Golding, Malahoo Forte spar over Zone of Special Operations bill
Opposition spokesman on Justice Senator Mark Golding and Attorney General Marlene Malahoo Forte yesterday locked horns during a special select committee of Parliament after the senator declared the Zone of Special Operations bill unconstitutional much to the ire of the Government's chief legal adviser.
In his comments during yesterday's sitting of the committee, Golding said that the bill creates a series of additional powers to the detriment of Jamaicans in the zone of special operations.
"The manner in which the zones are established lacks transparency and creates great potential for abuse," Golding said.
"Every time we have gone down that road, we have had to backtrack. The Suppression of Crime Act was a bad move and had to be repealed. The crime bills, some of the provisions were struck down as unconstitutional, while others were left to expire under their sunset clauses."
No rights breached
However, Malahoo Forte challenged Golding's assessment of the proposed law, emphasising that the Government was careful to ensure that the bill would not breach the fundamental rights and freedoms of Jamaicans.
Taking aim at Golding, the attorney general said that broad, sweeping statements that are not supported by the Constitution must not be made.
Malahoo Forte said that "anyone who is alleging that this is a fly-by-night piece of legislation that has not been thoroughly thought out" should think again "because the administration is serious about doing what it can [and] should do to stem the violent crimes in Jamaica".
Describing the attorney general as a "great salesman" for this bill, Golding declared: "She obviously is very invested in it, and in a sense, I think it is unfortunate that the attorney general is the one promoting it with such alacrity." Standing by his claim that the proposed statute was unconstitutional, Golding said that the attorney general would have the job of certifying to the governor general that the legislation complies with the Constitution.
Accusing Golding of ascribing "sinister" motives to her passion for the bill, Malahoo Forte said that she had been entrusted with the role of ensuring that the Government acts in accordance with its own laws and the Constitution.
The zone of special operations bill, which was tabled by Prime Minister Andrew Holness earlier this year, is a key government response to the escalating crime wave across the country.