UNC walks out on AG twice in Senate


Senator Wade Mark – SUREASH CHOLAI

THE Opposition UNC walked out on Attorney General Reginald Armour, SC, twice on Tuesday. The walkouts happened before Armour made his respective contributions in debates on the Bills of Exchange (Amendment) Bill 2022 and the Insurance (Amendment) Bill, 2022 in the Senate.

This was the second time in the space of a week the Opposition has walked out on Armour in Parliament in support of Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar’s call for him to resign or be fired by the Prime Minister. The issue is his disqualification from the almost two-decade-old Piarco Airport corruption case in a Miami court.

They walked out on Armour during his contribution to debate on the same bills in the House of Representatives on June 13. The House passed both bills on that day.

Earlier on Tuesday, Persad-Bissessar reiterated her call for Armour’s removal as AG as she rejected a statement he made in an announcement published on Tuesday and dated June 20.

In his contribution on the Bills of Exchange (Amendment) Bill 2022, before it was later passed by the Senate, Armour said he did not understand earlier claims made by Opposition Senator Wade Mark.

Armour said, “The point needs to be emphasised that the bill before this House this evening is about clearing of cheques with the use of electronic images between banks.

“It is not about the need for the average man or woman in the street to participate at this point in time in electronic processing of their payment system whether by cheque or otherwise.”

He thanked the Central Bank and the Bankers Association for their inputs into the bill.

Armour apologised to Mark in absentia if he did not understand a comment Mark had made on the bill.

“The fault may be mine. I perhaps don’t understand the English language well.”

Armour got the impression that Mark “was seeking to suggest there has been significant delay on the part of this government in bringing this bill before this House.”

He countered the ability of Government to confidently lay the bill in Parliament “stems from work done between the period of 2017 to now, by the Bankers Association and the Central Bank.

“It is not (in) a condition of stasis.”

He recalled a claim by the Opposition in the House on June 13 about a negative situation being created by reliance on the use of regulations and guidelines from the Central Bank and not the finance minister.

“The point is that one would not have found it necessary to address this.”

Armour said all legislators should know “that when one is looking at legislation, you have to look at legislation holistically.”

This meant examining the Bills of Exchange (Amendment) Bill 2022 meant examining related legislation as well.

One of those is the Financial Institutions Act (FIA). Armour said this act “gives a significant role to the Central Bank of Trinidad and Tobago as a regulator, it provides for oversight.”

That oversight, he continued, involves he supervision of licensees.

“Licensees under the FIA are banks, commercial banks.”

He reminded senators the Bills of Exchange (Amendment) Bill 2022 dealt with “allowing banker-to-banker presentation of electronic images.”

“The simple truth which emerges for any legislator’s understanding of the overarching regulation of the Central Bank Act and the FIA…is that commercial banks which issue cheques for ordinary commercial usage are licensees within the FIA and are subject to the control of the Central Bank.”

He reiterated this meant the UNC’s concern about the Central Bank functioning as a regulator “can’t stand in the context of the law that already exists in relation to the oversight role (of the bank).

Minister in the Ministry of Finance Brian Manning supported Armour as he concluded the debate. Manning said Mark “missed the crux of this legislation.”

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