Kindly allow me space in your widely read news paper to contribute to the recent stand-off between the United Democratic Party and the Police at Fass NJaga Choi in the lower Nuimi District . Since the Police rescinded their refusal to issue the Permit , we can now review the conditions under which the Permit is issued The 1961 Public Order Ordinance requires the use of Permit for Public meetings, specially designed for the opposition since the President will never apply for it. However
during presidential and National Assembly elections, the Independent Electoral Commission issues Permit under the Election Decree The Permit is not a blank check, its issued with conditions difficult to comply with. To apply for a Permit you have to attach an itinerary showing the places, dates and time you scheduled to conduct your meetings. The conditions are as follows
a) ” The volume of the Amplifier shall be control so that no annoyance or disturbance is caused to any Person”.
b) ” The Amplifier must not be used for relaying singing, drumming or musical instruments “.
c) ” No obscene, scurrilous , abusive or insulting words may be used “.
d) ” The Amplifier shall not be used when the vehicle is stationary except…….”
e) ” The Amplifier shall not be used so as to be audible in the following places between the times shown”
f) ” This Permit must be carried when the Amplifier is being used and must be produce on demand by any Police officer in uniform”.
The National Assembly should have repealed the issuance of Permit from the 1961 Public Order long time. But if you think this law should be repeal wait until you read section 25 through subsection (4 )of the 1998 Constitution which relates to freedom of speech, conscience, assembly, and movement. We can widen the discourse to see what is wrong with our Democracy. There is in law call claw back clause where for instance you are given something in one clause and it’s taken from you in another clause. Lets see what freedom we are given `and how that freedom could be restrained.
Section 25 (1) ” Every person shall have the right to –
a} ” Freedom of speech and expression, which shall include freedom of the press and other media,
b} freedom of thought, conscience, and belief which shall include academic freedom,
c} freedom to practice any religion and to manifest such practice,
d) freedom to assemble and demonstrate peacefully and without arms,
e} freedom of association, which shall include freedom to form and join associations and unions, including political parties and trade unions”.
Subsection (2} ” Every person lawfully within The Gambia shall have the right to move freely throughout The Gambia, to choose his or her own place of residence within The Gambia, and to leave The Gambia.”
Subsection ( 3) ” Every Citizen of The Gambia shall have the right to return to The Gambia,”
Now carefully read Subsection (4) ” The freedoms referred to in subsection (1) and ( 2) shall be exercised subject to the law of The Gambia in so far as that law imposes reasonable restrictions on the exercise of the rights and freedoms thereby conferred, which are necessary in a democratic society and are required in the interests of the sovereignty and integrity of The Gambia, national security, public order, decency or morality, or in relation to contempt of court”.
Pa, in view of the above, I urge all legal luminaries to weigh in interpreting what Subsection 4 of Section 25 of the 1998 Gambian Constitution means ,including the leader of the United Democratic Party as a lawyer. Thank you for the publication.
By Buray A Jawoh (Seattle)