Whistblower Bill passed in Upper House without UNC support

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Whistblower Bill passed in Upper House without UNC support

Government and Independent Senators gave their full support to pass the Whistleblower Protection Bill 2022 in the Upper House last evening.
However, the bill passed without Opposition support.

The bill seeks to combat corruption and other wrongdoing by encouraging and facilitating disclosures of improper conduct in the public and private sector, to protect people making those disclosures from detrimental action.

The final vote ended with 23 members voting in favour, six against and no abstentions. It was passed without amendments.

Earlier in the debate, Independent Senator Sunity Maharaj said this bill was the most exciting piece of legislation she had worked on since her appointment in September 2023.

However, she said her hope for this legislation is tempered by fear that at the first sign of its potential power, “we might run.” “And I am talking about everybody.”

The Independent Senator said she desperately wants this legislation to work and to be passed in its strongest state, unlike what happened with the procurement bill which she called ‘a shadow of itself.’. Therefore, she urged the Opposition to raise their objections to it early, even if it requires legal intervention.

“And I would encourage the Opposition to go to the court at the first possible opportunity, do not wait for when we have a case, when somebody should be found guilty but they can’t because it is found to be unconstitutional, we want to know that we stand on good ground with this piece of legislation and if it is found to be unconstitutional then we will come back and get it on its legs properly,” Maharaj advised.

Meanwhiile, Anil Roberts accused the government of being hypocritical in its desire for whistleblowing legislation.

Roberts sought to remind the Government bench about former PNM member and financier Harry Ragoonanan.

Roberts said Ragoonanan reported that he believed his expulsion from the party in 2017 was connected to him unearthing alleged corruption at the Port as it related to the sea bridge fiasco with the Bridgeman’s Services Group.

Roberts exclaimed, “A PNM member, a whistleblower was suspended for whistleblowing, but the PNM is coming here to bring whistleblower legislation and telling the public on TV and radio that they are going to fight corruption.”

Roberts said the Prime Minister himself in 2017 labelled the Port of Port-of-Spain a den of corruption.

“So, the Prime Minister and leader of the PNM agreed with the whistleblower that something was awry, something was crooked and yet the man still get buss throat, suspended and pelt out from the PNM, I say PNM you all give me a rest, I can take no more,” he said to tumultuous desk thumping from fellow Opposition senators.