By Amadou Jadama
Human rights activist, madi Jobarteh has said that the Public Order Act is a direct threat to democracy and good governance in The Gambia.
He was speaking Sunday evening at Metzy Residence Hotel at the Solo Sandeng Memorial Lecture.
He paid tribute to the late Solo Sandeng and his colleagues for their fight against dictatorship in The Gambia, and he equally thanked Ousainu Darboe for his unshakeable courage and determination in combating tyranny over the decades.
“To uphold the gains of our democracy therefore, it is incumbent on the State to repeal this obnoxious law and to fulfill its obligations by actively protecting peaceful assemblies and its participants. This means the State must keep its hands off peaceful assemblies by not unduly interfering with the right to freedom of assembly by law or practice in anyway,” he said.
He added that the State must build and strengthen the human rights capacity of the civil service and the security sector so as to facilitate the protection of civil liberties.
“That is the State must ensure that law enforcement institutions are well trained, equipped and sensitized about crowd control so that they would avoid the use of force and violence in dealing with citizens in exercise of their rights”.
“It is indeed disheartening to note that the entire State of The Gambia; the National Assembly, the Executive and the Judiciary have all individually and collectively sought to uphold this bad law two years after the end of dictatorship. Until today the Executive has failed to place a bill before the National Assembly to repeal the current Act and create a new law that upholds the rights of citizens to peaceful assembly. Just as the Executive has failed, the National Assembly has also failed to place a bill for the reform,” Jobarteh added.
He went on: “In the first place the sanctions of fines and imprisonment in the Act are heavy handed, disproportionate and undemocratic. How could we put a citizen in jail for three years for merely going out in the street to peacefully show his or her disagreement with his or her government when that government, in the first place derives its legitimacy and authority from the citizens. Secondly the granting of permission in the Act is arbitrary or discretionary based on the satisfaction and opinion of the IGP.
“In consolidating the gains of our democracy therefore we must ensure that these fundamental freedoms are actively and fully protected and expanded. But it is indeed tragic and worrying that the Supreme Court went ahead to rule in November 2017 that the current Public Order Act. Act is constitutional even when that obnoxious law clearly violates the constitution and directly undermines the tenets of democracy and good governance.”