Opposition points out weakness in teleco bill

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THE Government’s sponsored Telecommunications (Amendment) Bill 2021 faced stiff resistance from the Opposition in Parliament yesterday.

Opposition Leader, Matthew Wale called on the Government to withdraw the Bill and work on it before bringing it back to Parliament for the final blessing.

Wale claimed the five-year mandatory period given to Service Providers, Our Telekom and Bmobile to store the IDs of mobile users is not a good policy choice.

“This creates the possibility that SIMS that have been on the register for more than 5 years could have their personal identification information removed from the register.

“It is therefore possible that in the sixth year after registration commences many users will seek to remove their private data from the register, and the service providers would be under no legal compulsion to refuse it,” he said.

“This would seem to me to be counter-productive to the object of the Bill and serves no useful policy purpose,” he added.

Furthermore, Wale has questioned the penalties of $500,000- and 10-years imprisonment for Service Providers (Our Telekom, Bmobile and agents) who sell SIM cards to under 15 years old and disclosure of confidential information plus a person giving false information to Service Providers to purchase a SIM card.

“All the penalties in this Bill need to be revised down substantially.

“In a democracy, it is an important principle that penalties are proportionate to the crime or offence.

“And the Miscellaneous Penalties Act provides something of a yardstick for what is reasonable in our jurisdiction,” he said.

Wale said it is important that those writing policy are familiar with the penalty scheme in the Miscellaneous Penalties Act and use it as a guide.

He said the reduced penalty proposed in the Corrigendum for a natural person is still too high for the offence.

“And the penalty for a body corporate is way too excessive for the offence,” he added.

In Solomon Islands, mobile subscribers has reached 464,000 as of 2020.

According to Global System for Mobile Association (GSMA), as of 2021, the global population of mobile subscribers had exceeded 5.1 billion whereby 73 percent are prepaid SIM.