By Saikou Suwareh Jabai
Mai Ahmed Fatty, Minister of Interior, has defended the deployment of riot police, saying there was need for security based on ‘credible intelligence’ against those who intend to undermine the peace and ongoing fruitful dialogue.
He said the police deployment is merely preventive to deter those who plan to create unlawful distractions, contrary to the declared intentions of the organizers of the peaceful protest.
“The path to honest negotiations / constructive dialogue, is the new Gambian way. Not brutality or confrontation,” he added. Mr. Fatty said the right to protest is a fundamental constitutional imperative and he swore an oath to defend and protect it. He however added that he also swore to protect and defend the sovereignty of The Gambia against all threats, potential or real, domestic or foreign.
On Sunday morning, the Authorities deployed riot police who were on patrol at the proposed protest center in Westfield to prevent crowds gathering after a civil action group called #OccupyWestfield, vowed to hold a protest rally to express disappointment with the nation’s Utility services provider, NAWEC. This move has angered the youth who described it as a breach of the agreement they had with Government.
The #OccupyWestfield team were denied permit to hold the protest and held a meeting with officials of the energy and security sector about the proposed protest. Reacting to the presence of riot police in Westfield, the Leader of the Civil Action Group, Alieu Bah said: “We went ahead and postponed #Occupywestfield just because they said they can’t provide the security we demanded from them. You can’t provide security for us but you can actually fill Westfield with police?” He said Government’s presumption is that they are violent even when they went ahead and demanded security from them. He described this as the most disappointing since the emergence of the new Gambia.
Another member of the group, Lamin Sey, said the Inspector General of Police disappointed young people by sending his men to the place even when they agreed to call off the protest.