Couva South Member of Parliament Rudranath Indarsingh has joined to chorus of voices condemning the sedition charge laid against President of the Public Service Association (PSA) Watson Duke.
Indarsingh, in a press release issued yesterday, criticised the decision of Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Roger Gaspard to instruct the police to charge Duke, labeling it “a frontal attack” on “the entire Trade Union Movement its Leadership and membership.”
Indarsingh said “the PSA President was merely stating a position that workers of WASA must be prepared to die in defence of their jobs and their families’ well-being and as a former Trade Union President himself, he can find nothing in Duke’s statement which can or should be termed as seditious or bordered on sedition.”
Indarsingh asked, “How it is that a statement attributed to Duke, which was made some ten months ago, is now being acted upon and termed as sedition?”
The Couva South questioned the timing of the arrest, given that it came less than a week after the PSA President was critical of the Prime Minister’s comments on the public service.
“Are we witnessing a reign of terror and dictatorship…anyone who dares to speak out will be arrested and prosecuted?” he asked in the release.
Indarsingh said, “He is extremely worried and concerned that the next move of this Administration will be to take away the rights of Workers and Union to engage in peaceful marches and demonstrations—The right to assemble.”
Since Duke has been charged, there has been renewed calls for the sedition law to be amended or repealed. On Saturday, the Media Association of Trinidad and Tobago called on the government to repeal the 99-year-old law which they argued was incompatable with citizen’s constitutional to right of freedom of expression.
They said, “1920 law imposes restrictions on citizens’ exercise of free speech that are so low and sweeping in an independent, 21st Century democracy as to render all ci!zens vulnerable to criminal charges.”
Dean of the University of the West Indies’ Law Faculty in St Augustine, Rose-Marie Belle Antoine, as well as political commentator Raffique Shah spoke out against the law following Duke’s arrest.
Earlier this year, Sanathan Dharma Maha Sabha Secretary-General Satnaryan Maharaj filed a constitutional challenge of the law after police twice went to the offices of the Radio & TV Jaagriti seeking recordings of the Maha Sabha strikes back. Police had said they executed the first search warrant under Section 13 of the Sedition Act, Chapter 11:04. Since Duke’s charge, both Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley and Minister of National Security Stuart Young have said they had no intention to change the law in the coming future.