Electoral commission presents law proposal


08-September-2012

 

Electoral commission members briefing President James Michel at State House after having presented him with a proposal for a new Public Order Act

State House said the government will consider the proposal and follow the necessary procedures under the provisions of the Constitution.

The POA forms part of the commission’s electoral review programme which aims to strengthen and consolidate democracy in Seychelles.

The commission was created in July 2011 and its members were sworn into office in August the same year.

The recommendations were drawn up following consultation with the Forum for Electoral Reforms, district meetings and best democratic practices inspired from the laws governing public gatherings in United Kingdom, Malta, Mauritius and such authorities as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Commission chairman Hendrick Gappy said that as far as possible, the recommendations reflect the views of the electoral forum.

 “But, where there was no consensus, the commission – which draws its mandate from the Constitution – has tried its best to make recommendations acceptable to all.”

The recommendations are now in the hands of the Head of State, the National Assembly and the Forum for Electoral Reforms is moving on with other issues, such as voter registration.

It was noted to the press that the POA – dating back to 1951 – was a rather archaic legislation, though amended a little in 1992 to accommodate the multi-party framework. It was seen to have given the police commissioner too much power in deciding on public assemblies.

Members of the electoral commission answering journalists’ questions during Friday press conference

The newly proposed Public Assembly Act provides that written notice of intention to hold an assembly of more than 10 persons should be given to the police commissioner at least five days before.

The police commissioner may terminate a public assembly if he has reasonable grounds to believe it is against public safety, public order, public health or public morality.

 He may also seek clarification and may submit conditions, such as if the planned assembly interferes with the rights of other groups of persons.
 
But the fundamental difference with the POA is that the police’s response is not final, as those dissatisfied may petition a court, which shall consider the issue as a matter of urgency.

Recommended “prohibited areas” for public assemblies are army camps, para-military camps or military installations, as well as within the compounds of a police station or State House.

It is also recommended that any person, who at any public assembly uses threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour with intent to provoke a breach of the peace, shall commit an offence.

Any person who incites others to commit an offence during a public assembly, shall also be deemed to commit an offence.

Another member of the electoral commission, Gerard Lafortune, said the recommendations have been made to further the cause of democracy. He noted that the commission draws its authority from the Constitution to do that.

Mr Lafortune said the commission cannot however dictate to the presidency or the National Assembly what they should do.

Mr Lafortune said the commission is still open for clarification on the issue. He noted that the work of the Forum for Electoral Reforms have been delayed by several weeks because of the bye-election at Anse Aux Pins.

After considering the voters register, it will vote on to review regulations for presidential and National Assembly elections.

 

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