Fri | Jul 10, 2020

Come clean on Israeli cyber ties, Bunting tells PM

Published:Wednesday | May 22, 2019 | 12:32 AMTamara Bailey/Gleaner Writer

MANDEVILLE, Manchester:

Central Manchester Member of Parliament Peter Bunting has called for Prime Minister Andrew Holness to divulge details of the Government’s alleged dealings with Israeli cybersecurity firms, citing Jamaica House’s perceived stubbornness in not answering probing questions for the past two years.

Bunting, who was speaking at the Manchester constituency conference Sunday evening, said that the country is owed an in-depth report on the prime minister’s 2017 trip to Israel to have talks with the Netanyahu administration.

“… Two years’ time, and we still can’t hear what that trip was about, but what we are now hearing is that Israeli firms are providing cybersecurity capability to the Government … ,” Bunting said, suggesting that the State had signed contracts.

He said the Israeli firms engaged by the prime minister have provided software capabilities to governments that have used them to spy on their political opponents and curtail the activity of human-rights activists.

“… These are software used to infect your phone and read your messages … ,” said Bunting, former general secretary of the People’s National Party. “We have no legislation to govern the use of these capabilities, and we must be vigilant about what is going on … . We need to start asking some serious questions about these Israeli spying capabilities, and make sure it is not going to be used on the citizens of Jamaica and frustrate the democracy we have worked so hard for.”

Meanwhile, the former minister of national security blasted the Government for overusing states of emergency, thus blunting their influence.

“You using this as a routine tool loses its effectiveness. … Last year when they called state of ­emergency, for the first few months, it had impact, but by month five, it had started to taper off. By the second half of the year, it was having no further impact … ,” he said.

“Fast-forward to three parishes [under] state of emergency. For the first 11 days, there were 22 murders. By the third week, we had 38 murders … .”

The Holness administration announced a state of emergency in western Jamaica on April 30 in a bid to crack down on crime, particularly murder, in Westmoreland, Hanover and St James.

Bunting labelled the Jamaica Labour Party administration as one of the most corrupt he had seen, citing the recent scandals involving Petrojam and the Ministry of Education, as well as a strong warning from the British high commissioner on transparency, as perfect examples.

“… Nobody is being held accountable for the corruption. Anybody who is afraid of accountability, transparency with taxpayers’ money is not someone we want in this country … ,” he said.