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The views expressed herein are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the opinions or editorial position of iWitness News. Opinion pieces can be submitted to [email protected].

The Thusian Institute for Religious Liberty Inc. (TIRL) calls on the Government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines to repeal the Cyber Crimes Act of 2016. TIRL is a nonprofit, non-governmental Human Rights Education services provider registered in the State of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Our mission includes providing “a range of human rights services geared to advance respect for, and to increase constitutional protections for individual rights and freedoms, liberty of conscience in particular across the regions of the globe;…”

We call for the repeal of the Act for the following reasons:

  • It contains provisions which if enforced will damage inalienable/God-given fundamental rights and freedoms of the people, namely: Freedom of Expression, Speech, the Press, Information and private domain freedoms of thought, belief, conscience, opinion and choice. These are all freedoms guaranteed under sections 10 and 9 of the Constitution of St. Vincent and the Grenadines of 1979 and we cherish them as an independent people and nation.
  • Section 17-Cyberbullying, due to its vague and subjective language, lacking legal certainty, will criminalize the truth and criminalize the preaching of the Gospel of Jesus Christ which is known to cause offence among persons who may not believe what God commands his followers to preach to them, even using computer systems. God’s command to us to preach his word comes with the recognition that some may not desire to hear it and find it harassing to them, find its exposure of their sins humiliating and distressing. They may even find it harmful to their reputation as it publicly exposes their sins. Please see Ezekiel 2:3-8, 1 Peter 2:6-8, Matthew 28:18-20.
  • Criminal sanction, including criminal record, heavy fines or jail sentence or both, for the preaching of the truth, will represent state-sponsored persecution of religious and conscientious persons. This is against our constitutionally guaranteed protection of freedom of conscience in section 9 of our Constitution. Parliament is forbidden from making law which breeches the constitution and prohibits the religious liberty of the people. See Acts 5:14-29 for evidence of God’s displeasure with and overruling of imprisonment sentence for preachers of the Gospel, when their opponents claimed their preaching had intentionally done harm to their reputation.
  • Section 17 hangs the ingredients of the offence on a claimant’s subjective feelings and their so called evidence that harm has been suffered to their health or reputation, even when the information published is the truth. This is a dangerous precedent for the state to set in a free society where truth must be allowed to flourish in order to correct immorality and possible state and other corruption.
  • This criminalization of the truth will affect evangelistic efforts of foreign preachers and foreign critics of the government and its policies, who are outside of the state of St. Vincent and the Grenadines and whose online publications has “effect…within” S.V.G., according to the Jurisdiction section of the Act- see section 33.
  • Such a provision will breed thin-skinned-ness in society, giving life to the bringing of nonsensical claims before enforcement agencies and further burdening them to pursue frivolous accusations which can now become criminal. This will rob them of time and resources needed to give attention to more serious matters of law, order and justice in the state.

Again, TIRL appeals to the Government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines to act in the interest of all the people- with respect for and protection of their God-given and constitutionally protected Freedoms by repealing the Cyber Crime Act. We have also submitted this appeal letter to the Governor General, urging His Excellency not to assent to the Act. In addition, TIRL reminds our government and people that over 26 international and regional Freedom of Expression organizations have expressed grave concerns over the Cybercrime Act 2016 of SVG.  Our Institute understands that a government’s duty is to ensure protection of the Religious and Civil liberties of all the people. We, therefore, pray and urge the government to fulfil its God-ordained role.

The Thusian Institute for Religious Liberty (TIRL)

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