De­bate halted!

Jamaica Gleaner - - NEWS - Jo­van John­son Staff Re­porter jo­van.john­son@glean­erjm.com

Se­nate finds holes in agri bill that sailed through Lower House THERE WAS only one amend­ment that the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives made when it ap­proved a bill to es­tab­lish the Ja­maica Agri­cul­tural Com­modi­ties Reg­u­la­tory Au­thor­ity (JACRA) to merge and re­place the co­coa and cof­fee in­dus­try boards.

The bill reached the Se­nate yes­ter­day and mem­bers of the Up­per House, while sup­port­ing its in­ten­tion, found a litany of is­sues for which they raised con­cerns.

In the end, and to the re­lief of mem­bers, Kam­ina John­son Smith, leader of gov­ern­ment busi­ness, said she was sus­pend­ing the de­bate on the bill to con­sider the sev­eral pro­pos­als to im­prove the leg­is­la­tion.

The bill seeks to bring the trade reg­u­la­tion of cof­fee, co­coa, co­conut and spice, in­clud­ing nut­meg, turmeric, pi­mento and ginger, to in­ter­na­tional stan­dards.

How­ever, is­sues were raised with, among other things, the pro­posed penal­ties for breaches, tax ex­emp­tions, and the pe­riod for which li­cences to be is­sued by the JACRA would last.

IL­LOG­I­CAL PRO­POSAL

Op­po­si­tion Se­na­tor KD Knight said the pro­posal for courts to im­pose both fines and im­pris­on­ment for breach of of­fences was “il­log­i­cal” and ap­pears to have been go­ing against a pol­icy of Gov­ern­ment in re­cent years not to in­clude those pro­vi­sions in new laws.

“If the pol­i­cy­mak­ers are say­ing that in the cir­cum­stances where the be­hav­iour is so rep­re­hen­si­ble that there ought to be se­vere pun­ish­ment, then what you do is in­crease the fine or in­crease the term of im­pris­on­ment. It’s not log­i­cal to have both be­cause it is not go­ing to lead any­where,” Knight de­clared.

Com­ment­ing on the bill, Mark Gold­ing said the heftier fines and longer im­pris­on­ment pe­riod for breach of of­fences un­der the JACRA bring into ques­tion the less puni­tive mea­sures for breaches of the Prae­dial Lar­ceny Act, which has fines set up to $20,000 although it can be higher if read with the Lar­ceny Act.

Un­der the JACRA, a per­son con­victed of breaches in a Parish Court can be fined up to $3 mil­lion or face a prison term of up to three years. If the case goes be­fore the Supreme Court, a judge can set what­ever fine deemed ap­pro­pri­ate or sen­tence the con­vict to up to 10 years.

“For a long time, peo­ple have been call­ing for more se­ri­ous of­fences for prae­dial lar­ceny. It is the bane of the farmer that him sow an a nex man reap. Let us not use this op­por­tu­nity to mod­ernise the penal­ties ap­pli­ca­ble across the board to the theft of agri­cul­ture pro­duce,” he ar­gued.

“Let us not cre­ate this dis­e­qui­lib­rium be­tween tief­ing a man’s ginger or him co­conut as op­posed to tief­ing him yam or his or­ange. There’s no logic be­hind it, and who knows how that might mo­ti­vate crim­i­nals.”

Gold­ing also raised con­cern about the pro­posal in the bill for the JACRA to be ex­empt from in­come tax.

Se­na­tors, in­clud­ing gov­ern­ment mem­ber Rans­ford Bra­ham, were al­most unan­i­mous in their agree­ment that the one-year life of li­cences was too short.

JOHN­SON SMITH

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