise every client who comes to him to find out the source of the money they wish to use to make payment.
"I have to interview you and maybe have you sign a questionnaire that you have declared to me that you work at such and such a place. It puts too much burden on you, and commerce within a country can be stagnated because of these hurdles you put for people to transact business," he said.
Yesterday, Nicholson told fellow senators that "let us not claim that we have all the wisdom" but to see if there is any way the bill can be improved, and to pay attention to the objection raised by the public.
"Even if the issues were raised by one or two persons in the society, it is the duty of this Senate to contemplate on the raising of those issues," Nicholson said, adding that Golding may have convincing answers to the matters that have been raised.
Arthur Williams, the leader of opposition business, said members on his side have "some serious concerns about the bill". He said the concerns, as well as suggestions, would be given to Golding ahead of next week's debate. He said the Opposition would ensure that the rights of citizens are not violated by the bill and that principles upon which the country's jurisprudence is built are not disturbed.
"The Opposition intends to support the bill that is going to put scammers on the retreat," Williams said.
He added: "Next week Thursday when the vote is counted, they must know that all of us in this Senate are coming for them."