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Civil society commends govt on delay of controversial bill

Civil Society Bahamas (CSB) Vice President Dr. Anthony Hamilton yesterday commended the government on delaying the Non-Profit Organisations Bill (NPO), noting that while it may be a challenge to meet the December 31 deadline, CSB is committed to discussing the matter.

Attorney General Carl Bethel announced the decision in the Senate Monday, following criticisms and calls from civil society organizations for the government to amend the bill.

“I think it’s an excellent decision and the attorney general ought to be complimented for that decision, of course, in concert with the government,” Hamilton said.

“…We met with him last week Wednesday and he had given us indication at that point that he was going to allow us about 10 days at that junction, to formulate something and get back to him.

“We had already started a process. We were surprised when the bill was passed in the lower house because of the meeting that we had with him, but we’ve already advanced some information to him and hence he was in a position to say that they would review.

“In addition to the [Civil Society Organisations Bill, 2015] that we had drafted previously, we made some further observations and critiques to the new bill that was brought for 2018.”

The Non-Profit Organisations Bill seeks to regulate non-profit organizations and mandates that each organization register with the government and provide, among other things, evidence of its gross annual income, the identities of its members and evidence of know your customer due diligence.

The bill also mandates that each NPO report donations of $50,000 or more as well as its 10 largest donations.

In a statement on Sunday, CSB called on the government to amalgamate the NPO bill with the Civil Society Organisations Bill, 2015 (CSO 2015 Bill) and form a joint task force to study this issue and develop a clear plan for appropriate regulation, public education and positive growth of the civil society sector.

Bethel said yesterday, “It is anticipated that when the Senate meets next week, we will have by then circulated to colleague senators and to civil society, our views and any suggested amendments which will be able to accommodate the views of civil society before we pass the bill.”

Asked whether he believes there is enough time to amend the bill before the Senate meets again, Hamilton said, “That is a challenge. I don’t want to preempt him in the sense that we’ve committed to submit the information and also to dialogue further. So we are looking forward to meeting with he and his team, to digest the information that we have put forward and what other observations they may have made. We are still receiving commentary from civil society stakeholders.”

Hamilton continued, “It’s a challenge, but we are committed to working. We had sessions all over the weekend to pull together the information we provided to them today and we are prepared to work.”

He noted that the group has not yet been given a date on when a meeting would happen with the attorney general and his team.

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Sloan Smith

Sloan covers national news for The Nassau Guardian. Sloan officially joined the news team in September 2016 but interned at The Nassau Guardian while studying journalism at the University of The Bahamas. Education: Vrije Universiteit Brussel (University of Brussels), MA in Mass Communications

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