The latest refusal of the Ghana Police Service, backed later by the high court to prevent the Progressive People’s Party, PPP, from embarking on a public demonstration is casting a negative light on Ghana’s democratic strides, according to The Insight managing editor Kwesi Pratt.
Not only is the refusal an infraction on the unfettered constitutional right of Ghanaians to demonstrate and to express themselves freely and responsibly, it is simply undesirable and smacks of a clear attempt to regulate free expression.
Pratt who has often bemoaned such actions of the police or the courts refusing public demonstrations, maintained that the trend was worrying especially when the grounds for the refusal are not tenable. It is premised on the Public Order Act but it is being abused, he observed.
The police on Monday secured a court injunction to stop the PPP from embarking on a public demonstration against official corruption, explaining that it has not the men to protect the demonstrators.
Speaking, however, on Peace FM on Tuesday, Pratt challenged the police excuse, saying they do not need 2,000, 5,000 or 20,000 men to police the demonstration.
He said even more worrying is the decision of the high court that every demonstration can potentially degenerate into violence and therefore require police permit, questioning how many demonstrations in the past two decades have turned violent.
He however cautioned organisers of the PPP demonstration to use lawful means to get the courts to reverse their decision, saying he had learnt of some of those organising the PPP demonstration saying they would defy the police and court orders.
It is the second time the police have asked the PPP to reschedule their planned demonstration citing inadequate men since it had deployed staff to help keep the peace in the aftermath of the election petition verdict.
Pratt said it is the responsibility of organisers to liaise with the police, ensure the demonstration is peaceful and not injurious to others or that some property be destroyed but the police conduct appears they no longer want anyone to hold a public demonstration.
He urged the courts to uphold the rights of citizens to free expression for gradually, they are subverting democratic freedoms. “Everybody can see through this.” Listen to Kwesi Pratt.