A sledgehammer blow to free speech

first_imgDear Editor,The Cyber Crimes Bill with its obnoxious and evil “sedition clause” will unleash a sledgehammer blow to free speech and deny citizens their God-given right to criticise the Government of the day and demand accountability in public office.The sedition clause criminalises statements or words “either spoken or written, a text, video, image, sign, visible representation, or other thing, that brings or attempts to bring into hatred or contempt, or excites or attempts to excite disaffection towards the Government established by law in Guyana.” This looks very strange to me.Who decides what words or statements evoke “hatred or contempt” against the Government? Who decides what words or statements “excite disaffection” against the Government? By what criteria will this be decided? Will the very same Government being criticised define what constitutes seditious words or statements?Honourable Security Minister Khemraj Ramjattan contended that the Bill allows for criticisms of the Government and its Ministers, but sedition will apply for words or actions that cause civil strife, disorder and violence. Tell me, brother Ramjattan, is it sedition if legitimate criticism or exposure of gross Government crimes or misconduct provokes public anger and civil unrest?Also, when the sedition clause refers to “the Government established by law in Guyana” my alarm bells go off. Every election in Guyana from the 1950s up to now, even the last one in 2015, was tainted by public allegations of fraud. But whether or not there really was fraud, the winners of elections always became “the Government established by law”.My point is: Suppose there is a rigged election and this fraud creates public outrage with citizens calling, online and elsewhere, for the vagabonds to be resisted and kicked out. What is to stop that criminal regime from claiming to be “the Government established by law” and using the sedition clause to get rid of citizens who legitimately condemn and resist them?I do not know if it is by design or by accident, but I can see clearly that the proposed Cyber Crimes Bill and controversial sedition clause can be abused by corrupt politicians to suppress criticism of any sitting Government. As a long-time fighter to make Guyana a peaceful, democratic, free and open society, this is totally repugnant to me.I noticed that Telecommunications Minister Cathy Hughes said persons raising concerns had two years to do so before the Parliamentary Sub-Committee submitted its proposal. This delay does not matter to me; better late than never. We were very fortunate to find out about the controversial sedition clause in time to oppose it before it became law.I expected the sub-committee that crafted the Bill to focus on protecting the public from serious dangers on the Internet such as terrorist recruitment, extreme violence, pornography, paedophilia, gambling and online scams aimed at stealing people’s hard-earned dollars. I did not expect to see a sedition clause to suppress persons’ right to criticise and oppose governments that they have hired and they have a right to fire and criticise.Any Government that wants to shut down criticism and opposition on the Inter is a Government that needs to be questioned. Trying to block public discourse and journalism because of politics will only bring a backlash of international ridicule on our beloved nation from lovers of democracy worldwide.I call on the coalition Government to scrap the entire Bill and replace it with a better plan to deal with cybercrime and promote the peaceful and democratic development of Guyana.Sincerely,Roshan Khan Srlast_img read more

Gov’t Urged to Prioritize WASH

first_imgWaterAid Liberia, in partnership with WASH Stakeholders and Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), has called on the government to strengthen the health care system through the provision of adequate water, sanitation and hygiene.The group made the call on Monday, August 8, in a joint communiqué addressed to the Ministry of Health. They want the government to give post-Ebola recovery for water, sanitation and hygiene the highest priority.Presenting the letter to Deputy Health Minister, Dr. Francis Kateh, the chairman of the Liberia WASH CSOs Network, Prince Kreplah, said the action by the group is intended to urge government to improve the health sector.Kreplah, however, commend the government for strides made to improve WASH in health care facilities across the country, adding that the government should exert more effort to deliver on its health and WASH promises.In response, Deputy Health Minister Kateh thanked WaterAid and WASH’s CSO partners for their continued work, and agreed that the issue of water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) are crucial to the health care delivery system of the country.Dr. Kateh, who is also the nation’s Chief Medical Officer, appealed to Liberians to take their health seriously, especially when it involves water.Following the presentation of the letter to the Health Ministry, a press conference was held to address key health and WASH issues.The Chairman of the Liberia NGOs Network, George Kayah, commended the government and development partners for steps taken to improve WASH and health care delivery but noted that despite these efforts there still remain serious deficiencies in water, sanitation and hygiene in rural communities, hospitals and clinics.WASH Coordinator at the Health Ministry, Wataku Kortima, disclosed that the government has put in place WASH protocols to ensure that water, sanitation and hygiene play a key role in the country’s health care delivery system.He urged collaborative efforts among CSO actors as well as Liberians to ensure that challenges affecting the health sector are resolved. The Health Ministry has started the training of health care workers on WASH protocols and the essence of WASH in health, he added.Speaking on behalf of the British Charity WaterAid in Liberia, Program Effectiveness Coordinator Samuel Quirmolue indicated that WaterAid will continue to support the government and local partners in the sector to improve WASH and make it accessible.Meanwhile, a baseline report released on water, sanitation and hygiene in health facilities in 2015 found out that about 95 percent of health care facilities do not meet the Ministry of Health’s standards on water quantity for all purposes.More than 50 percent of health facilities do not have a protected year–round source of water, and 20 percent do not have any protected source on site.Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)last_img read more

Swords into ploughshares guns into art

first_imgJuan Carlos Chavarría is an artist who creates art and peace out of old, decommissioned guns. He isn’t just using the metal parts as a medium for his art; he is also sending a message.“I’m taking something designed to kill and destroy and changing it into something positive and inspirational,” the artist told The Tico Times.Using more than 800 pounds of material from guns decommissioned and ground up by the Ministry of Public Security, some of which were used in crimes, he wants to educate and inspire. The 21 works in his collection represent positive values: Hope. Love. Respect. Peace. Harmony. Dialogue. Freedom. Truth.The works are big, about a square meter, and quite heavy – but they have been quite mobile nonetheless. Chavarría has had several shows here and has presented them abroad.“This is a peaceful country,” he reminds his audiences.Chavarría began work in 2012 with “Hora Zero, Esperanza” (“Zero Hour, Hope”) using 33 pounds of pieces of guns that he got from Public Security. Because of the ministry’s concern over how the material was to be used, he arranged to have a space in the ministry’s buildings for a workshop.The technique is his own invention: he mounts the metal on wood and adds paint later.“It’s a combination of painting and sculpture,” he says.When the first work was finished he shipped it to Cuzco, Peru to show at an international peace meeting. This work is now on permanent display at the Ministry of Public Security.Encouraged by the positive reaction to “Zero Hour,” Chavarría created the other works, starting with a wood base, laying out the metal pieces and adding color to the surfaces. Gun particles are visible in the work. In 2014 he presented the collection at an international meeting on cluster bombs held here in Costa Rica. There followed shows at the Juan Santamaría Museum in Alajuela and the Museum of Cartago, which, he points out, were once military quarters.Chavarría likes the idea of turning “something negative and destructive into something positive.”These paintings are not for sale, says Chavarría. They are to educate and inspire. The artist shares one of his works. Mitzi Stark/The Tico Times Facebook Comments Related posts:5 questions for Costa Rican street artist MUSH Cities filled with art: A visit to the 10th Central American Biennial 5 questions for a Costa Rican painter 5 question for a Costa Rican painterlast_img read more