Intercepted e-mail could be punishable by law…

In the course of the budget debate yesterday in the House of Representatives, the Minister of Public Service, John Saldivar dropped a bombshell when he said with much bravado that he had intercepted an e-mail from the Leader of the Opposition, John Briceño. The matter sounded alarm bells because of the legalities at hand. But first here is what Saldivar said.

John Saldivar, Area Rep., Belmopan

“I hope he has thanked for former government of Central Bank who wrote his speech along with a certain former ambassador and I can say that, Mr. Speaker, because I do have a copy verbatim of your speech, intercepted through the email. So I know that it was not written by the leader of the opposition and the least he can do, Mr. Speaker, if he wants to become the leader of this country is to learn to write his own ideas. When you look at his recommendations, you wonder where the member has been. At least—just now I said for the last ten years—but at least for the last session of the House of Representatives where he is a member. When we introduced various bills to cover most of what he is recommending, but I noh think he get wah chance to read over his speech you know because if he had gotten a chance to read over the speech before he came here this morning he—Ralph had last minute changes to mek so ih neva get fi see it because he would have seen that a lot of what he put in his speech are things that that this United Democratic Party is already doing.”

News Five checked today the Belize Telecommunications Act and found that in Section 44(1) (quote) “licensees, employees and agents shall treat as confidential any telecommunications message of any information relating to a telecommunications message which comes to their knowledge in the course of their duties.”(unquote) The Act, however, allows a judge to order a public operator to intercept or disclose information when it is material to any criminal proceedings at the request of the D.P.P. And in cases of national security, a minister may give instructions to the public operator to release certain information even though there is the requirement of confidentiality. But Section 44 (2) specifically makes it an offence to (quote) “interfere with, make use of, or record the contents or substance of a telecommunication message.” (Unquote.) The penalty for this offence is a fine not exceeding five thousand dollars or imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years or both. And so we will leave you to decide whether or not an offence was committed.
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