All the checks and balances have not been done with regard to the Interception of Communications Act 2020, Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar said yesterday.
In a news conference held during the tea break of yesterday’s Parliament setting, the Siparia MP expressed concerns that the proposed amendments will gravely affect lawyers.
“One fundamental principle that it affects as I mentioned is legal professional privilege, it allows interception of communication from prison which should not be happening in the first place. Then says legal professional privilege is not exempted unless it is done in a place designated by the minister or on a designated device. The bill really is saying lawyers speaking to client, sorry we’re going to intercept you. You’re not exempted for interception. Now that ability to freely communicate with a lawyer is very fundamental law,” said Persad-Bissessar, who also used the news conference to serve a warning to journalists.
“Confidential material, I thought it best to bring it to the attention of the media because the media is going to be severely affected by this. Confidential journalistic materials and sources of journalistic information will be impacted upon and of course subject to being intercepted and being held and used against persons. I think that right of a journalist is also another fundamental right, not to disclose sources but if they could be intercepting your data,” said Persad-Bissessar, who claimed that these provisions could be more worrying than claims of data-mining, making reference to the Cambridge Analytica fiasco.
The Opposition leader also expressed reservations about plans to implement the law retroactively, stating that when the law was last amended and her government learned that certain top officials had been subject to phone-taps, they did not attempt to use the law in that manner, but instead made the adjustment going forward.
“We didn’t go retroactive. Law should always speak perspectively, to go forward. If something was not illegal in the past you cannot go now today to incriminate something that at the time was not illegal. That is how the law should operate, this goes against the grain of that fundamental principle,” said the Opposition leader.