April 18, 2017 By Patrick Jaiah Kamara
A rights and democratic group, Renaissance Movement has filed an action in the Supreme Court (SC) for it to make clear, the parameters within which the office of the Inspector General of Police (IG) can limit citizens’ rights to protest, if at all they have that powers.
Lead defense lawyer, Francis Ben Kelfala Esq, who is also one of the complainant in the matter, said in a press conference held at Charlotte Street in Freetown, that the Movement was challenging the authority of the IG and the police generally, who he said have constituted themselves into a ‘quasi-judicial’ entity that determines whether people can hold meeting, demonstrate or protest.
He said the Movement has put before the Supreme Court seven questions to answer and to decide on- as to whether Part III of the Public Order Act (POA) of 1965, which gives the police powers to allow or disallow permission to protest, was consistent with Section 26&27 of the 1991 constitution.
“Our core principles, ideas, and belief is that the rule of law must be prevailed and not an individual. We in the Movement have filed papers in the Supreme Court challenging the authority of the IG and the police force generally, who has constituted themselves into quasi-judicial entity, where they determine whether people can hold meetings, demonstrate, or protest. In doing so, they are applying the laws discriminatorily,” he said.
He said the Movement has also asked among other issues, for the apex court to make clear whether the IG, refusing to provide security and stopping demonstrations, was not ultra-varying his powers.
Lawyer Kelfala noted that they were also asking the court as to whether the way the police handle the issue of protests was not discriminatorily done, as some people have been given security to protest, while others were refused.
He noted that some people go out to protest instantaneously without hindrance, while others were harassed, beaten and sometimes shot and killed.
He said they also wanted to know whether the powers in Section 17 of POA of 1965 were necessary in a democratic state.
“We believe this decision would set the matter to rest. Why are the police shooting at people that go out to protest? Do they have the power to do so? If this decision is made and becomes part of our jurisprudent, a lot would fall into place either ways,” he said.
He urged the new Chief Justice, Abdulai Hamid Cham, who took office in January 2016, to empanel judges to the matter as it was the second case filed in the highest court.
He said they have provided the court with a fifteen page case laws and precedencies from various democratic jurisdictions, which he said would help the court.
Earlier, Emmanuel Saffa Abdulai, outgoing chairman of the Movement, said implementing the POA must be done with such flexibility that would give credence to constitutional provision as stated in Section 25 of 1991 Constitution.
“As a democratic country that is aspiring for its democratic credentials, democratic activities like procession and expression of disagreement of government policy must be greatly encouraged,” he said.
He said the Movement, which was formed in 2004 on Fourah Bay College campus, was made up young people from different political backgrounds, with the belief that the country was going the wrong part.
The plaintiff in the matter includes; Emmanuel Saffa Abdulai, Augustine Sorie Sengbeh Marrah, Michael Kanu, Gerald Sidi Cole, Kwesi Taylor, James Prince Sankoh and Francis Ben Kelfala.
“Three people were reported dead when youths protested in Kabala against government’s decision to allegedly move the youth village from Kabala in the Koinadugu.Opposition party members arrested, an Ansarul Islamic pupil was killed, womens’ group refused clearance by the police to assemble at Miata Coverence hall for the CRC to strength womens right ect,” he said .