Protesters to seek another strike permit

MASERU  — The High Court yesterday removed from the roll the application by textile union leaders and other organisations seeking to overturn the police’s decision to cancel a permit for a march they has planned for yesterday morning.
The Maseru Region Transport Operators (MRTO), Lesotho Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Congress of Lesotho Trade Unions, Lesotho Labour Council, Lesotho Trade Union Congress, Lesotho Congress of Democratic Unions and Lesotho People’s Congress Youth leader Bokang Ramats’ella took the police commissioner and four others to court after police on Tuesday night cancelled their permit for a demonstration that was scheduled for yesterday morning. Police said they cancelled the permit for security reasons.
They said their decision came after realising that they would not be able to deal with an anticipated large number of demonstrators.
They said their decision had been informed by the ugly scenes that occured in the Thetsane area on Monday and Tuesday when hundreds of textile workers took to the streets and blocked traffic.
The Minister of Home Affairs, Minister of Law and Constitutional Affairs, Minister of Defence and National Security as well as the Attorney-General were also cited as respondents.
“The Commissioner of Police 1st respondent has unlawfully cancelled the applicants’ permit to engage in a public procession today on the 17th August 2011 at the eleventh hour,” said advocate Letuka Molati who was representing the applicants. Molati said the court must compel the police to allow the march to go ahead. He also wanted the court to declare that his clients have “a full democratic right to engage in peaceful public procession”.
Justice Semapo Peete said he had removed the application from the roll because the lawyers of the two parties agreed on the way forward.
He said during this meeting the respondents indicated that they were willing to consider making a fresh application for a march within seven days as dictated by the law. Molati agreed that his clients would make a fresh application to the police.
Advocate Lebeoana Letsie who represented the respondents assured the court that his clients had no problems with the march as long as it is held within the confines of the law.
Letsie told Justice Peete: “My instructions are that the Commissioner of Police is going to consider the application and give a permit, provided the law is complied with.”
Judge Peete also warned the courtroom packed with textile industry workers and unions that they should not demonstrate when they leave the court because that would be illegal.
“We have to abide by the law, this court cannot just say go and hold the procession tomorrow. I would be acting illegally,” he said.
The court had also wanted the two parties to clarify why the applicants’ permit to hold a demonstration from 10.00 in the morning to 3.00 in the afternoon yesterday was cancelled.
Advocate Molati had earlier indicated to the court that his clients were not keen to make a fresh application “which could also suffer the same fate of being cancelled on the eve of the march”.
But after assurances from the defendants’ lawyer Advocate Letsie that the police were willing to consider a fresh application, the applicants agreed to go with Judge Peete’s recommendation.
Judge Peete told Advocate Letsie that the constitutional nature of the application and the human rights enshrined in Section 15 of the Constitution did not affect the manner in which the applicants may hold their peaceful march to ventilate their grievances subject to limitations.
“Subject to the limitations of law enforcements agencies, applicants’ rights must be respected by everyone subject to limits under the constitution,” he said.
“Respondents should make a noble undertaking to ensure that these rights are respected. It is the duty of this court that human rights of everyone are respected.”
The applicants, Judge Peete said, were free to initiate a fresh application within seven days as required by the 2010 Meetings and Processions Act.

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