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UPDATED: House votes down “Rohee bills”

Minister of Home Affairs Clement Rohee

The National Assembly has voted down four bills which appeared before the House in the name of Home Affairs Minister Clement Rohee with the opposition maintaining they will not support bills in the minister’s name.

The bills voted down were the Evidence (Amendment) Bill 2013; Motor Vehicles and Road Traffic (Amendment) Bill 2013; Fire Service (Change of Name) Bill 2013; and the Police (Change of Name) Bill 2013.

The APNU and AFC voted against motions for the second reading of all four bills without contributing to the debates after they were moved by Rohee.

Speaking to reporters afterward opposition leader David Granger said the move was in keeping with the position they had adopted since last year to vote against bills brought by Rohee as home minister. The parties had said they had no confidence in Rohee in that post and had sought his removal by way of a no confidence motion.

The bills which were voted down cannot be returned to the House in this 10th Parliament.

A defiant Rohee declared that the government would return with the bills even if they had to wait until after the next elections which are constitutionally due no later than 2016.

Evidence (Amendment) Bill

The Evidence (Amendment) Bill sought to expand the range of documents that could be admitted as evidence. It also provides for an analyst, either from the Guyana Police Force or any other qualified individual, without taking away the right of the accused or the court to test the reliability of the report or certificate presented by the said analyst.

Currently, the legislative provision under section 43 of the Evidence Act, allows certain specific reports compiled by experts to be used in court without the need for an analyst to be present in court to give evidence.

These include post-mortem reports (prepared by the pathologist), medical certificates (prepared by registered medical practitioners) and the report of the analyst who tests for narcotics.

Road Traffic (Amendment) Bill

This bill sought to address the issue of a motor vehicle used in the commission of a crime and according to the minister, was designed to block all possible loopholes in the law that were being used to prevent a perpetrator who use a vehicle in the commission of a crime, from facing the full brunt of the law.

Rohee said many times determining ownership of a vehicle impounded in connection with a crime was tricky and the new bill set out clearly the procedure for determining ownership.

The bill also tightened the change of ownership process, setting out new steps that would have had to be followed.

Additionally, the bill would have also provided for the creation of a demerit point system whereby apart from fines and imprisonment, a person who used a vehicle in the commission of a crime would have been disqualified for a period of two years from holding or obtaining a driver’s licence.

Fire Service (Change of Name) Bill

This bill was aimed at restoring the ambulance/rescue aspect to the Guyana Fire Service (GFS). The House heard that it was removed in the late 1970s as a result of the country’s financial woes.

Police (Change of Name) Bill 2013.

This bill sought to change the name of the Guyana Police Force to the Guyana Police Service and according to the minister was in keeping with the practice further afield. He noted that the name change, along with a menu of institutional changes including civilian oversight, was aimed at boosting the professionalism of the body.