Dr. Kandeh K. Yumkella MP: Sierra Leone Telegraph: 24 June 2021:
Yesterday, Wednesday 23 June 2021, we as Parliamentarians passed the Cyber Security and Crime Bill which is now fundamentally different from the original draft bill presented to Parliament three months ago.
We should commend the public at large, SLAJ, the Bar Association, other Civil Society, and professional IT groups, who raised the alarm about the dangers embedded in the draft bill regarding basic rights of free speech, privacy and human rights.
They also sent invaluable inputs to MPs and the government during the nationwide consultations and pre-legislative process.
We, the opposition political parties, strongly opposed the original version. But more importantly, we played a critical role in making this Bill a good piece of legislation.
Over the last two months, the process demonstrated that if we want democracy to work well, we must have a well-organised, functional, effective, knowledgeable opposition.
Accordingly, we quickly organized ourselves to challenge the original Bill and proactively participated in the pre-legislative process to redraft or expunge obnoxious clauses.
This week we have spent three days working in the “Committee-of-the-Whole” alongside SLPP MPs to produce this legislation.
We rolled up our sleeves and worked jointly on the final Bill to, among other things, protect citizen’s rights, reduced powers initially vested in the Minister of Information and Communications, made the fines more consistent with international best practice, and ensured that the search and seizure warrant is limited in its physical and geographic application.
More importantly, Parliament gave a significant role to the judiciary. For example, the government or its agents must seek a warrant from a judge before executing a search.
Special recognition for Hon Marray-Conteh, Chair of the Legislative Committee (SLPP) and the Deputy Chair Hon Daniel Koroma (APC) for their diligence and leadership on key substantive issues.
Kudos to the Minister of Information and Communications for listening to parliament and engaging in wide, apolitical, and inclusive consultations across the country.
We wish other ministers will learn that not every policy or action has to be done “PAOPALLY” or for political dominance. It seems the minister listened to the most critical admonition we gave him i.e., “remember that someone else will be in your seat one day and may use bad laws against you”.
Ultimately, the successful implementation of this Bill will depend on the will of the Executive and an impartial judiciary.
Note: The Cyber Security and Crime Act enacted by parliament will be published in a few days in the Gazette after all the amendments agreed by parliamentarians have been made.
The Cyber Security and Crime Act has been approved in Parliament and now awaits presidential assent before it can become law.
You can watch the Chairman of the Legislative Committee in Sierra Leone Parliament – Abdul Sulaiman Marray Conteh speaking about the 2021 Cybercrime Bill after going through three days of cross-party legislative process in Parliament: