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Thursday 23 May 2019
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SAT SPAT CONTINUES

Maharaj, TTPS, MATT at loggerheads over search

A photo provided by the Police Service showing Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha Secretary General Sat Maharaj (right) with an Inspector Stanley following a
A photo provided by the Police Service showing Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha Secretary General Sat Maharaj (right) with an Inspector Stanley following a "cordial meeting" as police visited Radio Jaagriti on Thursday.

Jaagriti intends to take the TT Police Service (TTPS) and the Telecommunications Authority of TT (TATT) to court. The media house has already compiled statements from eyewitnesses, video footage, and photographs to its attorneys and they are reviewing the evidence.

In a release yesterday, TV Jaagriti managing director, Satnarayan Maharaj again condemned the actions of the police even as Commissioner Gary Griffith said the visit to the Jaagriti offices on Thursday was a simple inquiry and not a raid.

Relating his version of the incident, Maharaj said, around 11 am on Thursday, nine officers, lead by Insp Wayne Stanley, tried to enter the compound saying they had a search warrant for footage of a programme circulated on social media last Tuesday as evidence of a breach of the Sedition Act. Last Monday, Maharaj had referred to Tobagonians as lazy, and as rapists on one of the station’s programmes.

“The junior officers on the scene were extremely hostile and aggressive towards our staff and sought to intimidate them in order to force their entry into the studio where these digital files were kept. Whilst Jaagriti co-operated on all accounts, the officers continued acting in an unfriendly and uncouth manner.”

Maharaj insisted the officers refused to show a warrant to employees or the station's lawyers.

He said he eventually intervened and quelled the situation and told the officers to leave if they had gotten what they came for. At Stanley's request, Maharaj said he agreed to have his picture taken with the officer. He claimed Stanley then ordered the other officers to leave, apologised for the behaviour of the junior officers and expressed regret for his own involvement in the situation.

Maharaj then revealed what happened to the public on the TV programme, Maha Sahba Strikes Back.

Maharaj said the TTPS was using the photograph of him and Stanley as evidence that the officers’ actions were lawful and justified. He said the actions of the officers were “unlawful, high-handed, unnecessary and... unduly hostile” but instead of investigating reports about the conduct of the officers the TTPS chose to blindly believe its officers’ version of events. He said they used a “public-relations driven policing method” rather than real investigative or intelligence gathering work.

He believed the eagerness of the officers to take the picture and its subsequent use showed it was a premeditated plan to cover up their wrong actions.

Maharaj also believed the episode was instigated by TATT as, on Wednesday, TATT had asked for a recording of Monday's programme and gave the media house seven days to produce it as the organisation had found Jaagriti guilty of divisiveness. He said Jaagriti's lawyer replied saying there was no recording on that date and TATT responded by asking the media house not to take the matter to court.

"Within the hour, nine police officers converged on Jaagriti's premises to effect a purported warrant seeking all recordings for Tuesday 16th April."

Maharaj also came to the defence of the Media Association of TT (MATT) saying, “More surprisingly is the TTPS's employment of its usual habit of blaming any entity which chooses to criticise the TTPS. The TTPS through its media campaign condemned MATT for failure to investigate; when in truth and in fact, the TTPS was guilty of failing to investigate the circumstances surrounding nine police officers converging on the premises of TV Jaagriti.”

He called the police’s statement that a search warrant was executed at Jaagriti a “complete and utter falsehood.” He said Jaagriti never received a copy of any warrant and challenged the TTPS to produce the signature of any of its employees to demonstrate the warrant was lawfully served.

Maharaj also called on the TTPS to stop making false statements which could “raise discontent or dissatisfaction” among citizens as those false statements could also be construed as breaching the Sedition Act.

In response to Maharaj’s statement, Griffith, in a TV interview last night said there was no forced entry, there were six officers in plain clothes and two in uniform, there were no weapons, and it was a cordial meeting.

As evidence of that cordiality he said, “No one has ever seen Sat Maharaj smile like that in his life.”

Griffith said the TTPS had no intention of getting into a petty fight with MATT or Jaagriti and claimed everything said by Maharaj was misleading. “First Radio Jaagriti said there was a recording, that when someone was recording the police got upset. Why didn’t Radio Jaagriti show the recording of all of this hostility, all of these raids?... It’s quite obvious that it is definitely not adding up... Radio Jaagriti, they need to get their act together. The public is getting rather bored of this misleading information.”

He added that too many people wanted to tell the police how to do their job.

He concluded by saying, “If the police did anything incorrectly I would advise that they should write to the Commissioner of Police and I would give you the assurance it would be thoroughly investigated.”

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