PUP ‘Villainizing’ the Interception of Communications Bill - What are the Facts? Print E-mail
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Written by Shane D. Williams   
Thursday, 07 October 2010 00:00

By now most Belizeans with the ability to retain information know about the Interception of Communications Bill which provides for the legal interception of communications that could possibly lead to the commission of crime. Though the bill is airtight and excellently drafted so that there is no opportunity for abuse, the People’s United Party has been trying its best to defame the bill.

They have been consistent in their effort to misrepresent the intent of the bill and their effort is resonating with the grassroots people. Both in the House of Representatives and the Senate, the PUP representatives have portrayed the bill as a slip that will enable the government to implement technology that will keep track of everyone’s phone calls, texts, e-mails, letter transfers, prison visits, etc.

Though the Prime Minister has revealed that it is the PUP administration that has been intercepting communications of members of the public since Independence and that it is the UDP administration that has dismissed the practice, this crowd of PUP in the National Assembly is making every effort in painting the UDP administration as the big brother government that is intruding on the privacy of Belizeans. If the government does not do a good job of defining the bills being presented and provide a simple explanation that the common man can understand, the PUP will define it for them.

To understand the Interception of Communications Bill, one must know that this is nothing new. All the arguments that the PUP are presenting about how the government will be able to listen to everyone’s calls; check everyone’s messages; clone everyone’s emails and so forth are idiotic. The truth is, as displayed by Said Musa’s PUP administration, the government has been able to do all those things for quite some time. Moreover, there are ordinary computer savvy citizens with the ability to intercept and manipulate communications. The Interception of Communication Bill does not enable the government to intercept your communications because that can already be done.

The Interception of Communication Bill does two things. First, it protects Belizeans by criminalizing the interception of communications. As it was before, one was not legally protected from intercepts. Therefore, nothing could be done if your information was intercepted. Now an unlawful interceptor can be persecuted by law. The second thing the bill does is allow for the DPP to apply to a judge for permission to intercept the communications of an individual that they can prove is of criminal motives. That order must be approved by a judge with a time limit. Progress reports must be provided to determine if the intercept is necessary. The only way your communications can be intercepted is if the DPP, via the Police Department, can prove that you are an active member of the criminal element of society and a threat to society. Anyone who intercepts communication without the permission of a judge will commit a crime.
The interception of communications is nothing new in Belize. The Interception of Communication Bill just criminalizes it once committed without approval of a judge of the Belize Judiciary.