T&T government guilty of discriminating against Hindu organisation

via http://www.caribbean360.com/News/Caribbean/Stories/2009/09/23/NEWS0000008922.html published on September 24, 2009

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, September 23, 2009 – The Trinidad and Tobago government’s discrimination against Hindu organisation, Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha (SDMS), in delaying the granting of a radio licence to that group, has cost it almost TT$3 million (US$481,540).

Justice Ronnie Boodoosingh ordered the award yesterday, saying it was to serve as a sign that such discrimination would not be accepted.

“The award was meant primarily to deter public authorities and persons exercising public functions from engaging in or persisting with unequal treatment. It is meant, also, to acknowledge the importance of both rights that have been contravened,” he said.

“We only need look to other societies to see how easily discrimination can take prosperous and seemingly stable states into violent conflict and barbarism. This is a greater danger the more scarce resources become.”

The lawsuit which had been in the courts for almost eight years, was triggered after government granted a broadcast licence in August 2002 to Citadel – a company co-owned by a supporter of the ruling People’s National Movement – although SDMS and its Central Broadcasting Services Ltd (CBSL) had received no word on an application made two years before in October 2000.

The matter went through the local courts and reached the Privy Council. The Judicial Committee ruled in July 2006 that a licence be granted to SDMS forthwith, saying that the organisation’s constitutional right to freedom of expression was violated.

It was not until two months later that the licence was granted and Radio Jaagriti 107.2 FM was launched in January of the following year.

Justice Boodoosingh pointed to Cabinet’s “unexplained and unjustified discrimination in favour of Citadel Ltd” as among the reasons for the award.

“What this case showed was discrimination, plain and simple. One applicant not as well placed, or evenly placed, as CBSL, was granted a licence in record time. Another was made to wait and wait, for years before they were even told that their application was refused,” he said.

Justice Boodoosingh said he had taken into consideration not only the delay in granting the licence in the first place, but in government’s tardiness in complying with the Privy Council ruling that it be issued immediately.

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