NASSAU, BAHAMAS – On the heels of parliamentarians passing the National Crime Intelligence Agency (NCIA) Bill in the Upper Chamber on Wednesday night, Opposition leader Philip Brave Davis expressed yesterday that the Bill was rushed.
The National Crime Intelligence Agency (NCIA) Bill will, among other things, establish an agency that would conduct investigations to provide security assessments for the National Security Council; and assist the minister of foreign affairs in collecting information or intelligence relating to “capabilities, intention or activities of any foreign state, foreign powers or group of foreign states or foreign powers”.
Before being passed on Wednesday night, Davis said the Opposition was given assurances from the prime minister that the bill would remain in the committee stage, to allow time for House members and other stakeholders to more comprehensively dissect this ‘substantive and far reaching piece of legislation’.
He noted, however, that the prime minister either changed his mind or never intended to cooperate with the Opposition.
“So, like a coward, he conveniently absented himself from the chamber of the House to allow for the uninterrupted third reading of the bill and eventual passage,” Davis claimed. “Members of Parliament are supposed to be honourable. How does the Prime Minister expect for the Opposition to trust anything he says with this unseemly behavior?”
Davis noted that the passed bill is the same one that was under consideration by the former administration, which was then referred to as the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) Bill.
The NIA Bill was not advanced by the former administration because it presented many “challenges” which were unresolved, according to Davis.
“At that time it was not brought forward as we thought it was prudent to bring to Parliament a compendium of related bills – for example, a bill to establish a true National Security Council (NSC) and the HONLEA (Head of National Law Enforcement Agency),” Davis said, adding that the new bill makes reference to an NSC that does not exist within the context of the bill passed.
“It was quickly recognized that the proposed bill was creating a spy agency and the enabling legislation under consideration by the last PLP cabinet blurred the lines between a spy agency and existing law enforcement agencies,” Davis explained. “The Bill was therefore inadequate in our view and this observation was pointed out on Wednesday, 22nd May in our House contributions and during the Committee stage.
“The PLP moved several amendments to the bill to take into account the concerns which included constitutional issues in relation to at least two of its provisions. The FNM, in their haste, rejected these proposed amendments. This is unfortunate.”
The opposition leader said apart from changing the name of the bill and deleting three sections relating to law enforcement and empowering the Minister of National Security to direct as opposed to offering general policy guidelines to the agency, the bill that was passed on Wednesday night is essentially the same.
Davis said he will have more to say about this bill as it makes its way through the Senate for further public debate.