By RICARDO WELLS
Tribune Staff Reporter
THE attempt to debate and pass the recently delayed Interception of Communications Bill by the Christie administration was yesterday branded as the government’s latest effort to “seize and wield more ill-gotten power” by Free National Movement Leader Dr Hubert Minnis.
In a statement released on Thursday, the Killarney MP insisted that if advanced, the bill would have acted as yet another weapon in the Progressive Liberal Party’s (PLP) campaign arsenal.
“There should be no doubt that this government’s effort to introduce their ‘Spy Bill’ under the cover of night was another effort of the desperate PLP to seize and wield more ill-gotten power,” Dr Minnis said.
“Bahamians everywhere have been subjected to nearly five years of their schemes, their empty rhetoric and series of broken promises.
“This is nothing new for the PLP; it was this government that illegally operated the National Intelligence Agency without introducing a bill to legalise it.
“And while the people’s voices were heard and together we were able to derail their latest power play, we must stand vigilant as the election nears and the PLP becomes more and more desperate.”
“Let’s call their ‘Spy Bill’ for what it is – an effort to gain a political advantage for an oppressive government to use the power of government to intimidate and spy on Bahamians who would stand up to them.”
He added: “There is an election around the corner so it’s no coincidence of the timing. This is an election where the PLP will be called to answer for their disastrous record in office.
“We can expect more efforts to tip the scales in their favour, and we have seen that they are willing to go to any length to hold onto power.”
Attorney General Allyson Maynard-Gibson, QC, on Tuesday night defended the need for the bill but announced that her office will lead a “period of public consultation” on the legislation.
Mrs Maynard-Gibson said this decision was made because of concerns that the public was being “misled very substantially” about the content of the proposed legislation and that much of the debate over the issue has been partisan.
Despite this, however, Leader of Government Business Dr Bernard Nottage said Mrs Maynard-Gibson’s statement did not mean the bill had been “delayed.”
Dr Nottage, minister of national security, said the bill had been tabled and the government was responding to the perception being adopted by members of the public.
He stated: “It’s clear to us that the purpose of the bill is being misrepresented by those who are commenting on it, and like we have done with many bills in the past, we have determined that we will have a public education exercise so that the public will know exactly what the bills are about rather than listening to hearsay which is inaccurate.”
“So it’s not a delay, we don’t have a time-frame before or after that the bill must be done.”
The bill was tabled in the House of Assembly earlier this month.
It aims to create a “single legal framework” that would allow the commissioner of police, or someone acting on his behalf, to obtain a warrant from a judge to intercept and examine a person’s communications from telecommunications operators, internet providers and postal services for a period of three months.
The legislation would repeal the Listening Devices Act.