By Ragan M. Conteh
The Leader of the National Grand Coalition in Parliament, Hon. Dr Kandeh Kolleh Yumkella, has demanded the Cybercrime Regulations before the bill is being passed into law.
According to Dr Kandeh Yumkella, to make the Cybercrime workable, the Regulations should be tabled in the Well of Parliament. He said the cybercrime is necessary in our modern day democracy and, more so, when people, on a daily basis, use cyber space to dupe others.
In his submission, the deputy Opposition Leader in Parliament, Hon Ibrahim Ben Kargbo explained how bad laws affect everyone irrespective of one’s political, regional or tribal affiliations. He cited the 1965 Public Order Act that affected many Sierra Leoneans, including the opposition, both past and present.
He explained that the 1965 Public Order Act was introduced by then Prime Minister, Sir Albert Margai. He did so to interfere with the media.
According to the deputy Leader of the APC, the cybercrime, if enacted as it is, will have the potential to affect generations yet unborn.
“You will not know you are making bad laws until one falls victim. Then you know that making laws to suit your comfort, during your tenure, is bad” he said.
Hon I.B. Kargbo however asked the House to defer the Cybercrime bill until proper mechanisms are put in place.
“Many bills were deferred for proper scrutiny because they are controversial,” he concluded.
Hon. Kalokoh, from the All Peoples’ Congress (APC), said the powers given to the minister are enormous. “If such a bill becomes law, it will have the tendency to create serious chaos and will infringe on the rights of citizens,” Hon Kalokoh said.
He questioned the President who is also part of the Cybercrime Council. If the bill is passed into law, it will be more political than the actual aim of curbing cyber crime in the country.
According to Hon. Kalokoh, the main objective is to fight cybercrimes of all kinds, but the bill has its shortfalls. And if passed into law, it will have further legal pretexts to clamp down on dissent. He said several citizens and opposition members argued that the bill serves as a conduit for government suppression of digital rights and freedoms, especially in instances where the government has faltered.
Hon. Kalokoh said the Cybercrime bill is a new Public Order Act for the electronic age, adding that it is better to invoke sections of the Public Order Act, which criminalized libel, than to suppress free speech and the press.
He furthered that the Cybercrime bill is even more punitive than the Public Order Act. He added that everyone is a potential target for the criminalization of free speech if the ruling party deems one’s online contents as offensive.
An opposition MP, Hon. Daniel Koroma, said the Cyber bill lacks clear definitions of what constitutes a cybercrime, ceding too much power to the Minister of Information to draw regulations and determine punitive measures.
The Minister of Information and Communications, Hon. Mohamed Swaray, stated that, as a ministry, they have conducted many consultations with stakeholders regarding the Cybercrime bill. According to him, all contributions and inputs will be considered accordingly during the Legislative Committee sittings.
He however acknowledged the loopholes in the Cyber bill and promised to make it friendly and national, and devoid of political intentions.
However, the Leader of Government Business, Hon Matthew Sahr Nyuma, raised a motion, seconded by the main Opposition Leader, Hon. Chernor Maju Bah, to commit the bill to the Legislative Committee for further scrutiny before it is passed into law.