The National Intelligence and Security Agency (NISA) Bill of 2023 was Wednesday evening sent to a parliamentary special select committee for careful review to ensure its content is fully comprehensible to all parties it concerns.
In a recent statement posted to his Facebook page, President, Dr Mohamed Irfaan Ali said he had instructed Minister of Parliamentary Affairs and Governance, Gail Teixeira, and Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Mohabir Anil Nandlall, SC, to have the bill sent to the committee so that the views of all concerned stakeholders can be examined.
“I am aware of the importance of this Bill, but equally, I am committed to ensuring the fulsome nature of the Bill is understood and that interested stakeholders be given the opportunity to contribute to it,” the head of state said.
The proposed bill seeks to establish a body known as the National Intelligence and Security Agency responsible for further enhancing the country’s defence and security policy, as well as the coordination of the nation’s defence and law enforcement activities relating to national intelligence and security.
The agency will also provide national security advice to the president, cabinet and other stakeholders where necessary.
The bill further provides for NISA’s functions to be exercisable in the interest of national intelligence and security regarding foreign policy, threats from espionage and protection from undermining of democracy and state institutions.
It outlines NISA’s governance structure, the appointment, removal, and terms of service of the director and deputy director of the agency, as well as other officers and employees, and the agency’s funding and financial management, among other things.
This includes the power to intercept communications, function with the power of officers of the police and defence forces, request information from public bodies, and coordinate with other entities in the security sector.
Further, a specific clause of the bill provides for the obligation to observe secrecy as well as affine for such infractions, stating, “Every person having a duty in the administration of this act shall regard and deal with as secret and confidential all information relating to the functions of the agency, and if at any time such person communicated or attempted to communicate any such information to any person other than in pursuance of, for instance, the discharge of a function under this act, a Court Order or the investigation of a crime, the person commits an offence and is liable on conviction on indictment to a fine of five million dollars and to imprisonment for five years.”