first_imgControversial Cyber Crimes Bill Now that Government has taken steps to have the controversial Cybercrime Bill returned to Cabinet for further deliberation, given the mounting criticisms it has received, Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo has said Government should take full responsibility for the sedition clause and stop trying to play the blame game.Again criticizing the coalition for trying to “criminalize free speech” in Guyana, due to the inclusion of that particular clause, the former head of state explained that the notion that Clause 18 was supported by the Parliamentary Opposition continues to be repeated, despite that being far from the truth.“I suspect that our positions on this and other things will be mischaracterized more and more leading up to Local Government Elections… However, we will not allow anyone to mischaracterize what the (Peoples Progressive Party) PPP stands for, and what its positions are,” Jagdeo said recently.Since the controversy, Public Security Minister Khemraj Ramjattan and Attorney General Basil Williams have both signalled their support for the clause, saying it is aimed at protecting the State.President David Granger has meanwhile said he would adopt the position of Cabinet, but Alliance For Change (AFC) Leader Raphael Trotman has outrightly declined to support the legislation in its current form. Stating that many within the AFC share his view, Trotman has revealed that if the section is not amended, he and other AFC Parliamentarians would have to vote against it.His colleague, Ramjattan, who is also the Chairman of the AFC, told a news conference that despite concerns raised by some members of the party’s leadership and the public uproar regarding Section 18 (1) of the Cyber Crimes Bill of 2016, he is leading the charge to keep the offence of sedition on the books.Speaking to this recently, Williams said Trotman is entitled to his opinion, but whatever Cabinet has decided would have to be abide by. Given the differences of opinion on this matter, Jagdeo said it would be interesting what would be the final Government position on the Cybercrimes Bill.Public Telecommunications Minister Catherine Hughes has also vehemently criticized civil society groups and the political Opposition for their stance. Stating that the bill was before a bi-partisan Special Select Committee of Parliament since 2016, she said they both had the opportunity to raise their concerns since then.But the Opposition Leader has stated that it is curious that the PPP and civil society are now being blamed for Clause 18 of the Bill. “It is as if this Government doesn’t have a responsibility to originate legislation that protect our people, and that (are) consistent with the provisions of our Constitution,” he asserted.Responding to statements that there was PPP support for the Bill at the level of the Parliamentary Select Committee, Jagdeo has made it clear that being named as members of a Committee does not translate to automatic support of whatever is before the said Committee.“The PPP does not support this undemocratic inclusion in the Cybercrime Bill. We are opposed to it… You can blame us and some of the MPs for not attending the meetings, and it would be justified… but we did not sit there and agree to this insertion… You cannot say we supported this… This Government surreptitiously inserted this undemocratic clause,” he further added.The former head of state maintained that the bill was intended to advance rights of Guyanese, and not take rights away. Given the controversial provisions within the Bill, he said the coalition might as well re-enacted the National Security Act that was implemented under the former People’s National Congress (PNC).“The insertion by the Government of Guyana of (this) provision in the Cybercrime Bill could mean, or could have, grave implications for freedom of speech in Guyana. In fact, looking at the provision, or that specific provision of the Bill which was inserted in the Special Select Committee, is reminiscent of the old National Security Act that obtained in the period of undemocratic rule,” the Opposition Leader said.The Bill, which holds two controversial clauses, seeks to penalise persons who “attempt to bring into hatred or excite disaffection towards the Government” via text, speech, or image. It is considered to be a threat to freedom of speech in Guyana.Since the introduction of the legislation, many members of the public have sought to criticise the clauses and Government, while calling for it to be removed from the Bill. The original purpose of the bill is to protect Guyanese and their children from the dangers of cyberspace.Laid in the National Assembly since 2016, the Cybercrime Bill had catered for, inter alia: illegal access to a computer system; illegal interception; illegal data interference; illegal acquisition of data; illegal system interference; unauthorised receiving or granting of access to computer data; computer-related forgery; computer- related fraud; offences affecting critical infrastructure; identity-related offences; child pornography; child luring, and violation of privacy among a suit of other offences.last_img read more