Prime Minister Hon. Dr. Denzil Douglas is attempting to allay public trepidation regarding wiretapping and other forms of interception of private communications By public authorities. Cabinet recently approved an Interception of Communication Bill to be introduced in parliament in the near future. This Bill will allow public authorities to intercept communications By mobile and fixed-line phones; telegraphs; wireless networks and devices; mailing systems including parcels and couriers; and other means of communication. Dr. Douglas said public apprehension had already been addressed and contained within the proposed Bill, primarily the concern over who would have access to people’s private information and how it could be used. “The concerns of the general public have already been addressed in the piece of legislation that is to go before parliament and is to be disseminated to our citizens for their comments. Only a Judge of the High Court can give permission for that interception to take place, and the Law is very clear. When the judge would have signed on to that, it is clear as to who can do it and how the interception can be done, but more importantly who receives the information that has been gleaned from the interception of communication; not only that but how the information can be applied,” the PM explained during his latest monthly press conference, held on Wednesday, August 18. The Interception of Communication Bill is purportedly designed to ‘target suspects and help solve crimes which hitherto have remained difficult to unravel”. Attorney General Hon. Patrice Nisbett said the circumstances for requesting permission of a High Court Judge to intercept communication is in relation to issues of national security, “where there are reasonable grounds to believe a crime is about to be or has been committed”. He also said that the wiretapping legislation contained built-in safeguards to “prevent abuse and also protect political freedoms”. Dr. Douglas confessed, however, that it is doubtful that a Citizens Rights Charter would accompany the Interception of Communication Bill. A CRC or “Bill of Rights” refers to a class of rights and freedoms that protect individuals from unwarranted action By government and private organizations and individuals. “The Citizens Rights Charter can in fact help. I have not contemplated that this is going to happen, but if this is what the Bill comes with, if the general public believes it should come with the CRC, then it shall come with it. Safeguards have already been written into the piece of legislation and I’m sure that once these are made absolutely clear to our citizens, there may not be the need for the Citizens Rights Charter,” he stated. Members of opposition party People’s Action Movement (PAM) are unconvinced that the Labour Administration would not use the Bill as a means of monitoring political opponents and invading the privacy of law-abiding citizens. “In the hands of any government such as the Denzil Douglas-led administration, this type of Bill is a very slippery slope, as any right-thinking citizen would agree,” PAM parliamentarian Eugene Hamilton said. “We have certainly seen over the last few months where many incidents have been exposed which involve the use of high-tech, interceptive-type equipment in various clandestine activities of the Labour Party government. It is certainly not far-fetched to imagine that the government has already been indulged in this sort of activity and the legislation may just be a means to legalize it,” he said. MP Hamilton said his constituents and other citizens shared the concern over the government’s moral authority to properly implement and maintain such legislation without abusing it.