Samba Jallow, the minority leader in the National Assembly, has expressed dissatisfaction at the tirade of foul words often directed at political leaders in the government whom, he said, had led the country into toppling Yahya Jammeh.
Jallow, who plans to make his case in the adjournment debate in the National Assembly today, said the leaders risked life and limb to ensure the end of the Jammeh tyranny.
“The politicians who are in the government today should be given respect because they deserve it. For 22 years of Jammeh’s dictatorship, these were the people who sacrificed their wealth and life by opposing him,” Jallow said in an interview with The Standard at his office yesterday.
Since Jammeh’s fall, bellicose political rhetoric has risen in the country especially on social media where political leaders have been constantly subjected to scathing attacks and often, personal insults.
Jallow said criticising political leaders is “very healthy in a democracy and crucial in national development” but such a purpose is lost if exchanges are mere insults instead of ideas.
He said when all the current political leaders who backed Barrow to office were struggling and jailed, most Gambians especially the elite, recused themselves from politics, because of fear of reprisals from Jammeh.
“Of course no one underestimates people-power in the struggle against Jammeh but we all know what happens to those who led the movements that threatened Jammeh’s presidency. If Jammeh were to neutralise his opponents, who would have been his focus? Even during the impasse, there were opposition members who were not sleeping in their houses for fear of losing their lives, myself included.
“Today we have freedom of speech and expression and we are all ready to ensure that continues to prevail here, but should that mean we insult each other? I believe they, the political leaders, deserve respect and must be recognised for leading Gambians throughout those troubled times.
“We recognise people’s freedom to express themselves but we can do this constructively and responsibly without resorting to insults. Social media was an enormous tool we used to mobilise support in defeating Jammeh but we must remember that Hamat Bah went to jail; Ousainou Darboe went to jail; Isatou Touray was jailed; Omar Jallow was jailed; and Mai Fatty was exiled. Halifa Sallah and Sidia Jatta were equally jailed. These were just few of the harsh consequences they had to face for opposing Jammeh.”