Jan 01, 2014 News
– Luncheon denies spying on political opposition
The Guyana Government has admitted that it spies on citizens through the wiretapping of private telephone conversations, but this is done only in the investigation of criminal activities.
This revelation came from Head of the Presidential Secretariat, Dr Roger Luncheon, who was yesterday responding to a call by Alliance for Change (AFC) Leader, Khemraj Ramjattan, who said that based on a comment by Housing Minister, Irfaan Ali, the government needs to come clean on whether it is wiretapping.
Dr. Luncheon yesterday however, vehemently denied that the administration was wiretapping the phones of opposition politicians. He also did not say whether the government was spying on landlines or on the cellular phones.
“I can speak authoritatively,” said Dr Luncheon. He added that since the enactment and commencement order for the wiretapping laws there has been none such done to politicians.
Dr. Luncheon said “I don’t know what on earth could have possessed the AFC Leader into making the insinuation.
I want to reassure him, if that is indeed possible, that his fears generally should be disregarded,” urged Luncheon, who said too that there is no basis for Ramjattan thinking that the Government of Guyana and the Telecommunication service providers would engage in unauthorized wiretapping of his phone or any that of Guyanese.
Dr. Luncheon insists that wiretapping is prescribed by law. “I continue to offer the assurance to Guyanese that any wiretapping that is done in Guyana fully subscribes with the legal framework and he (Ramjattan) need not worry.”
Luncheon stressed that “the realm and the resort to wiretapping is prescribed by law to which this Government adheres fully.”
He said that the focus of the legislation and wiretapping continues exclusively to be “crime, investigation of crime… We have enacted the law and we are using the law in pursuit of criminal investigations.”
Dr. Luncheon said that he was unable to provide at this time, details of the number of wiretapping that has taken place.
He said that this information is not usually with Cabinet or the Defence Board.
Asked why none of the wiretapping evidence gathered has ever reached the court to be used in police prosecutions, Dr. Luncheon said that it is a misconception that evidence-based information only exists when it is used in court.
He suggested that when the information of a criminal plot is secured using a wiretap that information is acted upon.
Ramjattan, on Monday, called on the Housing Minister, Irfaan Ali, to explain statements which suggested conversations were being recorded by the telephone company.
During a press conference at his Brickdam office Friday, Ali said that he would request the Guyana Telephone and Telegraph Company (GT&T) to provide a recording of a conversation that was held between his secretary and AFC’s Leader, Khemraj Ramjattan.
Ali had requested his secretary to invite the Member of Parliament to the press conference on Friday to ask questions on housing developments on the East Bank of Demerara.
On Christmas Day, an article in Kaieteur News raised questions about the allocations of large swathes of lands to private developers. Ramjattan had expressed concerns.
According to Ali, Ramjattan “was loud and abusive to my secretary and slammed the phone down. We are hoping that we can request of GT&T to have a recording…”
But AFC on Monday said it took the Minister’s statements on the GT&T recordings as serious.
“It is obvious, from his definitive remark, that Minister Ali is aware that the Guyana Telephone and Telegraph Company records telephone conversations either of the Ministry of Housing or Mr. Ramjattan’s phone.”
GT&T’s Chief Executive Officer, Radha Krishna Sharma, in an invited comment on Monday said that as a matter of policy and protocol, “we do not record conversations.”
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