Grenada's Government Defends Need for Controversial Data Protection Bill

ST.  GEORGE’S, Grenada – Grenada's government Tuesday defended the need for the Data Protection Bill dismissing calls by the main opposition New National Party (NNP) and at least one non-governmental organization to shelve the measure pending more public consultation on the measure.

lennexAEconomic Development, Planning, Tourism, Creative Economy, Agriculture, and Lands, Fisheries, and Cooperative Minister, Lennox Andrews“We need this bill to be passed and to be in place so that we can implement our big projects that we have for this country…and these projects have to be supported by the Data Protection Bill,” said Economic Development, Planning, Tourism, Creative Economy, Agriculture, and Lands, Fisheries, and Cooperative Minister, Lennox Andrews.

The senior government minister told legislators that the approval of the legislation by both Houses of Parliament is required so that the Dickon Mitchell administration can enforce two projects that will result in an injection of US$24 million into the economy.

“We have right now in our budget two major projects that are geared towards the digitalization of our economy, of our country and are geared towards improving the lives of our people and geared towards eradicating poverty.”

Andrews said that it is also “geared toward the economic independence and geared towards letting our people see that in them they have the potential to use their time and their talent to create goods and services that they can depend on to earn a decent income and to improve their lives”.

Andrew said as a government, “our role is to facilitate that process and to put systems and structures and laws in place so that our people can take charge of our own development.

“So we have what we called the digitalization for government services for resilience project, we call it the G4R project – that is is US$15 million, we have the CARDTP project which is another US$8 million project implementing this year,” he said.

“This bill is about developing our homeland, developing our country, and developing our people it is about using technology to improve the lives of our people and to bring a better life to all Grenadians,” he told Parliament.

Prior to the start of the debate, the NNP had issued a statement saying that it believes that adequate protection of personal data and the implementation of measures relating to data security are vital in any modern democratic society.

“Whilst Data Protection legislation is desirable and necessary, a draft Bill that does not consider and take into account important aspects, is likely to cause harm, rather than achieve its objectives,” the party added.

In Parliament, the opposition said while it would support the first reading of the bill,  a joint select committee of the House should be established and tasked with the responsibility of holding widespread public consultations.

However, the government, which has a 9-6 majority in the Parliament voted against the motion and instead choose to approve the bill by amending several clauses.

“These are in my view cosmetic amendments because the substance remains and the point is what are these organizations saying about the Bill, they have expressed concern, they have to give their input,” said Opposition Leader, Dr. Keith Mitchell.

The 2023 Data Protection Bill according to the explanatory notes is seeking to establish a new framework for managing the processing of personal data in Grenada.

Former attorney general and constitutional expert, Dr. Francis Alexis, speaking on a television program here over the weekend, called for some clauses of the bill to be revisited, while the Independent Caucus for Constitution Reform (ICCR) expressed concern with some clauses.

In an open letter to Attorney General, Claudette Joseph, ICCR chairman, Joseph K. Roberts said ”we reserve the right to use all available measures to protect the Constitution and the fundamental rights and freedoms afforded within”.