Ramjattan supports sedition clause, AG says Trotman’s objection reflective of “poor leadership”
Even as the Alliance For Change (AFC) Chairman, Khemraj Ramjattan expressed disapproval of its leader’s denouncement of the sedition clause in the Cybercrime Bill, Attorney General Basil Williams has blamed “poor leadership” as the reason why the AFC and the parliamentary opposition are now finding fault with the impending legislation which has been around for nearly two years.
Notably, President David Granger, while fielding questions from reporters Thursday morning on the sidelines of an event, walked away when asked to comment on the controversial sedition clause.
Ramjattan – who is also the Minister of Public Security – told reporters that he understands the public’s concerns but maintained that the sedition clause is “necessary because sedition is part of our existing law.”
He argued that the clause does not prevent online users from being critical of the government.
“We were very careful to ensure that we put a subparagraph that says if you criticse the government, it is not sedition so we put limitations to what it is,” he explained.
But the Cybercrime Bill states that “…a person commits the offence of sedition if the person, whether in or out of Guyana, publishes, transmits or circulates by use of a computer system or any other means, a statement or words, either spoken or written, text, video, image, sign, visible representation, or other thing, that – (a) brings or attempts to bring into hatred or contempt, or excites or attempts to excite disaffection towards the Government established by law in Guyana; or (b) encourages, incites, induces, aids, abets, counsels any person to commit or to conspire with another person to commit any criminal offence against the President, Prime Minister or any Minister of the Government established by law in Guyana.”
AFC Leader Raphael Trotman is reported as saying in today’s Kaieteur News, however that its parliamentarians are prepared to vote against the Bill in the National Assembly if the sedition clause is not deleted.
According to Trotman – who is a Cabinet Member – “I can say that as presently constructed, I, as Leader of the AFC, cannot support Clause 18.1 in the Bill and will, therefore, be urging for an amendment, and if none is forthcoming, I will vote against it.”
The draft Cybercrime Bill – with the sedition clause – was made public in 2016 but only recently did the public brouhaha commenced. The People’s Progressive Party (PPP), as well as the AFC, had representatives on a Special Select Committee tasked with reviewing the draft legislation but none of them objected to the provisions at that forum.
The PPP subsequently admitted to “dropping the ball” but maintained that it will fight against the sedition clause as it is “undemocratic” and has no place in modern society.
But the country’s Attorney General – who is also the Chairman of the Peoples National Congress (PNC) – said he cannot understand why now, the AFC and the PPP are critcising the Bill.
“The AFC and the Opposition had representatives on the special select committee. Everyone had ample time, I don’t know what (their) concerns (are now,” Williams told reporters. The Attorney General added: “the fact that there has been no objection for well over two years when everyone who is saying ‘no’ now, had representatives there (Commitee). They were all negligent, its poor leadership.”
Nonetheless, he said being the “caring government” that they are, the Cybercrime Bill will be reviewed at Cabinet. Notwithstanding, Williams defended the inclusion of the sedition clause in the Bill. “It is a provision in our criminal law. You can’t create cybercrime (law) and offences that our under our law, the law under our land, are no longer offences because you are doing it on your computer,” Williams reasoned.
Minister of State Joseph Harmon previously asserted that the sedition clause is necessary because it guards against espionage, sabotage and subversion.