Ambiguity, unconstitutionality of SARA Bill will be removed by PPP- Jagdeo

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Opposition Leader Dr Bharat Jagdeo

If the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) is re-elected, they may keep the State Assets Recovery Agency (SARA) Bill of 2017 active, but only after specific modifications are made to its provisions.

This is according to Opposition Leader, Dr Bharrat Jagdeo who on Tuesday posited that while the SARA Bill in its current construct has received severe criticisms from members of the public, the business sector, as well as the PPP among other stakeholders, there are still some good elements to the Bill which could be retained.

“We will remove all the ambiguity about private property. We can’t leave the head of the unit to determine what is state property…It must be properly defined and secondly, we will remove all the provisions that make the SARA bill now unconstitutional,” he explained during a press conference with media operatives.

Jagdeo noted that while the change or modifications may not mean a total repeal, it will clarify definitions and make sure that the head of the unit is accountable to someone else.

“It [will make it] constitutional, and narrowing the definition of state property so that you don’t have capricious behaviour …and then thirdly, make sure that the head of any unit of that nature is accountable to some one else. Those are three elements that are vital if we retain the law, to make sure clarity.”

The Opposition People’s Progressive Party has expressed concerns about this legislation setting the stage for the creation of a parallel justice system.

The PPP says the Bill would create an environment that encourages the violation of individuals’ constitutional rights and undermine the rule of law, since it has conferred on a sole individual – the Director of SARA – who currently is Professor Clive Thomas, powers that are ten times greater than those of the Guyana Police Force.

According to the Opposition, the Bill would create a series of new offences, the SARA Director has been vested with unparalleled powers to investigate the newly-created offences, and persons could be rid of their properties without ever being charged with a crime.

Government used their one seat majority to pass the SARA Bill in the National Assembly last Thursday.

However, the PPP had indicated its intent to file legal proceedings to disallow the setting up of this agency.

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