2550621
Watson Duke, Minority Leader in the Tobago House of Assembly.

[email protected]

Public Service Association (PSA) president Watson Duke wants his August 2019 sedition charge dropped in light of the ruling by justice Frank Seepersad earlier this week pronouncing sections 3 and 4 of the act to infringe on the rights of an individual.

“I have been a victim of bad justice…when we go to court, my attorneys are prepared to ask that this matter be dropped completely because the honourable Frank Seepersad ruled that the law is illegal. It is null, void, and has no effect,” Duke said in a press conference yesterday.

The sedi­tion charge against Duke re­lates to state­ments on pro­posed lay­offs at TSTT, T&TEC, and WASA, which he made in a press con­fer­ence on No­vem­ber 16, 2018.

Duke re­port­ed­ly said: “We must be pre­pared to die, folks, You know why? This is your be­lief, this is your fam­i­ly, and I am send­ing the mes­sage clear, let Row­ley them know that the day they come for us in WASA, we are pre­pared to die and the morgue would be pick­ing up peo­ple.”

But on Monday, Justice Seepersad struck down el­e­ments of this coun­try’s colo­nial-age sedi­tion leg­is­la­tion. He ruled that the leg­is­la­tion is vague, un­cer­tain and can lead to ar­bi­trary ap­pli­ca­tion.

He al­so ruled that the leg­is­la­tion is not com­pat­i­ble with a sov­er­eign de­mo­c­ra­t­ic state as it lim­its con­sti­tu­tion­al rights to free­dom of thought and ex­pres­sion and free­dom of the press.

The nov­el con­sti­tu­tion­al chal­lenge was brought by for­mer sec­re­tary-gen­er­al of the Sanatan Dhar­ma Ma­ha Sab­ha (SDMS), the late Sat­narayan Ma­haraj, be­fore his death in No­vem­ber, last year.

In the law­suit, Ma­haraj’s lawyers con­tend­ed that the leg­is­la­tion—which was passed in 1920 and amend­ed sev­er­al times be­tween 1961 and 1976—breached cit­i­zens’ con­sti­tu­tion­al rights to free­dom of thought and ex­pres­sion, free­dom of the press and free­dom of as­so­ci­a­tion and as­sem­bly.