ST JOHN’S, Antigua – It’s a done deal. Amid opposition senator objections and an exodus from the chamber, the Citizenship by Investment Programme (CIP) Bill writhed its way through the Senate yesterday and is now on its way to becoming the law of the land.
The CIP Bill was passed in its “current form – with no amendments. The Bill came out of committee stage; was read for the third time, bringing to a close its stint in the Upper House.
“That, therefore, means that this Bill, being passed by the House of Representatives and now being passed by the Senate today (Tuesday), will go on to the Governor General for assent and become law,” Leader of Government Business Dr Cort, declared after the truncated session of the Upper House.
However, the Bill did not go unopposed, as opposition Senators Arthur Nibbs, Lenox Weston, Paul “Chet” Green and newly appointed Samantha Marshall adamantly resisted the piece of legislation being “reintroduced” into the Senate in the current session, after being forced back to Lower House on February 13.
Last Monday, the Lower House ruled by way of a motion that the senators reconsider the policy.
Senator Joanne Massiah, who was absent during last session’s vote, moved, on the behalf of the government, to have the Bill recommitted to the Senate to reconsider the policy, clause by clause.
In an exhibition that mimicked that of opposition members of Parliament in the Lower House, their colleagues in the Upper House objected to the Bill being reintroduced in the current session of Parliament.
Senator Lenox Weston referenced Standing Order 59 that states in part, “no question shall be proposed during the same session for the second reading of any of the Bill containing substantially the same provision.”
The senator said this, along with section 55 of the Constitution, prohibits the CIP Bill from making its way back to the committee stage.
“When you reject a Bill in the Senate it can only come back to the Senate in a different session from being tabled from the start. You cannot pick up a committee stage that is totally complete. It has to have new life by being reintroduced in another session,” the senator argued.
However, the Leader of Government Business said Standing Order 59 did not apply to the day’s proceedings.
“We are not here seeking to reopen a debate under the second reading. The second reading is finished. We have gone past that. So 59 cannot apply…We have a motion, not the Bill,” Dr Cort declared.
He added that what was applicable, though, was 54.1 of the Constitution that allows “us to recommit to committee stage, either the Bill in whole or in part.”
After hearing from both sides of the divide, President of the Senate Hazlyn Francis sided with government, ruling the Bill could be returned to the committee stage in Senate.
After Francis’ decision, during the committee stage, all of the opposition senators packed and left the Chamber, protesting the president’s conclusion.
All government senators – including Dr Errol Cort, Dr Edmond Mansoor, McKenzie Frank, Joanne Massiah, Winston Williams, Malaka Parker and newly selected senators Mervyn Richards and Richard Lewis – voted yes to the Bill, allowing for the third reading.
The last step is that Governor General Dame Louise Lake-Tack would assent to the Bill and it would be gazetted into law.
(More in today’s Daily OBSERVER)