The Third Session of the Tenth Parliament is to convene tomorrow, but the eagerly awaited legislative agenda may not be ready. There have been many calls from Opposition Members of Parliament and Independent Senators for the Government to present its legislative agenda to allow for more effective contributions to debates on the bills. As it is, Opposition MPs and Independent Senators are given at best a few weeks’ notice of what bills are coming up for debate, while the public must rely on the parliamentary order paper, which is published only a few days before the debate. Under the former People’s National Movement Government, led by Patrick Manning, there were numerous calls from the United National Congress Opposition for a legislative agenda. In 2002, Attorney General John Jeremie presented the PNM Government’s legislative agenda to the Parliament—for the first and only time.
A legislative agenda was promised in the People’s Partnership manifesto before the 2010 general election—it was even included in the items listed to be completed within 120 days of being elected.
Now the Leader of Government Business in the House of Representatives, Housing, Land and Marine Affairs Minister Dr Roodal Moonilal says the Government is committed to presenting its legislative agenda for this session. However, Moonilal said that list is still being compiled. He is ePresident George Maxwell Richards at the ceremonial opening of the Parliament last year. He is expected to present his final address to legislators tomorrow, as his term expires early next year.xpected to meet with Attorney General Anand Ramlogan and new Leader of Government Business in the Senate, Environment and Water Resources Minister Ganga Singh to finalise the list. The Government still has some time to prepare the list, as the Parliament is not expected to meet after tomorrow’s opening until September.
Moonilal said one of the major pieces of legislation to be debated in the upcoming session seeks to give the Land Settlements Agency (LSA) the legal authority to demolish illegal structures on state lands. He said the bill effectively provides for squatters to given tickets for the offence. Moonilal has also said the Beverage Container Bill, which was first drafted under the People’s National Movement, will be finally brought to Parliament. That bill relates to the disposal of containers. It is seen as a measure that would discourage the illegal disposal of the containers and help the move towards reusing and recycling. Bills passed in the previous session, which ended last month, included the Children Bill, which took ten years and at least three governments. That bill was approved at the last sitting of the House last month.
Moonilal said three other major crime bills were approved in the last session:
• The Administration of Justice (Deoxyribonucleic Acid) Act, 2012, which allows the police to use DNA evidence in the fight against crime
• The Preliminary Inquiry (Amendment) Bill, which removes the need for such inquiries and will thus help ease the backlog of cases before the magistrate's courts and speed up the administration of justice
• The Electronic Monitoring Bill, which provides for prisoners to be monitored electronically after release. This will help reduce overcrowding in prisons.
• The Children Bill, which seeks to protect children from abuse.
Moonilal also said in the new session the Government was expected to establish a system to monitor the implementation of approved laws. He said this was being done in conjunction with the Attorney General Anand Ramlogan and Justice Minister Herbert Volney. President George Maxwell Richards is expected to present his final address to legislators tomorrow, as his term expires early next year, when the Electoral College will meet to elect a new Head of State. President Richards will have served two terms. New Finance Minister Larry Howai is due to present his first national budget by October. Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar said he was expected to initiate measures aimed at stimulating the country’s economic development.