General secretary of the National Trade Union Centre (Natuc) Michael Annisette yesterday called on Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi to repeal the Sedition Act.
In an interview with Newsday, Annisette said members of several unions had gone to Al-Rawi’s ministry to hand-deliver a letter containing the request.
He said the unions involved were the Oilfield Workers Trade Union, Transport and Industrial Workers Trade Union, PSA, National Union of Government and Federated Workers and Seamen and Waterfront Workers Union.
He reported that it had been given to the Senior Counsel to the AG’s office, Solange De Souza.
“She also gave her assurance the document will be delivered to the AG. I must compliment her professionalism and the manner in which she engaged us.”
Annisette said the recent arrest and charging of Watson Duke, president of PSA, has brought forcefully home to the trade union movement as a whole, and more specifically the members of NATUC, that the Sedition Act had the potential to expose all union leaders to unwanted and unwarranted criminal prosecution.
“If there is an act that can be used by any government to stifle the free expression of any trade union movement, that is an act that has no place in TT, given our constitutional right of freedom of expression.
“I am going further to say, if you look at common law and the criminal laws in TT, there are provisions to deal with libel/defamation of character.”
Annisette said the big question is why the government of an independent country, which has suffered under the colonial yoke, would retain a law specially designed for the purpose of stifling the free expression of trade union movement and the working class.
He said several other groups and activists were also looking at the act.
“They are on board with the trade union movement on the legislation of this act, which has no place in TT, given the historical genesis of this legislation and why it was implemented.”
Annisette said the issue was a major concern and the trade union movement would fight until the act was repealed.