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ERG calls on CM to restore freedom of assembly

 

 

For some time now, we have been receiving a number of reports from individuals and community associations alleging restrictions imposed on their right to public protest and or assembly. It is a matter that, in the context of the on-going pandemic, is of concern to all.

‘We cannot fault those in authority with a responsibility for safeguarding the safety of our community for taking steps to exercise their duty in this respect. With the scarcity of proven information that existed in the opening months, it was difficult. However, after six months, and at a time when we are now much more aware and knowledgeable about effective measures to control the spread of the virus (social distancing, use of masks, and hand hygiene), it is now time to reconsider the management of as fundamental a constitutional right as that of freedom of assembly, and to restore proportionality.

‘I have therefore written to the Chief Minister today,’ Chair of the group Felix Alvarez has stated, ‘to invite him and his government to reassess the situation as it stands today. In our view as a human and civil rights organisation, it is imperative for all of us to be vigilant not only of the physical but also the democratic health of this community. And, given the very real possibility of social distancing and mask discipline being required and strictly enforced, a more proportionate response from government would alleviate the imbalance all round.

‘At the same time, we urge all citizens not only to consistently uphold the highest of hygiene in protection of all around us, but also to insist on their fundamental and important right to be able to air legitimate, peaceful protest and differences of view in public.

‘It is only through civil society’s function in holding those in power to account that democratic controls can take place, and to ensure our representatives are acting to the betterment of all. And that is never more important than at times of social difficulty.

‘We await government’s response and will continue to study the situation,’ the statement ended.