Thunderous applause and desk-thumping filled the Parliament chamber last night as the Opposition, in a complete turnaround, voted in support of the Civil Asset Recovery and Management and Unexplained Wealth Bill, 2019.
The Bill was passed unanimously with a 34 votes from the Government and Opposition benches around 7.45 p.m.
Government members appeared to be shocked when Opposition chief whip David Lee said “yes” as his name was called for a vote.
There was immediate cheering as Government members shouted “Yay!” as they clapped and pounded the tables.
Next was the vote of Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar.
“Aye, I say Aye given the compromises made. It’s a much improved Bill. Thank you, AG,” she said, which was greeted with roaring applause from the Government benches.
Debate on the controversial Bill started last Friday and continued yesterday in the Lower House with over six hours of gruelling discussion on every clause of the legislation.
Persad-Bissessar came armed with a slew of amendments, some of which were accepted by the Government. She and Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi spent the majority of the time battling over the Bill.
“Honourable members on a division, 34 members voted for, no members voted against and there were no abstentions,” House Speaker Bridgid Annisette-George said after the vote was taken.
Earlier, during the Committee stage, Persad-Bissessar warned that there were dangers in the Bill, adding she was prepared to go to the courts to ensure it does not impact on constitutional provisions.
She said there was danger in having a person and their family members’ assets openly filed in the courts before they are found to have unlawful wealth.