Justice Frank Seepersad

BODY CAMERAS NEEDED: Justice Frank Seepersad

Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha (SDMS) secretary general Vijay Maharaj said the move by Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi to appeal the sedition judgment is “doomed to fail”.

Maharaj questioned further why no one is raising concern that millions of taxpayers’ money will be spent on this wasted effort to “save face”.

“As far as the Attorney General is concerned, my opinion is that this is a futile attempt to save face. They know they’re going to lose it. England has removed it from its books and we are going to the British law lords and it’s obvious it is going to be a lost case. What I am concerned about is that no one has brought up the topic of the several million dollars that is going to be spent in taxpayers’ money to fight this case that is obviously a losing battle for the Government, several million dollars is going to be spent and it is wastage,” said Maharaj in a telephone interview with the Express yesterday.

On Monday, Justice Frank Seepersad ruled that Sections 3 and 4 of the Sedition Act are unconstitutional, as they impose disproportionate and unjustified restrictions on a citizen’s free speech, expression and thought.

The ruling was delivered at the Hall of Justice in the claim filed by then-SDMS secretary general Sat Maharaj, who has since died, and SDMS media house Central Broadcasting Services Ltd.

Sat Maharaj and Central Broadcasting filed the action last year after police officers searched the media house after Maharaj labelled citizens of Tobago as being lazy and the men rapists on his Maha Sabha Strikes Back programme, on Radio Jaagriti, on April 15.

Even though he was never charged with any offence, Maharaj suggested that police were moving to have him charged with sedition because of the statements.

Vijay Maharaj said his father would have been elated and his legacy lives on in ensuring justice for the people.

He disclosed that the State attempted to have the matter quashed in December following the death of his father, on November 16, 2019.

“Very few people know this. The Government had attempted to have the matter quashed in that Mr Maharaj was no longer alive. The AG tried to have the matter removed from the courts. There was an objection to me being the continuance, the LPR (legal personal representative) for Mr Maharaj. The Government tried to stop it, they objected,” he said.

He said Justice Seepersad rejected this move in a hearing on December 9, 2019.

Maharaj said it was obvious that the sedition law is archaic and his father felt it must be looked at by the courts as it affects people’s fundamental right to free speech.

“My father would have been elated, the entire community is elated that this has taken place. The last person to be charged and convicted of sedition in this country was Uriah ‘Buzz’ Butler, so what are we keeping it for and using it as a big stick over the people?” he asked.

He said the sedition law is an attempt to curtail freedom of expression and put citizens in a narrow passageway with boundary lines not to be crossed.

“The media is the most powerful information tool in the world. It has brought down presidents as we saw with Richard Nixon. Journalists worldwide are killed by the hundreds every year for freedom of speech. It (sedition law) is putting a curtailment on what we can do and cannot do, what we can say and cannot say,” said Maharaj.

He said his father led the SDMS for four decades and it continues to be strong.

“The Maha Sabha is very strong. Many years ago, on October 23, 1971, the Express on the front page had ‘Is the Maha Sabha dead’ when my grandfather Badase died. There was so much postulating that the Maha Sabha was dead, finished and gone. Sat took it over and for 40-odd years he took it over and ran it and I helped him realise our vision we wanted for the Maha Sabha...we are continuing that.”

He said there are those who left or who were kicked out of the Maha Sabha who are trying to create confusion, but they remain focused.

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