THE EDITOR: The British have removed the sedition law from their books. Why is it still law in TT? That has been the question on the lips of many over the last week.
It is very convenient to make comparisons to the British when it serves oneâs argument, but are we in a position to so do?
Over the last week or so we saw a British MP ride away from a press conference on a bicycle, we saw the queenâs son drive his family to school and the Prime Minister on the street speaking to the ordinary man. Such modus operandi is alien to the people of TT.
Since gaining independence, we have destroyed the local government structure that once ensured our communities were well serviced.
We have neglected to maintain the structure of gravity-fed water distribution that was supported by tanks on the many hills throughout the country.
We failed to maintain many of our most beautiful buildings.
We dismantled the infrastructure that supported the rail system.
We discontinued the many practices that made us safe, like structured police patrols and community-based policing.
The sanitary inspectors that once visited our homes to ensure that every house had proper drainage and a healthy environment are a rear sight.
The weekly community visits by medical officers accompanied by a nurse and pharmacist are no more.
Mobile dental care at our schools are rear.
Community-based water repair offices are gone.
The system of pipes and valves that diverts water from the mountains to the Hollis Reservoir in the dry season is no longer functional.
The game wardens that patrolled our forests to ensure that illegal quarrying and lumber harvesting are no longer an integral part of our forestry management.
The practice that ensured our dogs were registered and properly managed, that our bicycles were road worthy and our animals were not roaming freely on other peopleâs property are just a memory to those who lived in TT years ago.
Some think that one more inherited standard from the British, the Sedition Act, should be cast aside. While there is a strong argument for establishing an independent position and a break away from the colonial customs and laws, one should be careful not to be irresponsible.
It is a good idea to move away from the Privy Council as the final court of appeal, but the alternative ought to be the Caribbean Court of Justice. If one supports the removal of the sedition laws, then there must be an appropriate alternative.
It must be noted that we are a long way from the standards and culture of the British. In this land we have had the ugly experience of a member of Parliament and an elected representative of the Tobago House of Assembly referring to an individual in public service as “stink mouth.”
There are radio talk show hosts berating and using despicable disparaging adjectives to describe members of the public and public officials.
There must be language that educate and uplift rather than denigrate and tear down if we are to grow and develop in a positive way. Freedom of expression ought not to be an absolute right. Every right has with it a corresponding responsibility.
Freedom of movement assumes that one would not trespass on private property. Freedom of worship assumes that one would not convene a religious meeting on the doorsteps of a religion of dissimilar belief. Thus, the freedom to express oneself assumes that one would not use words that can divide, incite violence, create chaos or threaten the civility of a nation.
Whether one chose to change or retain the sedition laws, one has to exercise the discipline and sense of responsibility to ensure that such changes, while protecting oneâs right to expression, do not violate the right of citizens to peace and harmony.
political leader , DPTT
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