A leading Gambian Parliamentarian and leader of the People’s Democratic, Organization, Independence and Socialism (PDOIS) Party Halifa Sallah said the dispersing of the “ OCCUPY WESTFIELD” protesters by the police was totally unwarranted, as Sallah called on the Barrow government to be more tolerant and respect the constitutionally guaranteed rights of Gambians; to freedom of assembly, association and expression. Appearing on Freedom Radio Gambia’s Sunday Prime Time Leral show, Sallah noted that the Occupy Westfield protest was a test for the Barrow government. Sallah wouldn’t say if the Barrow government has passed or failed the test, but he was quick to admonish the regime to comply with the dictates of the constitution.
“I think to disperse them is unwarranted. We also be advising the government to change its way in that respect. I did not want to continue to say that the government should register a clear distinction between a threat to national security and the exercise of freedom assembly, association and expression. I will advise the government to adhere to what is normal in a democratic society; that is to allow people to speak truth to power in a manner that’s peaceful; in a manner that is intelligent to make those institutions to know that people are observing. That’s is a healthy interaction between government and the people. And we will be encouraging that,” Sallah told Freedom Radio’s Pa Nderry M’Bai in an exclusive interview.
Mr. Sallah maintained that there is a clear distinction between a threat to national security, and the right to peaceful assembly, association and expression. He said the former has no bearing or correlation with the latter. Hence, he said the Occupy Westfield protest ought to have been allowed to go ahead as planned.
Armed Police Intervention Unit Officers (PIU) stormed the vicinity of Westfield on Sunday, where they quelled a peaceful protest march organized by the Occupy Westfield protesters. The protesters were compelled to leave the busy intersection or risked being arrested. They vacated the area without an incident.
Mr. Sallah thinks that the quelling of the Occupy Westfield protest march will only give a bad image to the Barrow government. He said he will continue to advise the government to respect the constitutional rights and liberties of Gambians as enshrined in the constitution.
Sallah said the original impression given earlier was that a massive number of people would be converging at Westfield to demonstrate against NAWEC, but that was not the case. He said the government has the responsibility to ensure that citizens rights to peaceful assembly, association and expression are not trampled upon.