A state which does not guarantee freedom of expression and association, including political expression and association, is an outlaw state which does not deserve to exist in the 21st Century. Such states cannot be respectable members of the international community. They are always isolated and marginalised.
After the Coup of 1994, Decree number 4 abolished freedom of political expression and association. Hence no room was left for change of government based on the consent of the people. This is why the government was isolated and pressure was put on it to come up with a transition that would restore freedom of political expression and association.
Today, the Gambia has a Constitution which states under Section 25 that “Every person shall have the right to freedom to assemble and freedom of association, which shall include freedom to form and join associations and unions, including political parties and trade unions.”
Police service is a public service and Section 26 calls for every citizen of the Gambia “to have access, on general terms of equality to public service of the Gambia.”
Section 17 imposes on the executive and its agencies like the police as well as the legislature to respect and uphold the fundamental rights and freedoms enshrined in the Constitution.
Since political parties have freedom of assembly, the police is given the power of regulation of the use of instrument for the amplification of sound. In that case once one organises a rally one must seek a permit to use a public address system. This enables the political parties and the police to negotiate time and venue to prevent clash of time and venues among the parties and between them and other social groups. There should therefore be no obstacle to the issuing of permits. The efficient and effective issuing of permits makes the police a respecter and upholder of the rights to freedom of assembly and association.
The issue of National security only arises in a state of emergency or when there is a breach of the conditions laid in a permit. Needless to say, all efficient police forces have the ability to monitor and control crowds if they suspect any potential for any breach of public order. We therefore hope that the relation between the police and the political parties would be subjected to review to avoid any friction in the future.