Only if we the citizens fully comprehend the meaning and significance of the Right to Protest. This is the only right that combines and through which we manifest the:
1. Right to Association
2. Right to Assembly
3. Right to Freedom of Speech
4. Right to Petition
When you take away these rights from a citizen then you effectively disempower and control that citizen. It means you raise the State above and beyond scrutiny and accountability.
These were the rights that Yaya Jammeh actively curtailed by using laws such as the Public Order Act and practices such as arbitrary arrest and torture to inject fear on us. Through the use of offenses such as ‘giving false information to a public officer’ or sedition or ‘false news’ he was able to limit our right to petition the Executive to show our grievances. Is this what we want again?
Disagree with the objectives of #OccupyWestfield but insist that their right to protest is protected.
There cannot be good governance and democracy without the protection of the right to protest. Public institutions will not deliver efficient and quality public goods and services when there is no right to protest in a society. We cannot combat corruption and ensure sustainable development when the right to protest is restricted. Anywhere in this world that a government and leaders are forced to act with transparency, accountability and responsibility it is because the power of protest is present. Without the right to protest a government or leader does not address the needs and aspirations of the citizens with urgency.
The cheapest argument any government can give to curtail the right to protest is to proclaim security concerns. Yet every state has a law enforcement agency purposely to ensure public security which is also our right as citizens to enjoy.
Right to protest is about free speech or going to court or writing petitions or demonstrations in various forms including processions, concerts, dancing, singing, sitting at home or boycotting etc etc etc. These are the only weapons in the hands of citizens to tame the government and hold it accountable to deliver goods and protect rights. These are the tools that citizens use to make businesses deliver quality products and services that worth our money.
Without the right to protest you force citizens to engage in unconstitutional and violent means of expression. This was why we had December 30 attack and many others in the past 22 years! Hence the right to protest is also a peace building mechanism.
When we side with the government to deny any individual or group to protest then we are limiting ourselves as a whole. We are giving power to that government over us which will become unbearable sooner or later.
It was the manifestation of the right to protest that ended the Yaya Jammeh Tyranny. Therefore let us not allow anyone to kill the right to protest. Let’s defend it because it is in our interest as citizens.
Remember that the Government already has all the tools of power and coercion to overcome us. Our only tool is to protest. If we surrender that tool also to the Government then we the citizens will become seriously powerless, voiceless and defenseless!
You don’t have to join #OccupyWestfield but defend their right to protest. You don’t have to agree with their message but defend their right to protest. If you defend them today you are securing your own right tomorrow. Yet if you deny them today then tomorrow your own right will also be denied! Mark my word!!!
God Bless The Gambia