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SEDITION - THE WAY FORWARD? by Dave Smith

posted 9 Sep 2019, 08:11 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 9 Sep 2019, 10:43 ]
The National Trade Union Centre called a Press Conference at the  Public Services Association (PSA) head office on Sunday 8th September 2019. This was part of NATUC's continuing objections to the charges of sedition laid against Watson Duke, President of the PSA. He was charged under this 1920 legislation on 29th August 2019 for statements allegedly made in November 2018.

In addition to trade unions, there were representatives in attendance from a number of political parties, (not the PNM), as well as radio hosts and other individuals.

Almost entirely the contributions emphasised threats to “freedom of speech” posed by the Sedition Act. Many contributors drew attention to the history of sedition acts in general which could be traced back to 1275 in English law. There was much reference to the history of sedition acts as wanting to maintain the divine rights of the monarchy.

NATUC had written to the Attorney General asking for the Sedition Act to be “revisited”, although it was interesting that all the contributors called for the repeal of the Act rather than its modification.

Rudy Indarsingh, UNC member of parliament, reported that Opposition leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar had submitted a private member's bill in Parliament to repeal the Sedition Act.

The National Workers Union (NWU) took the opportunity at the end of the proceedings when questions were invited to make the following points:

● that the question of the divine right of kings had been settled in England at the end of the first English Revolution when Parliament cut off the head of King Charles I thus ending the debate with that particular King; there might be some political lessons to be learned from that exercise;

● NWU was the only contributor to draw attention to the class nature of the Sedition Act;

● A simple perusal of the prescribed periodicals schedule, which remains in the Act, highlighted that no periodicals were allowed from the Soviet Union, China, Cuba, or any documents relating to Marxism, socialism or communism.

● In simple terms, the Act was specifically designed to stop workers understanding the exploitative and oppressive nature of the capitalist system and learning about the need for the socialist transformation of society.

● The Sedition Act is part of the armoury of the capitalist class;

● This explains why the Act in Trinidad was initially introduced after the General Strike of 1919 and has primarily been used against trade unionists and others who are involved in struggle;

● There needs to be more positive action than writing letters. Trade unions came from the streets and that, once they were able to mobilise properly, that is where their primary strengths remains.

● The NWU suggested that at the very least there should be a mass turnout when Duke is due to return to the Magistrates Court and that other events and activities should be planned to mobilise for resistance.
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