By Tabora Bojang
Central Baddibu National Assembly Member, Sulayman Saho, has backed a private bill seeking to amend the Public Order Act to allow citizens to notify instead of seek approval from the police to hold public processions.
The Public Order Act was introduced by the colonial administration in the 1960s and has since undergone several amendments under post independence governments. The Act states that persons or groups that want to embark on a procession within Banjul or Kanifing Municipality need to apply to the Inspector General of Police IGP or to a Governor in case of a region for a permit.
Human rights activists and organisations including the National Human Rights Commission argued that such provisions are inimical to a democratic society and should be removed or amended.
Others argued that the Act has given unchecked powers to the IGP to deny citizens their fundamental rights to protest peacefully.
NAM Saho, who is also a member of the Pan-African Parliament, wants the Act amended to prevent the police from determining and issuing warrant for citizens to protest peacefully, in order to remove any ambiguities that can inform abuse or violation of citizens’ rights.
If amended, citizens will no longer require police permits to conduct peaceful protests but would only be required to notify them and the police would institute or put in place necessary logistics to ensure it is conducted in a lawful manner.
The bill will undergo first reading in the National Assembly on Thursday December 14th 2023 in the 4th ordinary session of the parliament in the 2023 legislative year.