The House of Representatives amended the Terrorism Prevention Act on Wednesday (March 10), to allow the Minister to introduce heavier penalties, subject to approval by Parliament.
Minister of Education and Leader of the House, Andrew Holness, who piloted the Bill in the absence of the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Dr. Kenneth Baugh, said that the amendment was “minor but nevertheless important.”
He said that the change would allow the Minister to introduce penalties greater than those provided for in the Interpretation Act of the Terrorism Prevention Act, which was passed by Parliament in June, 2005.
Section 29 of the Interpretation Act imposed limitations on the Minister’s power, under Section 47, by specifically stating that, unless the principal Act is amended to so state, any penalty must be limited to a maximum of $1,000 (Jamaican) or three months imprisonment at hard labour.
“Ofcourse, these penalties are totally inadequate to punish acts that are at the level that could be considered terrorist. So it is necessary to amend the Terrorism Prevention Act to allow the Minister to make regulations and to prescribe the appropriate penalties,” Mr. Holness pointed out.
He also explained that passage of the amendment was critical to the Government fulfilling its obligations under the Financial Action Task Force (FATF).
The FATF is an inter-governmental body whose purpose is the development and promotion of national and international policies to combat money laundering and terrorist financing. It is a ‘policy-making body’ that works to generate the necessary political will to bring about legislative and regulatory reforms in these areas.
“This is an inter governmental organisation which is linked to the Organisation for Economic Corporation and Development (OECD), and the purpose of this organisation is to ensure that governments and, indeed, international organisations promote policies to combat money laundering and terrorism financing,” the Minister added.
He also stated that Jamaica, as a member of the Organisation, was subjected to monitoring by the organisation.
“If we do not implement the measures that they recommend, then we could face what is termed in financial quarters as a ‘lock out’ from the international financial processes. So we are required to be compliant, by virtue of the regulations that would give directives for reporting financial information that may relate to terrorism activities,” he said.
Opposition Member of Parliament, Dr. Peter Phillips, said that his side supported the measure.
“We are told that there is much in terms of financial flows to Jamaica that is contingent on us getting the regulations effected. We are not going to prevent those flows from coming in, as we think it is in the interest of Jamaica, as a whole, especially given the state of the public finances, generally,” Dr. Phillips said.
The Terrorism Prevention Act was triggered by the United Nations’ post 9/11 Resolution 1373, which mandated member states to take steps to combat terrorism. As such, the Terrorism Prevention Act, among other things, prohibits terrorist acts, the funding of terrorist acts, and punishes collaboration with terrorist organizations.
It will also ensure that terrorist financing will be subjected to severe punishment under the laws of Jamaica. The amendments to the Act will also facilitate the development, tabling and debating of accompanying regulations to the Act.