The Interception of Communications Bill 2017, which the Government of The Bahamas wanted to push through the House of Assembly and still prioritizes, is a scary item indeed. The proponents of the Bill point out to it’s enactment as law, enabling us to be in line with the “worldwide Community.” That does not give much comfort to Bahamians.
It could be that the government has sent out the wrong messenger. Attorney General Allyson Maynard-Gibson is not particularly popular in the country.
“The Supreme Court will ensure that adequate checks and balances are in place to protect rights of privacy on the one hand and combat crime (including cyber crime) on the other. Any suggestion that this is a ‘dangerous spying bill’ is false,” Maynard-Gibson reportedly said recently.
The truth be told, today in The Bahamas, Maynard-Gibson does not inspire confidence.
The view here is that the government starts in a bad way by trotting her out to convince Bahamians.
The Bill would give the Commissioner of Police wide-ranging powers to intercept the communications avenues of the citizens of the country. So, certainly the opportunity would exist for an invasion of the privacy of every Bahamian. Based on what we understand, put simply, the Commissioner of Police or anyone else he hands over the power to, would be able, with the law as a backing, to intercept the communication lines of any Bahamian they target.
Once again, this government brought a matter before the Bahamian people without affording them ample time to digest the conditions. We need a lot of time to be comfortable about this Bill.
Under the Bill as law, how can we be sure that totally innocent Bahamians would not be subjected to an interception of their lines of communications?
The result could be detrimental, socially and also from a business perspective. We all hold dear to us, certain information we wish to share only with certain others, or perhaps no one at all.
It is scary to think that under the law, the Commissioner of Police or someone he so designates, could invade and intercept the communications of Bahamians, wrongly. The damage would be done and no amount of apologizing could erase the trauma of an invasion of certain private matters.
With so many concerned voices being heard regarding the proposed Bill, the Government of The Bahamas had to take a step back. Maynard-Gibson has announced that more time will be allowed for the contents of the Bill and the ramifications to be thoroughly examined by each citizen.
We ask the following question:
Is Prime Minister Perry Christie certain that the consequences of the Bill might not be permanently damaging to Bahamians?
If he cannot give comfort to The Bahamian people with certainty, then it seems to us, the Bill should not be pushed through at all.
Published Thursday, February 23, 2017