CENTREVILLE MP Jomo Campbell.
By RASHAD ROLLE
Tribune News Editor
THE House of Assembly passed bills yesterday that would evenly split proceeds from the discovery of artefacts between the government and licencees and adjust licence fees for treasure hunters.
The Antiquities, Monuments and Museum Act currently stipulate a 75/25 split in favour of licensees when sharing proceeds from treasures found in Bahamian territories; the amendment bill would change this to a 50/50 split.
During his contribution to the debate, Centreville MP Jomo Campbell, the Minister of State for Legal Affairs, also highlighted the amendment bill to the Antiquities Monuments and Museum (Underwater Cultural Heritage) Regulations, which would change licence fees and timelines.
Mr Campbell noted that under the new regulations, the government cannot issue more than one exploration licence or recovery licence to a person or entity at any one time.
He said a licence could only be granted for three years.
Mr Campbell said the maximum area size for which an exploration licence may be granted could be 25 square nautical miles unless the minister determines otherwise on the recommendation of the AMMC.
“The maximum size of the area for which a recovery licence may be granted shall be limited to the size required to encompass the archaeological remains from which recovery is licensed, which shall be expressed by specific coordinates, and every area which is subject to an exploration licence or a recovery licence shall include at its perimeter a buffer zone of ten nautical miles,” he said.
He added that the cost of an exploration licence would be $100k and a recovery licence would be $250k. This, he said, would “protect underwater cultural assets and ensure that exploration companies have a suitable level of financial resources”.
Former Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis criticized the government yesterday for giving the opposition only 24 hours’ notice about the debate on the AMMC bill. Legislators were initially expected to debate the Ombudsman bill.
“Repeatedly, bills are suggested for debate at the last minute,” Dr Minnis said. “Repeatedly, there are changes to our agenda at the last minute. This is due in no small part because the ‘New Day’ government has a leader that prefers travelling to governing.”
Obie Wilchcombe, the leader of government business in the House of Assembly, countered that legislators should always be ready to debate bills on parliament’s agenda.