Privacy is our right

Newsday Editorial
Thursday, May 5 2016 – newsday.co.tt

PNM Senator Faris Al-RawiIT WAS a bright cold day in May, and the clocks were striking 13.

This opening line is a paraphrase of the famous opening line of George Orwell’s novel 1984. It’s fitting, we feel, given what took place in the Senate on Tuesday.

Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi, without citing specific legal precedent, made a chilling declaration.

“There is no right to privacy, as some people allege exists in this jurisdiction, but which our courts do not recognise,” Al-Rawi said, piloting debate on a Bill to amend the governing statute of the Strategic Services Agency (SSA). Justifying the Government’s flawed decision to bring the Bill with only a simple majority, he said the courts are “replete with judgments that say the right to privacy is not, per se, a right.” He did not name a single case. Not even Orwell could have dreamt up this.

We are of the view that all citizens in this country have a right – both legal and natural – to privacy.

That right may not be absolute, but it exists.

Support for our contention comes from the Constitution, the supreme law of the land. It states, at Section 4, that among our fundamental human rights and freedoms is “the right of the individual to respect for his private and family life.” No amount of legal sophistry can erase this provision. As former Chief Justice Michael de la Bastide said, even if the words do not say “right to privacy” the meaning is clear. “Respect for” in no way dilutes.

Further, it must be remembered the right to privacy is the natural corollary of other rights which are not in dispute. The Constitution protects “the right of the individual to life, liberty, security of the person and enjoyment of property.” None of these protections make sense in a world where privacy is ceded.

The law should, additionally, be understood in terms of natural law. It is inherent to our human nature that we be afforded privacy.

What dignity do we have, what quality of life do we enjoy when our every move – intimate or otherwise – is subject to Big Brother? That said, the Attorney General’s position may not be wholly without basis. It may be attributable to a grey area which has frequently arisen on the question of the direct effect of the Constitution.

Some lawyers are of the view that constitutional rights are only relevant when State entities are involved. Hence, no lawyer in Therese Ho v Lendl Simmons cited the Constitution. Instead, the lawyers worked with tort and common law. The judge in the case expressed the view that “there is dire need for the enactment of statute.” Yet, the contention that the Constitution is not relevant to private matters is absurd. Why should the State have a duty not to mind our business while private citizens do not? What is more, there is law which already exists which enshrines this right. Besides the Constitution, there is international law such as the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Article 8 states, “Everyone has the right to an effective remedy by the competent national tribunals for acts violating the fundamental rights granted him by the constitution or by law.” Even in the United Kingdom, which does not have a written constitution, a right to privacy has been found by way of the European Convention on Human Rights. Ironically, in the Senate on Tuesday, Al-Rawi said the SSA Bill was brought upon the insistence of unnamed international actors. He should listen more carefully.

While the State should temper rights with the larger public interest duty to enforce national security, the Attorney General’s position on the right to privacy – saying it does not even exist – is a frightening one. As Benjamin Franklin said, “They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.” Privacy, we say, is our right

http://www.newsday.co.tt/editorial/0,227349.html

6 Responses to “Privacy is our right”


  • “Snowden added that he is neither a hero nor a traitor, but only a man, who reached a critical moment, after which he just couldn’t remain silent.
    “We all have a limit of injustice, of incivility, of inhumanity in our daily life that we can kind of accept and ignore. We turn our eyes away from the beggar on the street. We also have a breaking point and when people find that, they act,” he explained.
    “You have to have a greater commitment to justice than a fear of the law,” Snowden added.”

    The US have the biggest spying apparatus in the world, closely followed by the Chinese who is reputed to have stolen a lot of state secrets from many nations.

    Spy is a balancing act between the right to privacy and fear of the unknown. Government uses the fear of the unknown in order to justify spying and to control situations. In TNT case it is the fear of the unknown that drives the government to justify its actions. Mr. Manning used the State spy agencies to spy on citizens who were of no threat to anyone.

    It is very difficult to control a spy agency. In the past court orders were used to justify phone tapping and other intelligence gathering on individuals deemed to be a threat to the State. In today’s world all of that is ignored. Former Prime Minister used her home to have cabinet meetings because the official state residence could be bugged. Politicians understand that information must be closely guarded.

    Any law on spying must (1) Have established perimeters (2) Must seek court orders to monitor those deemed a threat, (3) must have parliamentary oversight by a joint select committee bi-partisan that they report to every quarter.(4) It’s report protected by the official secrets act where disclosure of whom spied on and for what purpose. (5) a report tabled in parliament once per year. Those safeguards are necessary to prevent abuse by our over zealous sleuths.

    • Both The Newsday & Mamoo speak with forked tongues. Not 8 months ago Newsday & Mamoo supported by way of votes and maniacal, sycophantic agreement with Their beloved hindu royal party and e-mailgate, reshmi, and much much more! The Newsday,Mamoo and UNC supporters do NOT care about infringement on rights! Where was the newsday when the SSA a spy agency tasked with monitoring crime in the society was utterly immasculated by Ethnic Cleansing in favour of Indians???not 6 months into office in 2010 this was done. Could you imagine the upper management of the CIA being fired and replaced with a secretary ?? Of a different race??? 4hese people are so shameless and annihilistic…It is clear that the UNC and its underworld friends want to cripple the state from monitoring their shipment of baby powder and super-soakers under the guise of legitimate political pressure to protect civil oiberties they and their 340,000 supporters do not give a DAMN about!

      • Racism is wrong even if Dillon think it is okay. It was wrong when you mother told you it right. It was wrong when your father told it was right. And it is wrong when the PNM tells you it right. To judge people is criminal without giving then the opportunity to prove you otherwise. Making assumptions about others due to their ethnicity is morally and ethically wrong. It cannot be right even if nappy head Alyssa seeks to justify it by calling Reshmi name.

      • Yoruba Israelite

        Both The Newsday & Mamoo speak with forked tongues.

        Alyssa,

        What else is new?

        The fact is that whatever veil of privacy we have that must be “respected,” it was long ago punctured… by BIR, by the banking system, and by agents of state security.

        The first duty of every state is to protect itself against insurgency. If the ruler is wicked, he will be zealous in this regard, because the wicked ruler will ever feel threatened. If the ruler is righteous, he will fail in this duty at his peril, and possibly that of the state and people he would have sworn to defend and protect.

        In the face of that duty and/or compulsion, the doctrine of necessity is sufficient to let us know that the veil of privacy is a flimsy shield against the strong and long arm of the state. That is why, not written or unwritten constitution will make privacy an absolute right. The response of the state will always be that he who is not an insurgent and not otherwise a threat, will have nothing to fear. This may be taken as a given when the ruler is righteous.

        When the ruler is wicked, well, anything goes. And the insurgency may well capture first the mandate of Heaven, as the Chinese liked to put it, and soon thereafter the reins of state. Whether the insurgency is constitutional and political, or unconstitutional and violent.

        My point? Trust in the righteous ruler. But above all, trust in the Most High, for it is the Most High that is the ultimate defence against the wicked ruler.

        The indo insurgency hypocritically overstate the case for privacy, and for obvious reasons, that you well state.

        Shalom.

  • Jerry C. Hussain

    What privacy! The one we never had.

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