Saturday, July 2, 2016

CANPA Urges President Paul Biya to Reject Amendments on Penal Code

 Press Release

We, members of the Cameroon Anglophone Newspaper Publishers’ Association, CANPA have taken keen interest in the on-going national debates on certain amendments being made on the country’s penal code. We have also found time to seek legal counsel with respect to some unacceptable, provocative and seemingly inhuman provisions included in the bill adopted grudgingly by members of the Lower House of the National Assembly.
Mr. President, there are two provisions of that law and an important omission that capture our attention, but which are sufficient enough to let you see the need to return that bill to the Lower House of Parliament for another reading, while receiving views from the broad spectrum of other stakeholders.
First of all, there is the section which states that tenants, who will find themselves owing their landlords rents for just two months, could face the prospect of imprisonment. This is the clause that seems more of a provocation than any intention to rid the society of delinquents.
On this issue, Mr. President, we would like to take the example of the public service alone, where new recruits into the various services often go for well over 24 months without pay while waiting to be integrated or are paid a little under half of their salaries to cope in villages and big cities alike. Where shall they be expected to live in order not to owe landlords rents for several months while hoping your government begins to fully honour its obligations towards them?
What of the case of employees whose employers accumulate months of unpaid salaries sometimes due to no fault of theirs, like it is the case of Camair-Co
Staff members today and a lot of our poor councils; what sanctions have been set aside to make them pay the workers so that they do not get thrown into jail by landlords?
Worse still, the unemployment rate in Cameroon is officially above 20% and this country does not have any programme that enables the unemployed to get stipends to manage on like it is the case elsewhere; shall there be enough space in the streets to accommodate these people who are barely surviving?
Secondly, the law according immunity to your ministers in the discharge of their duties, simply seeks to worsen the current wanton rate of impunity this country is witnessing. It is also an official announcement of the end of the anti-corruption drive that had gradually emerged as a signature achievement of your tenure as President of the Republic. One wonders, Mr. President if this particular provision is not just brought in by your ministers to shield themselves against you, since no other citizen in this country had ever successfully dragged a sitting member of government to court? The move is simply ridiculous and aimed at thwarting all the noticeable advances Cameroon has made this far.
Finally, Mr. President, we are so surprised that several media outings by communication experts and journalists in the past few years, including members of watchdog organisations, have called for the decriminalization of press offenses and the removal of some obnoxious provisions in the law that make journalism practice in Cameroon too complicated, but nothing was mentioned about that. Rather, your justice officials preferred to favour issues like adultery that do not, for now, really pose any veritable threat to society, like the absence of a free press.
Mr. President, recently your government organized a huge come together of top business executives from around the world to brainstorm about investing in Cameroon. A lot of the tax payers’ money was spent in that initiative that was largely considered laudable; but the gains made- including the openness created by the April 18, 2013 law on incentives for investment are going to be completely mitigated by these hazardous amendments on the country’s penal code.
Within this framework, Mr. President of the Republic, we are calling on you to use your office to refuse signing the said bill into law. We pray you to return the bill to the justice department to organize an inclusive national debate on the proposed amendments before sending it again to Parliament for examination and adoption.
Were you by any chance to go ahead and promulgate that bill into law, then you would have, by that single act ordered the creation of many more prisons, worsened the plight of an already suffocating mass of common poor people and placed the peace reigning in Cameroon in danger.

John Mbah Akuroh
Ojong Steven Ayukogem
 Secretary General

When News Breaks Out, We Break In. (The 2014 Bloggies Finalist)

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