March 11, 2005
BY SASHA MOHAMMED
Under the controversial Anti-Terrorism Bill, any law-abiding citizen who takes any form of action against Government policies could be deemed a terrorist and be arrested with dire consequences.
This could include trade unionists leading workers’ strikes, to politicians speaking on the campaign platform.
And arrest could mean being detained for up to 14 days and having one’s property searched, seized and forfeited.
It is this fear of persecution of innocent citizens that yesterday had some of T&T’s top attorneys, trade unionists, politicians and religious leaders calling unanimously for a stop to debate of the Anti-Terrorism Bill in Parliament and have public consultations.
The bill was passed in the House of Representatives on February 18 and is due for debate in the Senate.
In expressing a major concern over the essential provisions of the bill, the consensus at yesterday’s public forum to debate the bill at the Centre for Criminology and Criminal Justice at UWI, St Augustine, was that the anti-terrorism legislation amounted to a violation of several fundamental human rights guaranteed by the T&T Constitution, including freedom of expression and the right not to incriminate oneself.
It was agreed that the bill could also lead to a serious abuse of authority by certain top Government officials.
The forum was held under the aegis of Independent senator and the centre’s director, Professor Ramesh Deosaran.
Panellists included attorneys Allan Alexander, SC, MP for Pointe-a-Pierre Gillian Lucky, Junior National Security Minister Fitzgerald Hinds, political leader of the NAR Lennox Sankersingh, and education officer of the Oilfields Workers’ Trade Union, David Abdulah.
Members of the audience included Barataria/San Juan MP, Dr Fuad Khan, Maha Sabha secretary general Sat Maharaj and president of the Seamen and Waterfront Workers’ Trade Union, Michael Annisette.
The Anti-Terrorism Bill seeks to “criminalise terrorism and provide for the detection, prevention, prosecution, conviction and punishment of terrorist activities and the confiscation, forfeiture and seizure of terrorists’ assets.”
In his presentation, Hinds, the Government’s sole representative, denied that the bill was drafted because of pressure on the Patrick Manning regime from the United States Government.
He said it was a direct result of this country’s membership on the United Nations Security Council, which, in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the US, called on all its member States to take a stance against terrorism.
However, in a brief address, Alexander, who chaired the session, noted that the passing of this bill would more than likely expose this country “directly to the anger of terrorists” and questioned whether this increased threat was “fair to citizens.”
He said “the act apparently renders freedom fighters terrorists. Does this mesh?”
©2004-2005 Trinidad Publishing Company Limited
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