The leader of the main opposition United Democratic Party (UDP) has vented his anger on the Gambia Police for continuously denying his party the permit to use the Public Address System during its rallies. This has pushed the party to the wall to the extent that Lawyer Ousainou Darboe is making one more permit application. The granting of permit will not bar the UDP from going ahead with its planned rally.
Mr. Darboe made the statement at a news conference in Banjul on Sunday. He blamed the police for hiding behind flimsy excuses to deny the party the permit, which is a clear violation of their constitutional right to assemble and communicate with party members.
The conference was prompted by the denial of the party to hold a rally at Cedar Club in Latrikunda on August 30th between 3 and 10 PM.
The party made a written request on August 21st but the police waited until two days before the rally and issued the denial. This latest denial came barely two weeks after UDP’s request to celebrate its 18th year anniversary rally was refused.
Police based its denial on security reasons and the burden a diversion would have caused to motorists and pedestrians if a rally is held at Ebony in Serekunda Central.
In an urgent letter to the police chief [published below], Lawyer Darboe challenged the flimsy excuses advanced by the police. He urged the Inspector General of Police to attend to this matter in a timely manner so that a situation does not arise to interfere with our arrangements.
PERMIT APPLICATION FOR USE OF P.A. SYSTEM DURING RALLY AT EBONY IN SERREKUNDA CENTRAL ON THE 23″ AUGUST 2014
I write on behalf of the United Democratic Party to acknowledge receipt of your letter ref. GPF/078/8/(105) dated 20111 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 timeously 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 9″ 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 1 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 5 PM 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 30″ August 2014
between the hours the 3pm and 10 pm. This venue is one that has been used by us on several occasions to hold rallies.
I implore you to attend to this matter timeously so that a situation does not arise to interfere with our arrangements.
Yours in the Service Of The Gambia
SECR ET4RY GENERAL AND PARTY LEADER
CC: The Permanent Secretary
Ministry of the Interior
The Director General NIA
The Chairman .IEC