Written By Ernesto Cooke
“The current Cybercrime bill which has not yet become law is an attempt by the Gonsalves regime to silence its critics, and to further victimize Vincentians who they think are against them”.
This is the view of Arhnim Eustace, Leader of the Opposition in St. Vincent & the Grenadines. Eustace, speaking on his party’s radio program on Monday said that the legislation is meant to punish those who oppose the Government; who speak out against the Government on social media.
Eustace said that recent comments on radio by Government senator Julian Francis confirmed his statement.
“We believe that this bill is a dangerous assault on freedom in this country and that is not only our opinion”, Eustace said.
“I have been in the parliament for 18 years and seen numerous bills, but I have never seen such condemnation by international organizations on any legislation, until this one”.
The Opposition Leader said that several Institutions, four reputable ones, all wrote to the Government urging them to reconsider certain aspects of the bill.
“You have Reporters Without Borders; they call parts of the bill ‘extremely damaging,’ Eustace lamented.
“You have the Canadian Center for Law and Democracy saying the Government is rushing ahead with problematic legislation which might punish perfectly innocent browsing activity.
You have the International Press Agency saying the bill opens the backdoor the silencing of unwanted opinions or punishing journalistic work that makes people especially politicians uncomfortable.
Our position is vindicated, the bill is punitive, it is unjust, and it is a repressive piece of legislation that is a danger to our basic freedoms in St Vincent and the Grenadines”.
The Opposition leader noted that there are some penalties in the bill, which he considers “harsh and draconian”.
“Going over the bill and looking at one section, I saw that the penalty is 1 million Dollars or 15 years in Jail. I’m not sure what is the basis for these figures”, Eustace said, “but I know they are harsh and draconian”.
Eustace, however, noted:“There are some sections of the bill which we are comfortable with, but the Cybercrime bill, Vincentians, is a blatant attack on your freedoms.
Our position is that this bill must not be passed in its present form. The world is watching us and they are watching Gonsalves”.