The IGP Abdoulie Sanyang must realise that he is not the King of The Gambia nor the General Counsel of citizens such that he arrogates to himself the authority to advise how citizens should express their concerns and grievances. The letter from his office is indeed unlawful, arrogant and a threat to our democracy. The IGP has no power to deny citizens to protest.
What the Constitution provides is for citizens to enjoy the right to demonstrate peacefully, without any hindrance. This is the first point that the IGP should note and therefore position himself to uphold that constitutional right. The second point is that the Constitution provides that in some instances this right may only be limited or restricted, but it cannot be denied indefinitely. In order to limit this right, the Constitution went further to proffer reasons and standards in doing so.
Therefore the IGP should consult his lawyers and human rights advisors when it comes to human rights issues before he takes a decision on such matters. The Public Order Act cannot be used to flatly deny rights that have been fully guaranteed in the Constitution. The Public Order Act is secondary to the Constitution.
Therefore this letter here refusing The Gambia Women’s Lives Matter group to stage a march to express their concern about maternal mortality in The Gambia is unconstitutional. The group members are citizens who understand that they can write letters to express their concerns. They know that they can send petitions to both the Executive and the Legislature, and they can as well go to court among many other forms of raising their concern about maternal mortality in this country.
Hence, whatever avenue or option they wish to choose is not the business of the IGP. The IGP has no job to advise them which option to use. The concern of the IGP should only be to ensure that citizens exercise their rights, without having to damage law and order. The role of the IGP is to protect all the human rights of all Gambians and non-Gambians who reside in The Gambia.
Therefore it is utterly scandalous that the IGP has denied this group to protest without giving any of the reasons highlighted in the Constitution. That is, one would have expected that the IGP would cite issues relating to security, public morality, peace and law and order as the reasons for, only limiting this right. But the IGP has done none of that. Rather the IGP decided to flatly refuse this right by making himself an advisor to the group in total disregard of the Constitution and the norms of democracy.
By this letter, it is indeed concerning and it raises the question whether the IGP is not already implementing the threat issued by President Adama Barrow. Recently the President has announced publicly that if he won the election on December 4, he will order the IGP not to grant any permit to anyone to stage a public assembly. Is this what the IGP is already implementing? Has the President already issued such instruction?
Let me put it to the President and the IGP therefore that by stamping on the rights of citizens, they are effectively pushing this country into chaos. In our history, not to even mention other parts of the world, any time human rights are strangulated with impunity it leads to oppression hence instability and conflict. We have already witnessed enough of that in The Gambia in our most recent history.
Therefore let me advise Pres. Barrow and IGP Sanyang that they cannot trample on rights and survive it forever. If they wish to secure the peace and security of this land, then they must make human rights a topmost item to protect. They are bound by the Constitution to protect human rights at all times.
Let the President and the IGP know that Gambians do not necessarily need their permission or advice in order to exercise their rights. Rather the President and the IGP are required to use the full extent of their powers and state resources to enable each and every Gambian enjoy his or her rights as they wish, in peace. This is what the Constitution intends to happen in The Gambia!