By Musa Bah
For many years, we were under the yoke of colonialism. The British colonized us and did everything – wanted to continue to do anything – to keep us under the oppression of colonialism. Thus, they saw any public gathering as a threat to their perpetual rule. They introduced this law called Public Order Act to suppress any public assembly they saw as a threat. This law aimed to curb gatherings which had the potential of enlightening the masses.
Nonetheless, our gallant citizens continued the struggle until we gained our independence and became a Republic in 1970. We now had the ability and authority to rule ourselves and decide our own fate. We managed our own affairs but the law was still maintained.
When Yahya Jammeh took over in 1994, and during his twenty two year repressive regime, the use of this law was even intensified. A dictatorship doesn’t like any assembly which has the potential of opening the eyes of the people. Thus, they used this law to suppress the people even more.
Now that we have fought and defenestrated Yahya Jammeh and ushered in a democratic dispensation, we have to reform the Constitution and remove all repressive and draconian laws. We need a Constitution that is inline with current democratic principles and trends.
This requires the throwing away of the laws which contradict parts of the Constitution which grant the populace their natural rights. And certainly, the right to assembly is a natural right.
Granted, the Constitutional Reform has not happened yet and we know that it will take time to complete; but, why should we still use those laws if we all agree that they are draconian?
Mr President, in the short term, I think we should ignore those laws and not arrest or disturb anyone because of those laws. Then we should urgently work on the Constitutional Reform and usher in the Third Republic which will be fully democratic.
No permits for a lawful assembly. The statement that it is meant to give security and protection to the assemblage is just a cover to take away people’s rights. Draconian laws in the dustbin. Now!