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Tuesday 17 September 2019
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George: ‘Amend, improve, change’ Sedition Act

Attorney Martin George has agreed that the Sedition Act, which was amended in the late 1970s, ought to be modified.

“I don’t think it needs to be discarded entirely, but we certainly need to look at amending, improving and changing it in a way that is more relevant and useful to the needs of the citizens of TT,” George said as he spoke with Newsday on Tuesday.

Having served on the Law Reform Commission, George said part of the role of the commission included constant and continual review of the laws.

“From time to time, there would always be the need to look at laws and see if they are still relevant to our time, our place and our state in the world, and we therefore would draft recommendations and send it to Parliament,” he said, adding that the time had come to take a “mature, serious look at (the sedition law) and consider whether it’s still relevant to the needs of an emerging and growing democracy, such as we have."

He said the country had had "a very long and rich history of amending our laws, of updating them, looking at them, considering them and this was needed now, "free from the political biases, free from the racial strife and divisions that often attends any serious events in TT."

Instead, he said, it should be looked at "from a national, holistic perspective, whereby we consider what is good for all of us in TT, not just...a partisan perspective."

Economist Dr Vanus James said while the Sedition Act should be repealed and replaced, TT needed to reform the Constitution to set up a parliament with powers to make the amendment independent of the executive.

“The main reason in this case is that the act was propagated to protect the Executive from the people of the country. It puts at risk the people's freedom of speech.

"The executive cannot be entrusted with the task of doing the amendment, as it would be under the current constitutional arrangement. Hence the need for a new parliamentary design,” James said as he promised to go further at a later date.

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