Friday, 4 January 2013

Stella Libongani, Save Us Your Sophism On Public Order Act

Her argument in supporting the manner in which the police have enforced the Public Order Act is a sophism laden with poor understanding of what politics in the realm of civilized democracy are supposed to be.

By Nyalubinge Ngwende

What again? Stella Libongani says that the police see nothing wrong with the Public Order Act.

Addressing a media briefing on December 28, 2012 at Southern Sun Hotel, Libongani said the Public Order Act allows the police to enforce the law properly.

She also believes that the law makes every Zambian to enjoy their rights and freedoms, and that political parties have other opportunities to communicate with the public other than public meetings.

She further feels that police has a preserve of judgment to determine the dangers of a public political meeting.

This statement exposes huge gaps (1) between the way Libongani misunderstands fundamental human rights and freedoms, and the way these entitlements function in a democracy, and (2) between her orientation of police duties and the prevention and protection—the two ends that any law is purposed to attain.

Her argument in supporting the way the police have enforced the Public Order Act is a sophism laden with poor understanding of what politics in the realm of civilized democracy are supposed to be.

Instead, it advances a fallacy of what the police’s role in the governance of the country is supposed to be and provides a wrong basis of educating our politicians about what the principles, we seek to nurture and strengthen Zambia’s democratic governance, ought to be.

Politics in a democracy is a process of participating groups continually generating policies and ideas which they must articulate through communicating to the members of the public.

That means creating an environment where all voices, whether those that agree with government and those opposed to it, are allowed to discover their capacity and use all opportunities to think and articulate their ideas about how best this country can be managed.

Holding public political meetings is not just one of the effective means by which political parties can choose to communicate their thoughts, prepositions and suppositions about national issues (social, economic and political), it is an essential political right that opposition political leaders, just like their colleagues in government, must enjoy and share with citizens without any form of alienation.

Unfortunately this is the very process of democratic politics and its profound values that Libongani finds herself callously trying to strangle and provide refutations with empty sophisms.

At the same time, while busy preventing the opposition leaders from holding their meetings, she is has no scruples of doing the same to the ruling party. The Patriotic Front leadership is busy traversing the country holding public meetings at every junction, poaching members from the opposition at every other point they choose. There is no doubt that these meetings by the ruling party are taking place without any police permit.

How does Libongani think that she can have people enjoy their rights and freedoms by selectively applying laws, denying citizens from participating in the exercise of those rights and freedoms based on an unfair law.

Sadly, she denies that the police are not selective in the enforcement of this infamous law. But Libongani and a strand of her scarecrows have not been heard telling the Vice President Chola Boy Guy Scott, Wynter Kabimba or Dancing Stephen Masumba that they cannot hold public meetings because they may be a situation that threatens others from enjoying their rights and freedoms.

By implication, Libongani’s position is obtuse on defending a law that in itself suffers self refutation when analysed from the two purposes of law—prevention and protection. She says the enforcement of the Public Order Act helps the police to protect the rights and freedoms of society, but she chooses to use the same law to prevent opposition leaders from enjoying those same fundamental rights and freedoms.

On protection, Libongani shamelessly exposes her failure in responsibility and duty as police Inspector General to provide protection for all political parties in the country to enjoy the same rights and freedom, with the exceptional of the Patriotic Front.

The duty of the police must be about enforcing the laws, provided in the constitution, and meant to protect the rights and freedoms of all citizens from being violated by any group of people, not even by them. It must prevent anyone who wants to violate the rights of others, instead of preventing those who rightly and peacefully want to exercise these fundamentals from doing so.

Instead of clearly understanding that human rights can only be taken away by the justice system when one is found to be abusing those rights to disrespect others from enjoying the similar fundamentals, the Inspector General wants that justice to end at the level of her misinformed guesses of enforcement.

During the meeting at Southern Sun Hotel, she came out hiding in her claim that police retain the right of judgment to decide when or where or whether the opposition leaders must hold their public meetings or not.

Her claim of reserved judgment to decide the fate of opposition leaders when it comes to their right and freedoms of assembly is a euphemism for serving tyrannical desires.

However, she is blind to see and notice that it just exposes her as an instrument through which the Patriotic Front purports to maintain some form of law and order, while permitting tyranny and injustice to reign. What can one conclude when the government spokesperson Kennedy Sakeni calls those in the civil society those who have condemned the unfair use of the Public Order Act as liars.

It is not even the duty and responsibility of Libongani to choose where and when the opposition should hold their public meetings. Her duty is just to ensure that in the process of enjoying these rights and freedoms, opposition political parties respect the rights and freedoms of others.

And what Lubongani and Sakeni painfully find difficult is to accept that this law is useless in the face of democracy, which in its true sense demands respect of dignity and equality of all citizens. This law is useless to itself and the country’s democratic process because it does not promote social and political justice.  It is useless because it cannot be applied equally and fights against the very human rights it purports to protect.

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