Notwithstanding the calls from various international press organizations Premier and Minister for Finance Hon. Andrew Fahie is insisting that the Computer Misuse and Cyber-crime Amendment Act should be promptly assented to be His Excellency Governor Augustus Jaspert.
The Premier during a press conference on 20 January at the Village Cay conference room stated that he does not understand why the legislation has not been assented to as yet as he thinks that it was properly vetted. “I am confident that the most democratic process has been taken place through the Cyber Crime Amendment Act and it should be assented to,” the Premier declared.
While emphasizing that the legislation was properly divulged the BVI Premier announced that the Act was seen by the Security Council, Cabinet, debated by the Members of the House of Assembly and examined by a Special Committee of the House. In noting the process Hon. Fahie said, “Can I tell you that anything that went into that Committee never came out back before in the history of me being in politics…And it was the first time that the Select Committee sent a report back to the House, because normally that is called the graveyard of bills…nothing comes out, it came out.”
“When it came out it was such a shock to the House, and the law to use to get it recommitted to the House was never used [that]we had to take a break to find out what law is used to get it back into the House.
The Premier declared that the legislation was properly considered before passing it. “I am confident that the most democratic process has taken place through the Cyber Crime Amendment Act, and it should be assented to. We totally ventilated that bill just like the other times, clause by clause, page by page, word by word, spot by spot on the page. Now you tell me that this was the most ventilated bill in the history of the Virgin Islands what could possibly pop up that should not have been seen before by any entity even those who have concerns now? When everybody had a chance to deal with it from the onset. It was nothing sped up or rushed.”
As it relates to the pressure from international organizations and the Governor’s decision to hold off on assenting to the Act Hon. Fahie said, “Yes, there were some concerns named, and I wrote back, and yes that bill needs to be assented to because while we are playing games, young people’s lives are being destroyed.”
With regards to the fear that the media could face harsh penalties once the Act is passed the Premier said, “I respect the freedom of the media, but research has shown that the media too has to be held accountable for some of what they print. It is not saying that the media cannot print. It is saying that the media or anybody who disseminates incorrect information, the fine will be high.”
“Well, some of you in the media will say: ‘that’s a little high”, but how do you repair a man’s reputation when you are finished destroying it? What cost could you put unto his reputation and even if you say “sorry”, how does that irrevocable damage be dealt with? Yes, the fines were higher than normal, but the problem that we have is worse than normal. And, to deal with an unconventional problem, you have to do an unconventional solution. The only people who have to worry about Cyber Crime Amendment Act is those who intend to be malicious, whether it be the media or the regular citizen in the BVI,” Hon. Fahie announced.
Up to late last year, His Excellency Governor Augustus Jaspert had not assented to the Cybercrime Amendment Act 2019. He explained during a media briefing on November 1 that aspects of the Act are viewed as a contravention of free speech.
In response to the concern about the Bill the Governor explained why the Act was not assented to: “I haven’t yet seen the final version of it as it’s coming to my desk. With every single Act I consider it very, very carefully and look at any issue where there are any legal issues at this point. I would look harder at the Act as I do with any other Act,” the Governor announced.