As a follow up to the first report by Rohey Jadama, this paper did gain access to all the correspondence between The police and The UDP leader , Lawyer Ousainou Darboe who called the Press at Pipeline on Sunday August 31st 2014 .
The major thrust of the Press Conference is to emphasise that UDP is a registered Political party which gives them the privilege and the right to hold political rallies as the last resort in keeping touch with the electorate in the absence of access to the national media. This is what makes a multi party system functional.
To restrain the exercise of this right by depriving them of a permit to use instruments without which they would not have enough protection to assemble to speak to the electorate on security grounds is as good as proscribing or banning the party as an unlawful society. This is what the UDP leader considered to be unacceptable. Here in lies the outcry of the party.
The encounter between the UDP leadership and the administration of The Gambia Police Force started on 11 August 2014 when the UDP applied for permit to use a PS system at a rally scheduled for 23rd August 2014 at Ebony junction.
According to Lawyer Darboe, the following reply was received :
In response to the reply , the Party leader wrote the following letter to the Inspector General of Police:
United Democratic Party
21st August 2014
The Inspector General of Police
Banjul, The Gambia
PERMIT APPLICATION FOR USE OF P.A. SYSTEM DURING RALLY AT EBONY IN SERREKUNDA CENTRAL ON THE 23RD AUGUST 2014
I write on behalfof the United Democratic Party to acknowledge receipt of your letter ref. GPF
CPF/078/8/ (105) dated 20th August 2014 on the above subject in which you recommend a rescheduling of the rally to a different venue.
I wish to make a few observations on the handling of our applications for use of a public address system at our rallies.
I recall that shortly after the conclusion of the Kanilai International roots Festival, the Campaign Manager of the UDP accompanied me to a meeting with you. At this meeting I applauded the good will of the current leadership of the Gambia police force but raised some matters of concern amongst them is the timing of the approval of permits for use of P.A. system. I made it clear that since the GRTS will not announce our scheduled rallies without proof that the party has secured a permit, it is important that our applications are treated timorously so that there is adequate time to carry out the required publicity
Before and after that meeting, we have always submitted application in time to allow you sufficient time and space to do whatever is required in arriving at a decision. I recall on 19th July 2014, an application was submitted for the use of a PA at rally scheduled to take place on 9th August at Ebony in Serrekunda. After several follow ups, your office asked Mr. Sandeng to pick up the permit on Thursday 7th August 2014.
Because we did not have adequate time to carry out publicity-effectively there was only one day-our campaign manager called on you and asked that the permit be not issued as its usefulness is questionable.
On 11th August 2014 we submitted another application for a permit to use a P.A System at a rally to specifically celebrate the 18th anniversary of the founding of the party. We followed up to check on the status of this application virtually on a daily basis until at about 5pm on Wednesday 20th August 2014 when you delivered your letter under reference.
I have taken trouble to recapitulate the above facts to show that the good will that we have banked on is being undermined and eroded. It is my view that the granting of permits must be real and not merely apparent. We submit applications in time so that they can be treated and a response received from you on time. It is my belief that permits granted on the last working day of the week amounts to a refusal because there is just not time to do the necessary.
As pointed out above, your letter under reference was received at about 5pm on 20th August. The reason advanced in support of your recommendation could have been communicated much earlier and this would demonstrate the bona fides of the recommendation.
In any event, the UDP and other parties have held rallies at this particular venue in past rainy seasons and the conditions of the roads linking to the main road have not changed. Pedestrians and motorist never experienced any difficulty and for commercial vehicles it has always been beneficial due to the number of passengers they ferry to the venue.
Even though the UDP does not agree with the reason for your recommendation to re-schedule the rally to another venue, I HEREBY INFORM you that the proposed rally is now scheduled to hold AT THE CEDAR CLUB Latrikunda (opposite Africell) on Saturday 30th August 2014 between the hours 3pm and 10pm. This venue is one that has been used by us on several occasions to hold rallies.
I implore you to this matter timeously so that a situation does not arise to interfere with our arrangements.
SECRETARY GENERAL AND PARTY LEADER
According to Lawyer Darboe the UDP finally received the following reply from the police administration dated 28 August 2014
“Reference is invited to your letter dated 21st August, 2014 requesting to hold a rally on the 30th August, 2014 from 3:00pm to 10:00pm at Cedar Club Latrikunda(opposite Africell.)
Please be informed that your request is not granted due to security reasons.
Forwarded for your information
- Commissioner Admin
Mr. Darboe questioned whether the securities in the Gambia are incompetent and cannot do their work. He argued that there is no security threat in the Gambia and UDP since inception has always been a stalwart to promote peace and unity in the Gambia.
“I believe Ebony not being a suitable venue is fabricated because UDP and other political parties had organised their rallies there. This is not expected in a country in which democracy is prevalent,” said lawyer Darboe.
Foroyaa will contact the Inspector General of Police for his opinion.