Opposition Senator Wilfred Abrahams is warning Government that its proposed legislation to combat praedial larceny is likely to “criminalize” unregistered vendors, including “younger people who may just be selling a few ackees to make ends meet”.
“I am concerned that every single breach of the law will result in criminal charges, no matter how small,” the Barbados Labour Party (BLP) spokesman said in the Upper Chamber yesterday when the Protection of Agricultural Products and Livestock Bill, 2017 came up for debate.
“For example, if a vendor is unregistered, he is subject to a criminal penalty, and if he doesn’t carry a certificate to prove where he obtained the produce from, he is also subject to criminal charges,” the attorney-at-law said.
He suggested that if anything, the vendors should be made to pay a small fine instead of having their actions deemed “a criminal offence that will go against their record and jeopardize them [when they go for a Certificate of Character], especially younger people who may just be selling a few ackees to make ends meet”.
Abrahams further complained that the bill was too burdensome and was likely to create more bureaucracy with the high number of certificates workers in the agricultural sector would be required to produce.
“Farmers need certificates, vendors need certificates, if you get someone to transport the items for you, that person has to get a certificate too. Has anyone looked at this process carefully?” Senator Abrahams queried.
He also suggested that the new law would be difficult to police, while questioning why the Minister of Agriculture had to be involved in appointing wardens and determining the uniform they would wear.
The Opposition spokesman was equally concerned that in some respects wardens would wield more power than police officers, as “they can stop and search people without a warrant [and] they can check anything they find on that person, even if it doesn’t pertain to farm produce”.
Yet, Abrahams pointed out “there is nothing in the law indicating how these wardens will be trained”.
He also highlighted several vague aspects of legislation.
For instance, he said “there is no word on what the registration fees will be, and if a person registers as a farmer and a vendor, will they get a discount?
“There should also be a minimum quantity of items requiring a certificate. I shouldn’t need one if I am only selling ten oranges, but if I have 100, then it’s a different story,” Abrahams said, while questioning
whether all parties in the sector were consulted in the drafting the legislation.