Is the right to protest a privilege that can be revoked?
The recent occurrences regarding peaceful protest have me thinking and particularly with regard to the Public Order Act and how it is enforced in normal times i.e. without a State of Emergency.
Does the Constitution give us the right to protest? If so, why should one have to apply for permission under the Public Order Act?
Based on what I heard the Commissioner of Police said, “he must authorise a protest march, demonstration, motorcade etc. in order for it to take place.”
I was always of the view that the request to the COP was in effect to inform him, so that he could make the necessary arrangements for the maintenance of law and order, to ensure the free flow of traffic and to ensure the non-disruption of normal business activity. To my surprise I also learnt that an applicant may appeal to the Minister if his or her request for permission was refused. Now that, to me, is even more ludicrous. Why should it be a member of the political directorate, who is charged with that responsibility?
Based on what has transpired in the past and what it is alleged is taking place currently, it is my opinion that the Public Order Act should be amended post haste. The Police Commissioner should be notified / informed of a proposed protest march so that he could arrange with the organiser, the manner in which it could take place, in the interest of safety, public order etc.
If there are disagreements between the two parties, the organiser could appeal to a non-political official for mediation. By the way the Constitution also provides for us to move freely throughout St Lucia, of course there are understandable exceptions in the interest of defence, public safety and order.
I was heartened to read the missive by the President of the Bar Association throwing some light on the belief that the Police no longer have the authority to bail someone on his own recognisance. Heartened because, too often we have to wait on the willingness of Attorney Astaphan of Dominica to enlighten us on the important issues and their legal implications – thank you Mr Astaphan we appreciate your kindness.
The actions of the Police in these recent occurrences leave much to be desired. The rumours which abound seemed to have been given (wittingly or unwittingly) credence by statements/actions by the Police hierarchy their eyes seem to be programmed to see only red. The COP only saw the red shirts following the PM, he saw that he wasn’t wearing a mask but he didn’t see him in breach of the protocols, social distancing, in a shop, playing dominoes with 2 or 3 persons etc.
Forgive me if I may have misunderstood the letter from the President of the Bar Association. It tells me Christopher Hunte or rather the rumour that abound of his imminent arrest and lock up at Custody Suites seemed to have been given credence, for he could have been given bail on Sunday night.
All this wastage of Police manpower could have been avoided if the COP had called Mr Frederick before Sunday and advised him, as was done by his deputy on the said morning. But I suppose the hierarchy, had to use the over stressed subordinate ranks to display their might and intimidate the protesters.
Finally it seems strange that a Commissioner of Police is allowed to remain on leave during a State of Emergency.
The Police are to serve without, FEAR, FAVOUR or ILL WILL, that’s all we ask.