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Oct 13, 2009

Senators oppose revised sixth amendment bill

Story PictureAlmost a year ago, the sixth amendment act was passed by the House of Representatives and then by the senate. That’s a year ago, but it was never signed into law and since then has been gathering dust because the Supreme Court declared it unconstitutional in cases brought by businessman Barry Bowen and the Land Owners Association versus the government. Now, the Bill was brought back to the House by way of another amendment, a provisory to the sixth amendment, to satisfy some of the concerns that were raised by the court. This morning it went before the Senate where opposition was raised by both newly sworn in Senator Eamon Courtenay and Senator Godwin Hulse.

Eamon Courtenay, Senator
“The chief Justice has already declared that clause two of that bill, if brought into law, will be unconstitutional. He says that it offends a number of the provisions of the constitution and that the government should not bring it into force unless they correct it. I suspect that what they are attempting to do today is to correct the law. There are difficulties with that. The first is that it is being done in secret. They have refused to give us the draft. I have called the Senate and asked for a copy after the House was finished with it on Friday and the instructions to the staff is that it is not to be released to us until we get here. So I have no idea what it is saying. Secondly, if it is that they do not fully respect the decision of the Chief Justice then it seems to me that the government seems to be insistent on setting up some sort of confrontation between the judiciary and the executive and the legislature. If all those amendments that the Chief Justice says needs to be done and are not taken onboard and this bill is presented to the Governor General for assent, they are inviting a contempt charge against anybody who attempts to bring into force a bill that the Chief Justice has already said is unconstitutional.”

Godwin Hulse, Senator
“It was my understanding, prior to the introduction, that in fact this would now pave the way for the signing into the law of the sixth amendment. But my understanding subsequently is that this is not so. We will still be waiting at the Governor General until the Court of Appeal has concluded its decision and given its ruling. I felt that perhaps we should have waited and not passed because there could be other amendments coming along as well. It has really no effect because we are still not going to bring into action the law; it is still going to be waiting. But I guess it is a signal to the court. I commented that we seem to be walking in step with the court, which in a way, brings into question to sovereignty of parliament. Parliament passes a law, this is the law they want to pass. The court says hey, part of your law is unconstitutional and parliament comes back and fixes it. But we are doing it piece meal and it is the piece meal portion that bothers me. The piece in question is the portion that deals with the rights of land owners with respect to minerals and in particular petroleum and that is the portion that is being clarified. The homeowners are challenging their legal right: one to go to court, one the rights of obtaining property claims. And that is what the amendment today sought to address.”

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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