PLP TRIES TO AMEND DORMANT ACCOUNTS LEGISLATION
According to The Tribune of 28 November:
The leader of Government Business in the Senate, Attorney General Carl Bethel, clashed with opposition senators in his bid to have the pair of bills approved in the upper chamber yesterday.
Pushing back against claims made by Opposition Senate Leader Fred Mitchell and former Grand Bahama Minister Michael Darville, Mr Bethel said assertions that the government was “illegally grabbing” money from dormant accounts were misleading, and at its core, disingenuous.
He was responding directly to Mr Darville’s claims that the government was tapping into funds to which it should not have access.
“To speak about a lawful action of the government, which the transfer of these funds to the Treasury will be upon passage, cannot be called the grabbing of people’s money,” Mr Bethel protested.
He further petitioned Senate president Kay Forbes Smith to have Mr Darville either amend his contribution to the debate to reflect the legal framework the Minnis administration is proposing or withdraw his claims completely.
After a lengthy back and forth between the two, Mr Darville withdrew his claims that the process would not be legal.
However, he insisted that the process, as proposed, lacked adequate support for the actions it intended to carry out.
He said: “The point that I am making is, the process, as far as we’re concerned, appeared to be unconstitutional and it is a regressive policy. That is my point.”
“Therefore, Madam President, I cannot support these bills as drafted and strongly suggest the government and the leader opposite seriously consider the amendments that our leader on this side will be moving at the appropriate time.”
That appropriate time came less than an hour later, when Mr Mitchell took to his feet to propose several changes to the amendments.
Chief among Mr Mitchell’s changes were calls for a longer timeframe before accounts could be classified as dormant, more protection for account holders and a restructuring of the bills to mandate the funds be held exclusively as a separate entity.
In each instance, Mr Mitchell and his opposition colleagues were out voted by the governing side.
Throughout the exchange, Mr Bethel maintained that the funds being transferred have no “ascertainable beneficial ownership.”
“(The government) is putting it to a public use in as much as the opposition in their own amendments want to put it to a public use,” he contended.