As the international battle continues over the United States’ (US) desire to capture and prosecute American intelligence leaker Edward Snowden, Guyana’s President Donald Ramotar on Thursday said his country does not read citizens’ correspondence.
Though the Guyanese leader made no reference to Snowden, he told the opening of an Investment Conference whose audience included US Ambassador Brent Hardt that his country would not violate the privacy of correspondence.
“We do not interfere in people’s privacy. We do not read their mail or anything like that. That is an era that I hope is passed forever in our country” a remark that evoked mild snigger in the main room of the Guyana International Conference Centre (GICC).
Ramotar reiterated that the media was free and open and government believes in the rule of law.
The Guyana government had, however, been accused of aiding and abetting now convicted drug lord Shaheed ‘Roger’ Khan in procuring sopphisticated mobile phone tapping equipment to help track down heavily armed gang members. A Guyana Defence Force (GDF) patrol had seized one piece of equipment but it appeared that there had been more than one because another almost identical device had been tendered in a New York court during Khan’s trial.
The American is wanted for leaking to the media that the US is systematically seizing vast amounts of phone and web data under a surveillance programme known as Prism. They include access to e-mail, chatrooms, phone records and social media accounts.
Snowden, who first gave the expose from a hideout in Hong Kong, has since flown to Moscow, Russia where he has been staying at the Sheremetyevo Airport
Earlier this week, there had been speculation of him flying to Ecuador via Cuba but so far he has not left Russia. The US has so far failed in its demands to get Russia to hand over the fugitive.
The BBC quoted US President Barack Obama as saying during an official visit to Senegal that the leak highlighted significant vulnerabilities at the National Security Agency, the US electronic spying organisation where Mr Snowden worked as a contractor until last month.
The remarks come a day after the chairman of the US Senate foreign relations committee, Robert Menendez, proposed punishing Ecuador economically if it offered asylum to Mr Snowden.