Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Integrity bill to be laid in parliament next week

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The Integrity in Public Life Bill goes before parliament in the coming days. Attorney General Dale Marshall made the disclosure this morning during a post-cabinet press conference.

It’s the second time Government is attempting to have the bill passed.

On the first attempt it was passed in the lower house but failed to get the two-thirds majority needed to be passed in the Senate as at that time, opposition and independent senators had objected to a number of items in the bill, primarily, judges being exempted from declaring their assets.

Marshall said Cabinet decided to make some adjustments to the bill, which will be laid in the House of Assembly on February 3, 2023.

“We have changed the bill to reflect the change from a monarchical system to our current Republican style. And we’ve addressed those issues that were of importance to the Senate,” he noted.

The bill will seek to make future judges, and other officials in high office, declare their assets.

However, the attorney general made it clear that this will not affect those who currently hold such posts.

“It would be distinctly unconstitutional to try to impose these obligations on our current judges, but there’s nothing wrong with imposing them on future appointed judges as a condition of their appointment,” he said.

He made clear that the bill once passed will obligate future appointed judges, Directors of Public Prosecution, and Auditor Generals to declare their assets.

Marshall further explained that they took this approach of addressing the past senators’ concerns so as not to breach their [judges]  constitutional protection “and we absolutely did not want to flirt with that.”

He drew reference to a similar situation in Trinidad and Tobago”.

“In Trinidad when they sought to make their judges subject to the provisions of the integrity legislation a High Court suit was filed contending that that statute was unconstitutional because it sought to impose a number of restrictions including punitive restrictions on the High Court judges of Trinidad and Tobago at the time.

For those reasons, the court found that the statute constituted a change in the terms and conditions of judges that was negative, and therefore, they ran afoul of the constitution” Marshall explained.

He added: “We’ve carefully analysed the Trinidadian provisions. Trinidad and Barbados have the same common law heritage and our constitutions are very similar it is, therefore, it would be fair to conclude that such a challenge would be received and supported by our courts. If we sought to meet a court that is subject to provisions of the integrity legislation. We think that we’ve reached a reasonable compromise in my view”. (AL)

 

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