MOCA debate starts in Parliament today

KINGSTON, Jamaica — Debate on the long awaited Major Organised Crime and Anti-corruption Agency (MOCA) Act, 2017 will commence in the House of Representatives this afternoon.

The debate was expected to start last week Tuesday, but was delayed due to the absence from the island of Minister of National Security, Robert Montague.

The Bill is in the name of the Minister of National Security, but was tabled in the House of Representatives during the 2017/18 budget presentation by Prime Minister Andrew Holness in March, as one of the Bills aimed at fighting crime and corruption in Jamaica.

Holness pointed out then that the legislation was designed to transform the body into an elite law-enforcement investigative agency, operating independently of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF).

He suggested that the issues were quite clear and could be debated “right away and have it passed”, instead of being sent to a joint select committee of Parliament, as it was in the public’s interest. However, six months have passed since the tabling of the Bill and, while MOCA continued to operate under the leadership of its executive director, Colonel Desmond Edwards, dealing with issues like corruption at the Firearms Licensing Authority (FLA), the government’s focus shifted to the Zones of Special Operations (ZOSO) Bill.

However, at a meeting in June, Head of the Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM) Terrence Williams said he wants his commission to have powers to probe cases involving MOCA’s officers.

Commissioner Williams told the Internal and External Affairs Committee of the House then that the proposed arrangement for investigating possible abuses by MOCA investigators, would fall below the standard required by the Constitution and the procedural obligations for probing abuses of citizens, if approved.

The Bill’s “Memorandum of Objects and Reasons” states that it will provide for the establishment of a statutory law enforcement agency, that will “have operational independence and authority and be dedicated to combating serious crimes, in collaboration with other local and foreign law enforcement agencies and strategic partners”.

“The agency will have a dedicated, specalised team of investigators. It will investigate and prosecute the complex cases that are often characteristic of organised criminal networks,” it also stated.

In August 2014, the Anti-Corruption Branch (ACB) and the Major Organised Crime and Anti-Corruption Task Force were merged to form The Major Organised Crime and Anti-Corruption Agency.

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