Some politicians and human rights activists are accusing government of attempts to push for the enactment of some clauses in the Public Order Management Bill that would infringe on the freedom of Assembly and Expression. They fear that the bill would easily sail through parliament with the restrictive clauses since debate is focused on the marriage and Divorce bill 2009.
Members of Parliament who are on recess, are expected to consult on both the Marriage and Divorce, and Public Order Management Bill.
However, the debate on the marriage and Divorce bill has overshadowed the Public Order Management Bill. Activists fear that government could reintroduce outlawed section 32 of the Police Act. The section which authorized the Police to prohibit assemblies, rallies and assembles was outlawed by the constitutional Court following a petition by Muwanga Kivumbi, the Butambala County MP.
Kivumbi fears that section eight of the Public Order Management bill if passed in its current form would in effect re-enact section 32 of the Police Act. Section eight seeks to grant police powers to prohibit public meetings, rallies and demonstrations. Kivumbi says he would immediately petition court for another interpretation should parliament goa head and pass this particular section.
He says the constitution bars parliament from passing laws that alter court rulings. Sources within the NRM caucus in Parliament say the public Order management bill was among the issues that were to be discussed when the President met the caucus last week.
The debate on Public Order management Bill kicked off two weeks ago in parliament. The bill introduced at the peak of demonstrations in October 2011, seeks to provide the regulation of public meetings.
The Legal and Parliamentary Committee of Parliament has equally raised concerns about the likely human rights implications of the bill. The Committee Chaired by Igara MP, Stephen Tashobya has recommended several amendments saying several clauses in the Bill would contravene the 1995 constitution once enacted in the current form.
State Minister for Internal Affairs, James Baba says government would accept some amendments provided they don’t turn around the original intention of the bill. Highlights of Public Order management Bill
The bill defines public meetings as a gathering of three or more persons in public places or premises. MPS say this would infringe on the individual’s right to expression and assemble. It requires organizers of rallies, meetings or assemblies to undertake compensating any party or individual in case of any fallout.
This according to the committee would interfere with the right of person to hold and share opinion and right to freedom of expression. The bill if enacted in the current form would also allow police to use fire arms to stop the escape of suspect, MPS fear that police would resort to force by using firearms on suspects.