Opposition Leader Marlon Penn said the government’s proposed Integrity in Public Life Act should not grant unfettered power to the Integrity Commission it will establish.
According to Penn, one of the clauses in the bill lends itself to creating a police state, granting the proposed commission far-reaching powers beyond the police force. One such power is to enter persons’ homes and retrieve documents without warrants, Penn stated in the House of Assembly this week.
As it is currently written, one section of the Act says a warrant may be presented when an investigator to enter private premises, but does not insist that one must be presented.
According to Penn, these are powers that even the BVI’s police force does not currently possess.
“We have to make sure that the [Integrity] Commission doesn’t have open-ended and unfettered power. There has to be clear rules of engagement just like we have done with establishing the rules of engagement for the Commission of Inquiry,” he stated.
The Opposition Leader argued that the Act had draconian tendencies and was going into places that could ultimately prove very dangerous to the society.
He also expressed concern that reports generated by the commission can simply be forwarded to the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions and Cabinet for criminal charges without any consultation with the police.
“We cannot now come back and enshrine the very things that we fought against in legislation and give the Commission powers to do things that we said the Commission of Inquiry ought not to do and ought not to have access to and we determine what they have access to,” Penn stated.
He argued that legislators need to be very careful about what they were putting into pieces of legislation.
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