Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves has denied reports being circulated on social media that his government took a decision to postpone Thursday’s sitting of Parliament due to pressure from three international organizations that expressed concerns about certain elements of the 2016 Cyber Crime Bill.
One of the organizations is Reporters Without Borders (RSF), whose US Director, Delphine Halgand in a July 27 letter to Dr. Gonsalves, had called for the revision of several clauses of the bill, which RSF said “are extremely damaging to the free flow of news and information and to public debate”.
The Cyber Crime Bill which was taken to Select Committee for further deliberations was expected to be debated on and passed in parliament on Thursday.
But the Prime Minister speaking on Star Radio said he wanted “some further tidying up to be done on something and to give the draftspersons a little bit more time to tidy up everything.”
“I heard people saying that I postpone the parliament because I got international pressure on the Cyber Crime Bill. Absolutely nothing like that. Our (the Select Committee) final session was to be on Tuesday but I wanted some further tidying up to be done on something and to give the draftspersons a little bit more time to tidy up everything so I put it on Thursday so it just postponed for one week.”
“The truth of the matter is this, the issues raised by the three international organizations, one of them I responded to, I’m not going to respond to the others. Reporters Without Borders wrote essentially about two issues. The Clause 16 even before they wrote had been amended and the Clause which they talking about in terms of Criminal Libel, well Criminal Libel had been on the books since before Cato came to office,” Dr. Gonsalves said.
He Criminal Libel is a useful provision, which he supported even while he was in opposition.
“It’s a useful provision to have and I’m satisfied that the bulk of the people would want to have that provision. I supported it when I was in opposition so that I don’t intend to change my position on that unless I’m persuaded otherwise”.