APNU+AFC MPs, GT Mayor face hefty fines, jail time if convicted of cybercrimes

The content originally appeared on: INews Guyana
Georgetown Mayor Ubraj Narine

Two A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) Members of Parliament (MPs) and the Mayor of Georgetown face hefty fines and jail time if convicted of cybercrimes.

Opposition MPs Sherod Duncan and Annette Ferguson are charged under Section 19 (3)(a) of the Cyber Crime Act for comments they posted on Facebook about a Guyana Defence Force (GDF) Colonel and the Information Technology (IT) Manager at the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM).

That section of the law states that a person commits an offence if the person uses a computer system to disseminate any information, statement, or image, knowing same to be false, that causes damage to the reputation of another person or subjects another person to public ridicule, contempt, hatred or embarrassment.

If convicted, they face time in prison and hefty fines. In fact, a person who commits an offence under this section is liable to (a) on summary conviction a fine of $5 million and three years’ imprisonment ; and (b) on conviction on indictment to a fine of $10 million and five years’ imprisonment.

Meanwhile, Mayor Ubraj Narine and Duncan are jointly charged with the offence of using a computer system to attempt to excite ethnic divisions on the ground of race, contrary to Section 18(2) of the Cyber Crime Act. A person who commits an offence under this section shall be liable on conviction on indictment to five years’ imprisonment.Joint charges

On December 15, Mayor Narine and suspended APNU/AFC MP Duncan were each placed on $200,000 bail by Chief Magistrate Ann McLennan for allegedly attempting to excite racial hostility.

The first of the two charges allege that on December 12, at New Market Street, Georgetown, they intentionally transmitted a video attempting to excite racial division.The second joint charge alleges that on the same day and at the same location, they attempted to incite racial hostility to the public on the ground of their race.

The charges stem from certain remarks the Mayor had made while protesting the Government’s removal of vendors from the positions they occupied in front of the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC) at New Market Street in Georgetown on the evening of December 12.

Backed by the vendors, Mayor Narine lay on the roadway to prevent trucks from carrying away the vendors’ food caravans and stalls. Mayor Narine descended into making a series of serious accusations against President Dr Irfaan Ali, including that the Head of State was creating an Islamic State in Guyana. Duncan had also conducted himself in a similar manner.

Narine had gone to the area after the Public Works Ministry had initiated action to remove vendors occupying spaces along New Market Street, between Thomas and East Streets, following notices that they were impeding the flow of traffic in the vicinity.

Mayor Narine’s remarks accusing the President of creating an Islamic State were vehemently condemned by Government, the Private Sector, and Civil Society, among others. His comments were met with an immediate backlash and calls for his immediate resignation on the ground that he was unfit to hold such office.

Narine, who is a pandit, was even rebuked for his statement by the Guyana Pandits Council and its affiliates, which vehemently condemned the utterances he made.

“We believe strongly that his words were inappropriate and highly disrespectful to the President of Guyana, His Excellency Dr Irfaan Ali and the Muslim community. Guyana is a country in which all religions are treated equally and allowed to practice their ideals and principles freely. Let us spread love, tolerance, and unity, instead of hate and divisiveness,” the Guyana Pandits Council has said in a statement.

Sherod Duncan

In January of this year, MP Duncan was charged over referring to GECOM’s IT Manager, Aneal Giddings as a “trench crappo” and “jagabat”.

Duncan appeared before Principal Magistrate Judy Latchman at the Diamond-Golden Grove Magistrates’ Courts. The MP pleaded not guilty to the charge and was released on $200,000 bail.

The charge alleges that on January 11, 2022, without legal or lawful justification or excuse, he used a computer system to publish electronic data about Giddings with the intent to humiliate and embarrass and to cause emotional distress.

Police Headquarters said that Giddings filed a report in which he stated that Duncan who is the host of the “In the Ring” programme on Facebook, called him by name and referred to him as “jagabat”, “trench crappo”, and other names.

(The term jagabat has several meanings in the Caribbean. In Trinidad, it means a promiscuous woman, and in Guyana, it means a despicable person; while crappo is the local spelling of the French “crapaud”, meaning toad; trench crapauds are particularly large and unsightly).

Giddings also claimed that Duncan’s utterances have caused him significant emotional distress and humiliation.

Annette Ferguson

Then on June 16, 2021, MP Ferguson was granted self-bail on a similar charge.Particulars of the charge allege that on June 15, 2021, she used a computer system to humiliate GDF Colonel Omar Khan.

The senior GDF rank is reported to have made a complaint with the Police Force’s Cyber Crime Unit after Ferguson, in a Facebook post, said he would be in charge of a killing squad.

All the cases are continuing before the courts.