FORMER Law Association of Zambia (LAZ) president Eddie Mwitwa has called on the UPND government to ensure that the Public Order Act is amended in a manner that will promote freedom of association and assembly.

In an interview, Tuesday, Mwitwa reminded the UPND government of how they suffered at the hands of previous regimes.

“One of the things that we obviously expect would be an amendment to the Public Order Act. So that its implementation is not left to the whim and caprices of police officers that are being given the mandate to decide whether people should assemble or not. We hope to see a situation where the Public Order Act has a provision where it’s crystal clear that when people want to assemble, their duty is simply to notify the police and not to get the police permit as it were in the previous regime. So the hopes are high and I think all of us should do our part to ensure that we hold the new government accountable and that we should all do what we must do to ensure they govern according to the law. Not to the whim and caprices of those that we have elected,” he said.

“I think it is something that can be done. The UPND had been in the opposition for over 20 years and they suffered at the hands of the previous regimes and they saw how that particular act was used, even recently in relation to the holding of rallies during the campaign period. So I think they will do well to remember where they have come from. And if what the President said before and during his inauguration is anything to go by, I think we must trust that he means well and he will ensure that the members of parliament will do what they must to make sure that this law is amended in a manner that promotes freedom of association and assembly.”

Mwitwa further urged government to ensure that freedoms of expression, assembly and association were not only respected but promoted.

“It has always been a fresh breath of air with the change of the government and expectations are high on just about every front. In terms of the rule of law, it is encouraging to hear from the Head of State himself to say, for instance, that you colleagues in the media will be able to operate freely without being intimidated as it was in the previous regime. So that is a positive sign coming from the Head of State and it is something I think we should take advantage of,” he said.

“We expect that freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, freedom of association should not only be respected but promoted. It is something that I think was being frustrated. Those rights were being frustrated under the PF regime, you had youths campaigning from the hideouts in the bush. We hope that the new government learnt a lot of lessons and expect that they can only do better.”

Meanwhile, Mwitwa called on citizens to keep an eye on the new government, stating that it was easy for those in government to get carried away and to be drunk with power.

“In my view, if we the citizens do not hold the leaders accountable, if we don’t call them out if we think what they are doing is something that is contrary to the law or contrary to what they pledged they will be doing when they were campaigning, it becomes easier for them to take us for granted. So it is incumbent I think for all of us as citizens, civil society organizations, colleagues in the media to make sure that we keep an eye on the new government. It is very easy for those in power to get carried away and to be drunk with power,” said Mwitwa.

“So we hope those that govern us to govern. Democracy is for the people by the people and we are the ones that are supposed to be served by those we elected in power. As long as we keep them in check and as long as there is a strong opposition whether it is the PF and other opposition parties, it is possible that things can get better. We do not expect things to be perfect but we definitely expect the things to be better.”