In a press release in which the IGP is warning against a purportedly planned demonstration, there is a contradiction in the PR, well sort of. When the IGP warned of demonstrating without a permit, the intent is clearly to prevent any demonstration from occuring. This was soon followed by a citation from the 1997 Constitution Section 178, which authorizes the police to maintain the peace. This Constitutional quote, in effect, highlights the police responsibility to keep the peace, but contradicts the opening sentence in the IGP press release, which implicitly attempts to stop a lawful demonstration. Perhaps the most revealing part of the IGP’s press release is what’s not in it. Nowhere in the Constitution is it stated that demonstrations are illegal, and when the state makes expressions of citizen discontent, through demonstrations and protests, illegal, it’s an infringement on their citizens’ civil rights and, therefore, unconstitutional.
This is a violation of a fundamental tenet of democracy. Elections, protests and demonstrations are constitutional, and therefore, are democratic ways in which citizens can express support or opposition to their government. Elections are conducted at intervals, often several years, and as a result, are rarely available means of expressing citizens concerns to their government on a regular basis. This thus leaves protests and demonstrations as means of expressing citizens’ concerns on a daily basis, if necessary; all year round. The fact that the IGP could not quote a section of the Constitution that prohibits citizens’ participation in their own governing through protests and demonstrations, is telling, in of itself. It should be unconstitutional to require permits for protests or demonstration. It impedes citizens participation in their governing. Democracy, I must remind the IGP, in this timeless Abraham Lincoln quote, is: ‘govenment of the people, by the people and for the people.” It’s the citizens, not the executive, who ought to run the train of the government, and when government comes short, the people are constitutionally empowered and patriotically required to express their concerns at elections, and in protests and demonstrations. I don’t expect the IGP to have an in-depth knowledge of these things, but at the very minimum, he’s expected to have working knowledge of the Constitution and citizens’ rights under this same docum
Mathew K Jallow