Four new laws passed for world cup travel, security By Miranda La Rose
Stabroek News
February 1, 2007

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Four pieces of legislation bringing into being the single Caricom domestic space within which Cricket World Cup 2007 will be held were unanimously approved by the National Assembly yesterday and immediately assented to.

The bills, which were laid in parliament for the first time and had their second reading, debate and passage at yesterday's sitting of the National Assembly, were the Immigration (Amendment) Bill 2007, Caribbean Com-munity Special Visa Agreement Bill 2007, Pre-Clearance (ICC Cricket World Cup West Indies 2007) Bill 2007 and the Customs (Amendment) Bill 2007.

Shortly after the passage of the bills they were assented to by Prime Minister Sam Hinds, who is performing the functions of President. The single domestic space among ten Caricom member states to facilitate Cricket World Cup 2007 comes into being from today.

The ICC CWC 2007 tournament gets underway in the region with the warm-up matches from March 5.

In general the Immigration Amendment Act makes provisions for the introduction of the Advanced Passenger Information (API) system. It also makes it obligatory on the part of the master of any vessel, whether aircraft or ship, arriving at any place in Guyana to transmit passenger information to immigration authorities in Guyana within the time specified.

Failure to transmit the information required or transmitting incomplete or false information is an offence and is liable to a fine of $20 million.

While PNCR-1G MP Basil Williams described the fine as being "excessive and arbitrary", Minister of Home Affairs Clement Rohee explained that it was meant to be a deterrent and was in keeping with the fines set out in the sunset legislation passed in November last year.

The requirement, however, does not apply in respect of departure of any vessel from the domestic space to another within the same space.

According to Rohee, who presented the first three bills, the Immigration (Amend-ment) Act will ensure security and safety of people travelling to the region during the world's third major sporting event.

Rohee said that the sharing of information even after CWC 2007 and border security were among the benefits and legacy of the cricketing event.

The Caricom Special Visa Agreement Act provides for special visas to facilitate travel to host venues from February 1 to May 15, 2007 after which they become invalid.

The Act gives legal effect to the Caricom Special Visa Agreement which came into force on December 12, 2006. The agreement provided for state parties to adopt a common policy on the arrangements for a Caricom special visa and the harmonisation of policies on the Caricom Special Visa.

There are some exemptions and Rohee explained following a query from PNCR-1G MP Aubrey Norton that the exclusion of cricketing countries such as Australia and New Zealand from the exempt list had to do with a number of factors including having agreements on intelligence sharing with the countries being exempted; having high levels of investments; and having long-standing diplomatic and cultural ties.

Norton also expressed concern about the rush to pass legislation to meet the deadline and suggested that the house should reject the explanation for the lateness being due to drafting. He said he believes the last-minute rush was a "bad political legislative culture we have developed." Expressing support on behalf of this Act were PNCR-1G MP Williams, Minister of Culture, Youth and Sport, Dr Frank Anthony, and AFC MP Raphael Trotman.

The new pre-clearance law, gives legal effect to an agreement between Guyana and another member state on the pre-clearance of passengers and good for the purposes of the CWC 2007.

In view of the volume of passengers anticipated for CWC 2007, the pre-clearance of passengers, goods and aircraft crew by another state's immigration, customs and public health, food inspection and plant and animal health authorities will facilitate travel between the countries who are parties to the agreement. Penalties under the pre-clearance laws may be enforced by pre-clearance officers in Guyana but the local authorities reserve the right to enforce laws in the pre-clearance area.

The new law makes provision for the administration of pre-clearance laws, pre-clearance and in-transit areas, powers of pre-clearance officers and offences and penalties. A fine of $160,000 may be imposed on a person entering a pre-clearance area when not authorised; and a person who makes an oral or written statement to a pre-clearance officer which the person knows to be false or deceptive commits an offence and is liable on summary conviction to a fine of $160,000. In addition, a person who resists or wilfully obstructs a pre-clearance officer or a proper officer in the execution of his or her duties; or any person lawfully acting in aid of such person, commits an offence and is liable to a fine of $160,000 or to imprisonment for one month.

The Customs (Amend-ment) Bill 2007 was presented by Minister of Finance Dr Ashni Singh. This law makes provision for the Minister of Finance to make regulations requiring any master of an aircraft or ship expected to arrive in Guyana or expected to depart from Guyana to furnish advance information relating to any passenger or cargo or both on board such craft in the form and manner as may be provided in the regulations.

Like the immigration (amendment) law, the customs amendment law makes provision for a fine not exceeding $20 million in cases where a master of an aircraft or ship, required to furnish any advance information, intentionally fails, or, recklessly furnishes incomplete or false advance information.

AFC MP Khemraj Ramjattan objected to the fact that the Customs (Amend-ment) Act has no cut-off date for its validity, as the other three passed previously, but Dr Singh explained that the bill was one drafted by Caricom and it could very well be one of the legacies of CWC 2007 which would ensure the sharing of information to ensure security.