Gov’t, Opposition to cooperate on National Security Act

Gov’t, Opposition to cooperate on National Security Act

Senior staff reporter

Tuesday, August 04, 2020

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THE Government and the Opposition say they are close to consensus on legislation to incorporate all aspects of a National Security Act for Jamaica.

Prime Minister Andrew Holness expressed the need for that level of cooperation in developing the legislation, which will address possible abuse of authority and power, while providing the basis for the security of the country.

The argument about supportive legislation to fight major crimes was raised by Leader of the Opposition Dr Peter Phillips as he made his contribution to yesterday’s National Consensus on Crime Summit at the Jamaica Conference Centre in downtown Kingston.

The event was staged by the Consensus 2020’s Crime Monitoring and Oversight Committee (CMOC) — an independent body comprising stakeholders from the private sector, civil society, academia, and the political directorate, including the leadership of the two main political parties: the ruling Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) and the Opposition People’s National Party (PNP) — that is aimed at developing a national consensus on fighting crime.

Dr Phillips had suggested that a critical area of the consensus, which is being pursued by the political parties in cooperation with the private sector, would be to develop a “sustainable, modern and fit-for-the-purpose” legislative framework called the National Intelligence Act.

He said that this would be necessary in sustaining a modern legislative framework and a national intelligence system that can keep pace with global technological developments while ensuring accountability from those with access and those who manage the intelligence service in the country.

But, Holness said that Government was looking at a more comprehensive legislation, “which would incorporate the whole issue of how we treat with our national security”.

He said that once the Government begins moving in that direction, all kinds of issues could arise, including about interference and invasion of privacy, as well as the possibility of undermining certain elements of the society.

He noted that on assuming office in 2016, his Administration had sought to lay the foundation for a National Security Act with the appointment of Major General Antony Anderson as the national security adviser to the prime minister after his stint as chief of defence staff of the Jamaica Defence Force.

“Because that would have been the core out of which you start to bring together a whole of government approach to a National Security Act,” the prime minister said yesterday.

However, Major General Anderson left the post two years later to become the commissioner of police, a position he still holds, and no replacement was appointed.

But, Holness said yesterday that he had resumed discussions with the Opposition about moving in the direction of completing the process of drafting a National Security Act for Jamaica.

“There have been discussions, back and forth, and I believe we can signal consensus that there needs to be such an Act to give comfort to everyone that there will not be any abuse of authority or abuse of power, and that the Act will provide the basis to give that security and assurance,” he stated.

“So we still have some discussions to go, but this is a good platform on which we can have these discussions,” he added.

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