Maharaj calls for review of Sedition Act - EntornoInteligente
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Us­ing the Sedi­tion laws to cur­tail free speech is a vi­o­la­tion of the ten­ants of democ­ra­cy.

So said for­mer At­tor­ney Gen­er­al Ramesh Lawrence Ma­haraj days af­ter Mi­nor­i­ty Leader of the To­ba­go House of As­sem­bly Wat­son Duke was charged for sedi­tion.

Speak­ing on the Morn­ing Brew yes­ter­day, Ma­haraj said sedi­tion laws are a con­tra­ven­tion to free­dom of ex­pres­sion.

“It in­ter­feres with the right to free­dom of speech but the right to ex­press po­lit­i­cal views, and the free­dom of the press,” Ma­haraj said.

He called on the gov­ern­ment to make a clear state­ment on whether it in­tend­ed to re­tain, amend or re­peal the ar­cha­ic laws in the in­ter­est of democ­ra­cy.

Ma­haraj said even though Sedi­tion laws re­main on the Statute books, it was nev­er en­forced un­til re­cent­ly.

“In T&T there are many laws that are on the book but have not been re­pealed. This sedi­tion act has been res­ur­rect­ed to be used and the pub­lic per­cep­tion is that it was res­ur­rect­ed to be used to si­lence crit­ics,” Ma­haraj said.

He ex­plained that the laws were es­tab­lished by the British gov­ern­ment and were used to im­prison Ma­hat­ma Gand­hi in In­dia.

“The same law we have in Trinidad was the same law which was used to im­prison Gand­hi. When he spoke he did not in­cite vi­o­lence, he was crit­i­cal of British rule. In the 1990’s it was rec­og­nized by Britain that this law was a bad law and Britain re­pealed the law and said it was tak­ing steps to en­sure that all oth­er coun­tries re­peal it,” Ma­haraj said.

He added that sev­er­al Com­mon­wealth coun­tries have al­so re­pealed the laws.

“Those who re­pealed it rec­og­nizes that it at­tacks free­dom of speech, ex­pres­sion and po­lit­i­cal views. Some­one could make a speech and cause dis­af­fec­tion but not in­cite vi­o­lence yet you can jail the per­son for sedi­tion,” Ma­haraj said.

He said he has done re­search by go­ing through the laws and cas­es in the Unit­ed States and Cana­da, New Zealand, Aus­tralia, In­dia and Nige­ria.

Ma­haraj said in abol­ish­ing the crime of sedi­tion, the UK and New Zealand said sedi­tion of­fend­ed the fun­da­men­tal prin­ci­ples of free­dom of ex­pres­sion and democ­ra­cy.

He called on the gov­ern­ment to in­struct the Law Re­vi­sion Com­mis­sion to ex­am­ine the Sedi­tion Act and sub­mit a re­port to de­ter­mine whether the law should be amend­ed, re­pealed or re­tained.

On Thurs­day Prime Min­is­ter Dr Kei­th Row­ley said he was open to re­view­ing the Sedi­tion Act.

Say­ing the Act was meant to re­tain peace among groups in TT, Row­ley de­nied that the law con­tra­vened free­dom of speech. He not­ed that free me­dia ex­ists in T&T.

Row­ley said the Law Com­mis­sion could re­view the act, giv­en the on­go­ing pub­lic de­bate, or if Gov­ern­ment thought it need­ed ur­gent ac­tion, the At­tor­ney Gen­er­al’s Of­fice could look at it.

LINK ORIGINAL: The Trinidad Guardian

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