Attorney General Carl Bethel, centre, and Minister of State for Legal Affairs Elsworth Johnson met with representatives of civil society organisations, the National LEAD Institute, ORG and Our Carmichael, to discuss the Interception of Communication Bill and National Intelligence Agency Bill on Friday. Pictured from left, Senator Ranard Henfield, Director of Public Prosecution Garvin Gaskin, Peggy Williams of Our Carmichael, Mr Bethel, Chauntez Wilson of ORG, Mr Johnson, Kenrah Newry, Marco Rolle, and Troy Clarke of the National LEAD Institute.
By RASHAD ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
STATE Minister for Legal Affairs Elsworth Johnson said the way the Minnis administration has introduced its Interception of Communication Bill is different from how the Christie administration did so with their version of the legislation, saying the two approaches cannot be compared.
He was responding in the House of Assembly after Official Opposition Leader Philip "Brave" Davis suggested the Minnis administration has been hypocritical for tabling the bill.
The former administration pulled the bill to allow for further consultation in response to uproar from civil organisations.
The version of the bill the Minnis administration tabled Wednesday is not substantially different from the Christie administration's version.
And although Mr Johnson sought to contrast the two administration's approaches to how the bills were introduced to the public, The Tribune understands that stakeholders from several civil organisations have been highly critical of the government's decision to table the bill before public consultation has taken place.
"This government is not tabling this bill in the dead of the night when nobody is watching months before the election and we do not need a chorus of citizens and civil society groups to force us into consultation," Mr Johnson said Thursday.
"We're bringing this bill to the Bahamian people under the disinfecting light of the sun and we intend to engage with civil society and every citizen in an open and transparent way, proactively, not reactively.
"How anyone can seek to create this false equivalency is beyond me. The last administration ran an entire intelligence agency without governing legislation.
"We are looking to remedy the mistakes of the past so that our law enforcement officers can access the tools of the future.
"Reforming the process through which a citizen's communications may be intercepted is vital for protecting the privacy of Bahamians and by requiring independent oversight by the Supreme Court, we can avoid constitutional challenges to convictions that rely on the intelligence our law enforcement can gather."
Mr Johnson also provided insight into the new administration's legislative agenda.
On the government's proposed anti-corruption legislation, he said: "The Anti-Corruption Commission Bill will transform the anti-corruption regime in the Bahamas by providing for the establishment of an Anti-Corruption Commission.
"The Corruption Investigation Bureau Bill will transform what is now the Corruption Investigation Unit of the Royal Bahamas Police Force into the Corruption Investigation Bureau era, an autonomous body under the Office of the Prime Minister."
Mr Johnson also said the government expects to table a number of bills that will impact land issues in this country.
"One of the bills I love is the Proceeds of Crime Bill, which will consolidate, strengthen and modernise provisions to the prevention, prosecution and cross-border cooperation on money laundering, terrorism financing, corruption, human trafficking and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction," he said.
"This bill also allows for civil proceedings in cases where a politically exposed person or public officer has been charged with bribery, corruption, stealing by way of employment, any number of crimes allowing the court to make an unexplained wealth order."