LUKSHANA GOPAUL

Last week we learned that there had been a new addition to the Judicial and Legal Provisions Act, targeting free speech on the internet. Not that they used that term verbatim, but their proposal is eerily close to that description. Statements deemed offensive by anyone eager to take offence would be sanctioned by the law. Which means that commentary of any kind, not just seditious speech or invectice diatribes against communalist groups, would be enough to cast aspersions on a person’s aptitude to be lawful.  Any person who feels  »inconvenienced » by a statement published online, or by the comments pertaining to that very statement, will have enough judicial grounds to sue the perpetrators of said  »inconvenience. »  To which, a rational person might object citing just how ambiguous the term  »inconvenience » is.

 In the United States, Donald Trump sued Bill Maher when the latter likened him to an Orang Utan and implied that his mother copulated with an Orang Utan because his hair cannot be the product of a normal human species.  To the rest of the world, it was a harmless joke, a succinct one albeit politically incorrect.  To Donald Trump, it was an affront and he dispensed millions to sue a comedian, whose job is to make jokes.  This goes to show just how subjective the word  »inconvenience » is, and how debilitating the consequences of this new addition to the law can be.  How useless and utterly wasteful is it going to be to sue people who are merely speaking their mind?  The Human Rights Act promulgated by the UN is based on the very notion that every human being should have the right to speak their mind.  Unless their speech contains harmful injunctions to commit violence, how can we claim to be a democratic country if we intimidate human beings who simply wish to speak their mind?

We were never a proper democracy per se.  The power of a democracy lies in the heart of its people but our people were fed an illusion of choice without truly possessing the power to choose.  For the paltry decades we’ve been independent, we’ve only had leaders bearing the same surname as their predecessors, which is a practice redolent of the medieval monarchies of yore.  While the rest of the modern world frees itself from the shackles of superstition and bigotry and buckles up for the advent of AI, we’re still fighting our inchoate « identity » battles, choosing to elect leaders based on who belongs to our racial or ethnic group and the like.

Populist projects such as the Metro Express were shunned by the public when they were first announced and rightfully so, because how can we embark on such a foolhardy mission to indebt ourselves more than we already have?  And yet, we were served no referendums – as is the prerequisite in any functioning democracy – and we had it shoved down our throats without our assent. And now, with this new law prohibiting critical speech of any kind, we can logically opine that our words don’t count, that our votes are valued insofar as those coveting their  »honorable » title get to have it prefixed to their name.

The worst is yet to come, it would seem.  A country consumed by nepotistic powers and plutocrat wannabes, where the margin of inequality between the highest and lowest tiers is on the rise and where government-backed intimidation tactics are tacitly endured, isn’t going to be a model of democracy, which goes without saying. And yet, the vast majority of our citizens are content with this ersatz form of democracy, so ensconced in their bubble that « it can’t get worse ». And yet it is getting worse before our very eyes, should the policing of our speech become the norm.