By Caribbean News Now contributor
GEORGETOWN, Guyana -- The second public consultation on Guyana’s draft Cybercrime Bill of 2016, kicked off on Wednesday in Georgetown; with stakeholders making several meaningful submissions on almost every aspect of the draft legislation, which seeks to rein in perpetrators of cybercrimes against Guyanese citizens, companies, and state institutions.
Attorney General Basil Williams
Hosted by a panel that was headed by Guyana’s attorney general, Basil Williams, the consultation session saw input from Guyana’s director of public prosecutions, Shalimar Ali-Hack, who pressed the panel to consider the inclusion of several elements that may be currently relevant or may become relevant to the cybercrime bill, even at a later stage.
However, some of her views and interpretations regarding child pornography within the draft bill seemed to be somewhat different from women and child rights activist, Karen De Souza, who reiterated that a section of the draft law may be contradictory to the desire not to expose children to pornographic images.
Ali-Hack had sought to suggest that an interpretation of certain sections of the draft law would have meant to exempt certain illustrative content from being considered pornographic in nature if it is intended to meaningfully educate a child. But De Souza begged to differ.
International journalist and software security engineer, Dennis Adonis, also drew the panel’s attention to the possibility of journalists being targeted under section 18(2) of the draft legislation (a point that was earlier argued by veteran journalist Enrico Wolford).
However, while Wolford appeared visibly skeptical but cautiously in acceptance of the panel’s earlier explanation, Adonis repeatedly urged the subject minister to simply re-examine that section of the draft legislation.
He further suggested that, when enacted, the cybercrime bill might turn out to be nothing more than a judicial white elephant considering the fact that the Guyana Police Force is practically untrained and incapable of enforcing any aspect of such a technically encased piece of legislation.
To support his point, he made several references to damning statistics that showed more expertly prepared law enforcement agencies such as the UK and India, failing miserably in their quest to harness cyber criminals, with India having zero convictions from almost 500 cases, and the UK with almost zero success from more than 14,000 cases in 2015 alone.
In response to Adonis’s submission, Williams agreed that several challenging circumstances surround such a technical bill will exist when it comes to enforcement, regardless of which country is undertaking the task. However, he is optimistic that with the advent of an extensive training program for local law enforcement, the purpose of the bill will be achieved overtime.
The minister was also cognizant of the presentation made by George Melville of Global Technology, who pressed the panel to examine the issue of encryption since it does not exist within the draft bill.
Melville’s presentation had evidently captured the minister’s attention inasmuch that it appeared to have created one of the lengthiest exchanges among participants.
Noted submissions were also made by several other agencies including representative from the Guyana Revenue Authority, and Go-Invest.
Amongst its most prominent attendees were the United States charge d’ affaires Bryan Hunt, Inter-American Development Bank Representative Sophie Makonnen, and several well known legal practitioners.
Consultation on the draft cybercrime bill was intended to solicit public input, criticisms and opinion in an effort to ensure that the final bill will achieve its goal, while balancing the interest of the population at large.