…encourages Guyanese to refuse to be silencedGeneral Secretary of the Guyana Trades Union Congress (GTUC), Lincoln Lewis has encouraged Guyanese to refuse to be silenced even as the much-debated Cybercrime Bill 2018 is in the process of being soon passed at the parliamentary level.GTUC General Secretary Lincoln LewisThe Bill, which holds two controversial clauses which seek to penalise persons who “attempt to bring into hatred or excite disaffection towards the Government” via text, speech, or image is considered to be a threat to freedom of speech in Guyana.“Let none still your voice, for your voice plays a pivotal role in giving meaning and expressions to your existence, and is vital to being part of the social order because we are foremost social beings. Let’s get up… stand up… stand up for our rights. Don’t let us give up the fight… Ours is the baton to carry and we must carry it like true warriors. None must stop us in this leg of our journey to create a just society! Solidarity forever, for it’s the union that makes us strong!” he told May Day rally on Tuesday.Since the introduction of the legislation, many members of the public have sought to criticise the clauses and Government, while calling for it to be removed from the Bill; the original purpose being to protect Guyanese and their children from the dangers of cyberspace.Recently, Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo denied suggestions that the parliamentary Opposition supported the insertion of the controversial clause – clause 18 – into the Cybercrime Bill.Clause 18 of the Cybercrime Bill outlines that persons commit an offence of sedition when they “attempt to bring into hatred or excite disaffection towards the Government.”These provisions have, in fact, excited worry among social media users who have recently taken to that medium in their numbers to register concerns that their freedom of expression would be trampled.According to Jagdeo, the initial purpose of the Bill was to protect Guyanese and their children from the dangers of cyberspace.Instead, he explained, the Bill has been converted by the Government to one that, besides the original purpose, protects their Government’s own interests.“This is why the entire Guyana must fight to ensure that this retrograde step to charge people for sedition, an archaic offence, because of what they say, which can cause disaffection with the Government… This provision has no place in a democratic, in a free Guyana, in a Guyana where free speech is an important part of our democracy where freedom of expression is defined and protected by our Constitution,” he stated.Laid in the National Assembly since 2016, the Cybercrime Bill had catered for, inter alia: illegal access to a computer system; illegal interception; illegal data interference; illegal acquisition of data; illegal system interference; unauthorised receiving or granting of access to computer data; computer related forgery; computer related fraud; offences affecting critical infrastructure; identity related offences; child pornography; child luring and violation of privacy among a sleuth of other offences.A Special Select Committee, comprising of Government and Opposition members had been working on the Bill for the past few years and their report on the Bill was presented recently.Jagdeo noted However that PPP “members of the Select Committee that met on several occasions to consider this Bill were there and were absent sometimes” while outlining that their “presence alone, just being named to that Committee does not elevate this to support of the PPP.”
The National Drainage and Irrigation Authority (NDIA) has stopped the Rice Producers Association (RPA) from using the Water Users Association (WUA) building at Number 63 Village, Corentyne, Region Six (East Berbice-Corentyne).The RPA had used a public address system to announce its proposed meeting on Monday afternoon to discuss the last crop issues with farmers and others members of the RPA.Some of the rice farmers who were present at the meeting which was held at an alternative locationHowever, on Monday, the Chairman of the 52-74 Water Users Association, Neezam Raja, received instructions from the NDIA not to allow the RPA to host its meeting there. Guyana Times was told that the instructions were handed down from Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the NDIA, Frederick Flatts.When contacted, Flatts confirmed that the decision was one made by the management of the NDIA. He noted that permission has to be granted for such an event.However, General Secretary of the RPA, Dharamkumar Seeraj said it was unusual for assess of the Benab facility to be denied to the RPA.According to Seeraj, for more than 30 years he has been working with farmers and it was the first time farmers were being denied access to that office to address their concerns.Seeraj believes there is political interference.In recent weeks, rice farmers have been very critical over the limited reaction received from Government through the Guyana Rice Development Board (GRDB) in tackling the paddy bug infestation which was countrywide and saw some farmers losing their entire crop, while others could not sell their paddy to milers because of its poor quality.Farmers in Berbice have also slammed the GRDB, saying the production figures released by the General Manager of the GRDB, Nizam Hassan, were misleading.Hassan had announced that the national average for rice production was above six tonnes per hectare which is an excellent yield.Rice farmers on the other hand noted that the General Manager failed to mention the extremely poor quality of rice produced during the crop.At Mondays meeting, which was eventually held next door to the WUA building at Joe Park, over 50 farmers attended where the impact of the paddy bug infestation was discussed.Farmers noted the serous damages caused to their crop as a result of the widespread infestation of paddy bugs.Concern was also expressed over the high increases implemented over the past year to cultivate rice, foremost among them being the inclusion of Value Added Tax on agriculture equipment.Farmers noted it now costs 12 per cent more on all tractor parts and for a new tractor, while paddy bags have been reduced from 143 pounds to 120 pounds. This, they say, has resulted in a loss of income.Included in the increase cost of production is the increased land rates which Government is demanding from the farmers.