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Persecuting Civil Society Organizations – Using a Hammer to Kill an Ant

Persecuting Civil Society Organizations – Using a Hammer to Kill an Ant

Date: March 27th, 2019

Dear Editor/Newsroom,

Are we becoming a dictatorial “Police State”? The proposed “Non-Profit Organization Bill, 2019” may be passed on Friday 29th March, 2019 by a Simple Majority. (See attached). FFOS fears this proposed Law is a new tool, which if abused, can be used to persecute independent Civil Society entities who stand up in defense of public right in the face of procedural irregularity, illegality, corruption and open thievery.

Although we recognize there is merit in monitoring Non-Government Organizations (NGO’s) who are using Civil Society Organizations (CSO’s) to finance war, the “Non-Profit Organization Bill” gives the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) unlimited power to approve and authorize all Civil Society- to demand, command and shut down any public interest body or activity for a simple accounting or administrative error. This new Bill is literally creating runaway power for a criminal investigation anti- money laundering arm of National Security to investigate whoever, whenever, however and there are serious risks of abuse of power.

This proposed Law tempts the use of excessive force and is like using a shotgun to kill a butterfly or a hamper to kill an ant. The Bill appears as an attempt to cripple and frustrate independent thinkers or groups such as Papa Bois Conservation, Fixin T&T, FFOS or groups that advocate for the differentially abled, abused or rape victims, the blind or deaf, cancer or HIV patients, animal welfare or for our vulnerable and voiceless. This proposed Law would give a criminal investigative arm of Government total overview of “perceived enemies” of this or that (possibly corrupt or judgmental) politician or state entity. Why not a Civil Society Registrar as part of the billion-dollar Ministry of Community Affairs? Why the FIU? If there are doubts or grey areas of the conduct of a Civil Society entity then FFOS certainly support full investigation and regulatory oversight, but even if so, why not the safety net of the High Court, in the same way that a Search Warrant is granted by a sitting Judge (who must be convinced there is reasonable cause for concern).

FFOS object to the fact that this proposed Law has not been advertised or consulted on. For government to slip this Bill in, attempt to pass it like a “thief in the night”, “stealing a march” without public knowledge or any consultation whatsoever and to attempt this with a Simple Majority, further raises our alarm. FFOS unequivocally supports regulations, investigations, criminal prosecution and prohibition where necessary. But this Bill is like saying that all Oil and Gas extractors would now be monitored by the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) and the Fraud Squad. What is the message that would be sent if they all were? FFOS will not, cannot allow our already weak and budding CSO’s to be bullied into a dictatorial police state! If we do, we would be walking the slippery path where selfsacrificing public spirited CSO’s could be persecuted, harassed and brought to shame for defending the voiceless. If this Bill is passed in its current form, Civil Society could easily be dragged over the coals, victimized and brought into disrepute.

Sincerely,
Gary Aboud
Corporate Secretary

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