Under the new Public Order Management Act (POMA) 2013 regulations, unplanned public meeting of political parties will be allowed to last for only 20 minutes.
The new regulations have been drafted through the Inter-Party Organisation for Dialogue (IPOD) initiative. IPOD brings together political parties represented in parliament. They are meant to iron out contentious issues in the implementation of the POMA. The law has been the basis for dispersing meetings of opposition political parties.
The detailed copy of new regulations, stipulates how a spontaneous meeting can happen and be dispersed. It also provides offence for security personnel who disperse such meetings unlawfully. This specifically reinforces Section 7 of POMA which provided that any spontaneous meeting should be dispersed immediately.
“A spontaneous public meeting referred to under section 7 of the Act shall not exceed a period of at least twenty minutes from the time a spontaneous meeting commenced,” the regulations read.
Authorized officers dispersing spontaneous meeting will required to take precautions to disperse gatherings lawfully. The regulations stipulates precautions as; “giving warning and notice for all the participants to vacant within ten minutes from the time the notice to vacate is issued, or escorting the organiser or any other participant in the spontaneous meeting out of the public place.”
An officer who disperses spontaneous meetings without taking precautions “commits an offence and is liable on conviction to imprisonment for a term not exceeding one year or fine not exceeding twenty currency points or both.” Twenty currency points is equivalent to Shs 400,000.
The regulations have decentralized power of receiving notifications of political parties from inspector general of police as prescribed in POMA Section 3 to any officer at or above rank of inspector.
“An authorized officer means a police officer of or above the rank of inspector. There shall be an authorized officer at every district,” the regulation read.
Authorized officers will be required to respond to notifications from political parties in 48 hours. A no response, the regulations say, will be construed as no objection. In case of objection, police has been tasked to give plausible explanation.
“Where the inspector general of police or authorised officer finds that it is not possible to hold the proposed public meeting at the proposed venue, he or she shall notify the organiser of the public meeting by indicating the reasons why he or she believes it is not possible to hold a public meeting on the proposed venue,” the regulation report reads.
In circumstances where a venue has been booked by another person or party, police will be supposed to furnish political parties with details of who has already booked the place including letters that event organisers submitted to police and the response.
The regulations also stipulate places unsuitable for public meeting as a highway, street, public park or garden, market, school, university, hospital or place of worship. But meetings can be allowed in such venues when “owner(s) has expressly consented in writing.”
The new regulations will be presented at IPOD summit scheduled for next week. IPOD council brings together leaders of political parties. The first IPOD summit took place in November last year.
It was attended by President Yoweri Museveni who is the national chairman of ruling party, National Resistance Movement (NRM) but snubbed by Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) president Patrick Amuriat Oboi and his party delegation.
Rugunda told journalists that implementation of new regulations should have started as “early as yesterday.” He did not commit timelines. “There is agreement that the law (POMA) is a good law but there has been operational challenges which have been now resolved in the regulations,” Rugunda said.
“These regulations are going to be considered by appropriate government organs. We are aware of the importance of implementing these regulations as quickly as possible. Government will do that,” he added.
Democratic Party secretary-general, Gerald Siranda who is IPOD council chairperson said further meetings will be held with inspector general of police and Internal Affairs minister to discuss implementation of the new regulations.