In most democratic countries in the world it is spelled out in the constitutions that their citizens have the right to privacy. This right to privacy is normally backed up by laws that have to do with citizens communicating with each other through letters, internet, radios, telephone or other means.
The company that is facilitating the communication is being paid a service fee for the citizens to communicate, but they do not have the right to release what is being communicated without the written consent and approval of the person or persons involved.
If that was to be done, the person or persons affected have the right to sue that company for damages. After 911 in the United States of America, this issue became a major issue and is still not fully resolved. The United States Government was trying to force the telephone companies to grant them access to people’s conversations so that they could monitor them to crack down on terrorism.
Some telephone companies refused and the matter ended up in the US Supreme Court. The court ruled that when it comes to issues related to national security and the safety of US citizens, the government should be given the information.
However, the government must first come to the court to justify why they need the information and how it will assist the government in national security and the protection of US citizens.
Why? Because they do not want the government to abuse its power in invading American citizens’ privacy.
In a country like Belize, this wiretapping could be used to monitor the conversations of prominent Belizean citizens who are in opposition to the government, whether it is PUP, UDP, VIP, PNP, BPF or any other political party.
It is being said that the PUP were doing this on the UDP prior to the elections of 2008. Now the PUP will soon accuse the UDP of doing the same thing to them. All Belizeans must now come together and get involved in this debate, because our privacy will be invaded by the Government of Belize.
There were some laws passed recently in Belize, that when it comes to gangs and criminals, the government should have the authority to monitor their conversations to crack down on crimes in Belize and the other countries. This is something most law-abiding citizens are in favor of.
I still prefer the use of the courts to get the warrant before the wiretapping takes place. Wiretapping and the monitoring of people’s conversations are different. But if the government was to tell a telephone company to monitor the conversations of a specific person or persons, and then provide that information to them, in my opinion, that is still wiretapping. Without any court order, nobody will know about it but the telephone company and the government.
In the fight between Michael Ashcroft and this current UDP government to take back BTL from them, is this one of the issues in the mix?
Well, it makes me begin to wonder because this is a very serious issue that we, as Belizeans, must not take lightly. Giving any person or group the power to monitor people’s conversations is dangerous. I call on all the political parties to bring the issue to the forefront of the political debate. We must have legislation passed to deal with this very important issue that affects all of our privacy as citizens of Belize.
I do not want any unauthorized person or persons to have access to my communications without my written consent and approval, and so should you. If we find out that this was or is taking place, then legal action must be brought against all involved and damages must be sought.
Wellington C. Ramos