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Sunday 26 January 2020
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AG: We’ll appeal ‘dangerous’ ruling on Sedition Act

Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi speaks to the media about the High Court ruling on the Sedition Act at his office at Government Campus, Port of Spain on Monday.  - Sureash Cholai
Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi speaks to the media about the High Court ruling on the Sedition Act at his office at Government Campus, Port of Spain on Monday. - Sureash Cholai

ATTORNEY GENERAL Faris Al-Rawi vowed to appeal to the Appeal Court and then Privy Council, Justice Frank Seepersad’s High Court “extremely dangerous judgement” which strikes down parts of the Sedition Act. The ruling aims to lift the Act’s ban on raising disaffection/discontent in society, and stirring up hostility amongst sections of the community.

At a briefing at his ministry on Monday, the AG said the ruling if it stands would set a bad precedent for other pre-Independence laws such as those mandating the death penalty and income tax confidentiality. These laws were “saved laws” whose validity was not struck down by being inconsistent with the citizens rights granted under the TT Constitution.

Further, Al-Rawi supported the existing Sedition Act as it upholds law and order.

Just as he has appealed the High Court ruling in activist Jason Jones’ challenge to the old law banning buggery, so too the AG vowed to appeal the sedition ruling.

“This judgement has wide-ranging consequences,” the AG said to justify his intent to appeal it as soon as possible in the Appeal Court.

Al-Rawi said TT has had riotous events worse than those in the pre-Independence era, citing the 1990 attempted coup. He said freedom of expression must be balanced by the need to maintain law and order. “Freedom of speech has limits.”

He said Seepersad’s ruling needs an expedited hearing in the Appeal Court, to then be settled in the Privy Council. “This judgement must get the fullest scrutiny.”

Newsday asked about the vagueness of section 3(1)(a-c) and whether any government should be able to quell free speech they view as raising discontent. Al-Rawi replied that no minister rules on that but that it is the Director of Public Prosecutions role to decide if to charge someone for a crime, after which the police lay charges. Asked if this was too much discretion for one man, the DPP, the AG replied that he upholds the powers given to the DPP in the Constitution in section 90. Otherwise, Al-Rawi promised amendments to the domestic violence legislation such as an electronic tagging of men who are subject to restraining orders, and a policy on the use of pepper spray (presumably for women for self-defence.) The AG said last Saturday the Financial Action Task Force had been in TT to assess several Caribbean countries including TT, the results of which will be very important for TT.

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