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POA Source of Conflict Among Stakeholders

Non-governmental Gender Organisaions’ Coordinating Council says the Public Order Act (POA) has been a matter of contention and a source of conflict among stakeholders.
During the Non-governmental Gender Organisations’ Coordinating Council (NGOCC) appearance before the Parliamentary Committee on National Security and Foreign Affairs on the amendment of the Public Order Bill 2019 yesterday, NGOCC Board Publicity Secretary Annie Sampa said the rights to Freedom of Expression and Assembly have become highly politicized.
“Citizen’s Freedom to Assembly have continually been stifled through the application of the Public Order Act. The POA in its current form gives rise, through its application and implementation, to the restriction of the freedom of assembly and in turn the freedoms of association and expression. The infringement of these freedoms is an indictment to Zambia’s human rights record and brings into question the country’s democratic credentials and repute. The POA has become a negative attribute to the democratization process and a huge source of political disputes,” Ms Sampa said.
“The implementation of the Public Order Act (POA) has been a matter of contention and a source of conflict among stakeholders. There have been arguments that the political party in power has, over the years used the POA to stifle the freedoms of Assembly, Expression and Association. The POA has negative consequences on the freedom of citizens from a democratic perspective. In a democracy, it is a given right for every citizen to be accorded an opportunity to assemble and express their views as long as it is within the parameters of the law and does not cause public disorder and threaten public peace.”
Ms Sampa said as long as the application of the Public Order Act continued to be applied as an apparatus for oppressing divergent views, it will remain an ignite for political violence.
“In effect because of the manner the POA is being implemented, the country seems to be under a State of Emergency – where citizen’s rights can easily be withdrawn anytime. The Public Order Act has become an apparatus for depriving individuals, groups and associations of their alienable rights to information, free association and free assembly. It is the view of NGOCC and its members that the ‘POA’ is a necessary law that Zambia needs, however, its implementation needs to be addressed.”

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