The Police Must Protect Rights And Not Damage Them

By Madi Jobarteh

The IGP Must be held Responsible for the Pulling Down of the anti-Semlex Billboard. He must put it back or be sacked.

Madi Jobarteh

It is with deep concern to learn that personnel of the Gambia Police Force have pulled down an anti-Semlex billboard which was put up by citizens to express their disagreement with the Gambia Government contract with this company. Every Gambian has a right, under Section 25 subsection 1(a) and (d) to freedom of expression and the freedom to assemble peacefully. The display of billboards is an act of expression that is guaranteed in the Constitution.

It is therefore utterly wrong to have the police pull down a billboard put up by citizens who wish to express their grievance against a decision of the Government. Putting up a bill is an act of accountability which is necessary to restrain a government and protect public interest. It is a peaceful means of protest and expression that must be protected by the police.

I therefore call on Pres. Adama Barrow to immediately summon the Minister of Interior and the IGP to put it to them that the actions of their officers are a threat to our democracy hence undermine good governance and national security. For that matter Pres. Barrow and the Minister of Interior must order the IGP to put back the billboard or sack him with immediate effect.

Pres. Barrow must take action because, by our Constitution under Section 17 the President is the Chief Protector of the Fundamental Rights and Freedoms of Gambians. That is a constitutional obligation he must fulfil.

I call on all Gambians to condemn the IGP for this blatant abuse of power. Let us demand that he either puts back the billboard or be sacked right now. Stand up for your rights. This is not about a few people and their little billboard. This is a matter that concerns each and very one of us. It is actions like these that erode our rights and threaten our lives.

If the police could pull down a billboard that seeks to hold the Government accountable then it means sooner than later we will see the police arrest Gambians for writing and speaking on social media, or in the newspapers or on radio and television. This means if we allow this action to stand sooner than later we will see the Government close down radio and television stations and also block certain websites or shut down the internet just to suppress dissent and disempower citizens as we saw Yaya Jammeh did the same.

This action by the police is therefore a direct threat to the fundamental rights and security of citizens. It is an action that seeks to undermine democracy and good governance in our country hence aimed at perpetrating abuse of power, corruption and dictatorship eventually. The IGP has demonstrated to Gambians that he does not wish to see any Gambian to disagree with the Government and if you do he will clamp down on you. The IGP has no such powers or authority.

All citizens must demand that the National Assembly summon the Minister of Interior and the IGP to make it clear to them that the actions of their officers are a threat to our democracy and good governance. The National Assembly must urge the police to respect and protect human rights of all citizens and not to damage rights. More than anyone, the National Assembly must urgently take action so that impunity does not prevail in this country once again. If the National Assembly fails to act right now but allows this blatant abuse to stand then they would have created the space for impunity to prevail in the Gambia once more!

The IGP and his police must realise that their one and only role is to protect the fundamental human rights of Gambians as stipulated in the Constitution. In any society where law enforcers become law breakers and human rights violators then no one is ever safe again in that society. Hence the actions of the IGP in pulling down this anti-Semlex billboard is a direct threat to each and every citizen. If we allow it to stand today, rest assured that tomorrow it will be your right that will also be damaged.

For the Gambia Our Homeland

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