Eavesdropping mischief behind changes to act

THE EDITOR: The present PNM administration has drafted proposed amendments to the Interception of Communications Act, Ch:15:08 (Act 11 of 2010). These changes have a very sinister ring to them.

The PNM since 1956 has had unfettered and unimpeded access to public and private communications. I say this because up until the previous People’s Partnership administration enacted Act 11 of 2010, the public could only guess at what the PNM had been doing with its 360-degree radar or with the Israeli spy equipment utilised by one or other incarnations of Patrick Manning’s blimps.

Has any of their measures achieved their intended purpose in preventing crime? I think not. Did Manning further the cause of stymieing the criminal element with his so-called “360-degree radar,” or was he not accused of “spying” on opposition politicians?

So what we have today is a government that is unconcerned with preventing crime by interrupting telephone communications by criminal elements within the prison environment.

The PNM, after taking office, could have stringently reorganised the prison service in such a way that no prisoner could have had access to a communication device. The PP administration set in place the wherewithal to achieve this.

Rather than develop that infrastructure and maintain it in good order, the Keith Rowley administration, via Minister Stuart Young, has allowed, it seems, the systematic jamming of cellphones in prisons to fall by the wayside.

Now they have a bright idea that instead of jamming or scrambling all calls without prejudice, they want to “amend” the law so that they can eavesdrop on selected parties involved. The PNM would like to be granted legal permission to intercept calls made to or from the prisons and to and from those units that transport prisoners.

They have given up on ensuring that no communication device enters the prison environment. They have even decided to turn a blind eye to communication devices within the prison transport system. They are quixotic and obsessive political witch-hunters.

The PNM has a well-documented history of allegations of fraternising with “criminal” elements – either within or outside of the security services. That history dates from the 1960s with the Marabuntas to allegations of using Muslimeen muscle in Rio Claro during the 2002 general election.

The proposed amendments make no sense. They are downright treacherous because they can be employed to “entrap” or set-up political opponents.

What will stop some rogue elements from within the “system” from crafting a series of well-timed and well-planned phone calls to criminals within the confines of prison or prisoners in transit aided by unsavory elements with party connections from harming some unsuspecting citizen or journalist?

The act as it stands is enough in that it carries the safeguard of a warrant for eavesdropping. The AG has advanced no rationale for the proposed changes. They are whimsical and open the door to political mischief. Remember, there has been no investigative closure to Dr Rowley’s emailgate. Up to today, no one knows who planted (pre-election) mortar shells in Wahid Baksh’s water tank.

These changes provide ample opportunity for corrupt politicians to entrap investigative journalists as well, and they provide a potential work-around for the PNM’s draconian and unacceptable cybercrime legislation.


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"Eavesdropping mischief behind changes to act"

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