Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo has clearly stated that the Coalition Government stands firmly in defending Guyana from acts of terrorism, and terrorists related activities.
It is against this background that the recent Anti-Terrorism and Terrorists Related Activities Bill 2015 was passed in the National Assembly. The Bill which seeks to criminalise terrorism and terrorists’ related activities was passed without the support of the opposition People’s Progressive Party (PPP). In a recent interview with GINA, the Prime Minister expressed his dismay at the reaction of the Opposition to the Bill.
“I was aghast that the PPP under the chairmanship of Bharrat Jagdeo decided that they are not supporting the anti-terrorism law, because here was a former Minister of Foreign Affairs, the General Secretary of the PPP Clement Rohee who hails the law as progressive and at voting time they decided that they will be dumb,” Nagamootoo said.
The Prime Minister believes that such behaviour is irresponsible and can be misinterpreted and the wrong message be sent to terrorists.
Nagamootoo explained that his government is fully aware of the devastating impacts of terrorism on a country, and added that the activities are coming closer to home as there are reports of persons in the Caribbean who are joining terrorist groups to fight in other countries.
“So we wanted to send a strong signal that Guyana is not a haven for terrorists. You can’t come in Guyana and plan terrorist activities or execute terrorist activities or conspire and lead terrorist’s activities in Guyana without feeling the full weight of the law,” GINA quoted the Prime Minister as warning.
The Bill was passed on December 30, 2015.
It should be noted that while the PPP abstained from voting on the Bill, Education Minister Dr Rupert Roopnaraine also abstained from voting, giving the indication that the Minister was not in agreement with the Bill in its current form.
PPP Members of Parliament had lobbied for the Bill to be sent to a Special Parliamentary Select Committee to allow for there to be consultation and input from stakeholders, including the Guyana Human Rights Association.
The PPP noted that while it stands ready to support law that fights terrorism, the Party looks at the Anti-Terrorism and Terrorist Related Activities Bill with mixed feelings.
“While we support the Government’s effort to comply with international conventions, there are certain matters that require further consultation,” MP Clement Rohee had stated in the National Assembly. “Let us not overlook, in our zeal, the human rights issues. The challenge lies in what we are aspiring to do vis-à-vis this legislation and the human rights that may be caught up in this matter,” he had posited.
Rohee suggested that the Bill go along with a well-developed anti-terrorism strategy, especially in face of the seriousness of the legislation.
“I would like to appeal to members of the Government benches to bring stakeholders together,” he said.
Prior to its passage in the House, Opposition Chief Whip Gail Teixeira said it is “a wicked piece of Bill” and ramrodding it through Parliament will lead to an “extremely dangerous piece of legislation.”