Should the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) win the next election, it will repeal some provisions of the National Crime Intelligence Agency Bill (NCIA), 2019, party leader Philip Brave Davis said yesterday.
The bill, which seeks to establish a government agency to gather intelligence on those who pose a threat to the national security of The Bahamas, was passed last week in the House of Assembly without the support of the opposition.
“We would revisit the bill for certain, and remove all offensive provisions, repeal all offensive provisions and make it more palatable to the true intent, and that is the creation of a spy agency versus setting up a law enforcement agency,” Davis said.
Davis, who has referred to the bill as a “spy bill”, also expressed disappointment in Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis for reportedly not keeping his word. He previously said that Minnis promised him that the bill would be kept in committee for further review.
“I am sorely disappointed in the fact that he went back on his word with me, and it really leaves me aghast as to whether I can even trust what he does say anymore,” he said.
Minnis was not in the House when the bill was passed.
Upon coming to office, the government disbanded the National Intelligence Agency (NIA), which had been in operation for five years under the Christie administration without legislation to govern it.
The Christie administration repeatedly promised to bring a bill to govern the NIA, but failed to do so.
The Minnis administration tabled the National Intelligence Agency Bill in September 2017, but last month, Minister of National Security Marvin Dames tabled a new version of the bill.
The agency will have three main purposes: coordinating intelligence gathering and joint strategic planning among the heads of national law enforcement agencies; collecting information and intelligence with respect to activities that may, on reasonable grounds, be suspected of constituting threats to the people and security of The Bahamas; and coordinating effective networking between regional and international partners.
The bill will also allow for the appointment of a director, who will be selected by the governor general on the advice of the prime minister after consultation with the leader of the opposition.
The bill restricts publication of the identities of NCIA agents, except the director, and imposes a $10,000 fine or one-year imprisonment if someone does otherwise.
During the debate, the opposition took issue with several provisions of the bill, specifically the way the director is appointed.
However, Dames pointed out that the former director of the NIA not only worked out of the minister’s office, but also ran as a candidate for the PLP in the last election.
Shadow Minister of National Security Glenys Hanna-Martin said the bill is a “dangerous piece of legislation in its current form”.
She said that the government ought to delay the bill in order to allow for appropriate education and further consultation, and that the bill is not transparent or accountable and is “wide open” for political influence.