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Friday, December 1, 2023

An open letter to the Justice Minister

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The allegations made by the former Secretary to the Commission of Inquiry, Mr Alhaji Mamadi Kurang, against the Lead Counsel of the Commission of Inquiry, Madam Amie Bensouda should be investigated. Honorable Minister, for Secretary Kurang to have the courage at this time of the Commission and file a petition against the Lead Counsel signals a need for a sharper look into the case.
Secretary Kurang made three major allegations against the Lead Counsel; “(1) that Counsel Amie engaged in wasteful spending of Government resources on foreign trips and Commission activities; (2) that Counsel Amie is conflicted given her past association with some of the organizations that are the subject of the Commission’s enquiry; and (3) that she colluded with her brother Secretary General Habib Drammeh to frustrate and stop the sale of tractors by the Commission”.

“Counsel Amie’s past engagement with some of the organizations appearing before the Commission was disclosed and known to the Ministry at the time of her appointment and has always been a matter of public record”. Honorable Minister this is an affirmative statement to Secretary Kurang’s second point. The statement is a further reminder to you that her dealings are a threat to the outcome of the Commission of Inquiry. Honorable Minister this alone has disqualified her to sit over any Commission probing into any dealings of the former President Yahya AJJ JAmmeh. However, this might lead one to ask, was she the only option?
“At the time of her appointment, the Ministry enquired and was assured that Counsel Amie has never worked for or been engaged in any manner with former President Jammeh or taken instruction or been in any way involved in any transaction either directly or indirectly between former President Jammeh and the said institutions”. I think this excerpt from the Hon. Ministers response to the Former Secretary Mr. Alhaji Mamadi Kurang’s allegations is not substantial enough. The letter she drafted on behalf of the Social Security and Housing Finance Corporation (SSHFC) was a direct involvement. Why was she not questioning the recent sittings on SSHFC?

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Honorable Minister but why? Was she the only option?
The seven page petition filed by Mr Kurang is one of the most serious allegations that can and will affect the credibility of the so-called New Gambia, if not investigated. Since the petition does not challenge the entire commission but an individual, I and many other Gambians are of the expectation that an investigation will be launched into the allegation so that one individual does not compromise the credibility of the commission. But On the contrary, we are seeing the petitioner been fired. That leaves us in a limbo. Seemingly, if it remains the way it is, that gives us the impression that the lead counsel is untouchable. If that is the case, then the Commission of Inquiries has emphatically failed us. That will be the greatest mistake committed by this government. Honorable Minister, one needs not to be a saint to understand the writing on the wall. Rather, common sense will tell you dismissing Kurang and leaving the Lead Council is just as dangerous as leaving Kurang as the secretary. Therefore you need to ask further WHY, WHY and WHY Mr Kurang acted the way he did.

Every Gambian should be thanking Almighty Allah for a brave soul like Mr. Kurang who had all the chances of remaining silent and complimenting the dynasty of a corrupt society. As the sayings goes, “if you cannot beat the system join it”. This was an option for Secretary Kurang, which is now the order of the day used by many unethical individuals who keep blaming the system and never ready to avert or put a stop to the ongoing corruption. Mr Kurang, however, decided to break the status quo of abetting corruption and spoke up.
Looking at this statement, it is reaffirming the earlier mentioned statement of the Honorable Minister; “that Counsel Amie is conflicted given her past association with some of the organizations that are the subject of the Commission’s enquiry”. Basically, Secretary Kurang was just alerting the state that the lead Counsel is not the right person for the job.

As a concerned Gambian, I believed that the Lead Counsel should be investigated immediately before it is too late. Since the first quarter of the sittings of the Commission, the Lead Counsel has been questioned for her involvement in the selling of Kairaba Beach Hotel (KBH) by Amadou Samba. So Honorable Minister, do you think it is normal for the same person to still question the squandering of the monies in the selling of KBH? When the Lead Counsel appended her signature to the deal, was that legally and morally okay? Unless I have forgotten then in what capacity was she acting to sign the document or was she forced to sign and what does her signature on the document mean? Honorable Minister was it just a signature? I can confidently say that as a legal adviser to an individual or an entity it is your sole responsibility is to advise your client as to whether something is right or wrong legally. So what was the Lead Counsel’s role in that transaction? I and many Gambians want to know.

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What is so much fishy about the whole scenario is, the Legal Adviser to the President of the Republic The Gambia claims that, Secretary Kurang’s “actions fell well below the standard expected of a person entrusted with such important responsibilities”. Yet he went further to tell Gambians that “his position is one of neutrality between the parties to proceedings before the Commission”. Honorable Minister, referring to Secretary Kurang’s position as neutral indicates that he is acting as an arbiter between two or more people and that in all literal settings has affirmed that he cannot be partial thus impartiality is his role. Considering that, you, Honorable Minister, have put Mr Kurang in a dilemma if you are still telling Gambians that his action to denounce an abnormality, as I will call it, fell below standards.

Why is the commission calling Jammeh’s associates to the commission when we all know that the President has powers to give directives and all civil servants owe him allegiance and loyalty in promoting and supporting his agendas, couple with oaths of secrecy? If they should face the commission Mr. Chairman call the Lead Counsel as a witness to clear her dealings with Jammeh and her involvement in the selling of KBH. The Lead Counsel should tell us what her role was in SSHFC’s loan agreement that she drafted.
Furthermore, understanding the dealings of the Honorable Minister and his role in dismissing the Secretary to the Commission as the Legal Advisor of the state tell us The Gambians that as the legal advisor you can recommend for or against an action of a State or the President. Yet the Lead Counsel being the legal advisor to SSHFC could not condemn or advise the parties involved in the dealings of SSHFC, KBH and others. Hon. Minister, history is watching and the road map for the Gambia is clear and none can distort it. Therefore, is either you advise for a thorough investigation into this case, commission the commissioner or both of you stand a chance of facing another commission in 2021/2022.

Hmmm … was the Lead Counsel planted in the Commission to bury her name and other kangaroo legal actions of the law fraternity for the past 20 plus years? One can ask after seeing Kurang’s replacement and the recent appointment of Mambureh Njie.
Time shall tell and history shall narrate.
Honorable Minister, we cannot be silence and allow one family to form dynasty again in the Gambia after witnessing 22 years of the Jammeh dynasty. Looking at the petition, one thing that bring forth that suspicion of a dynasty is the involvement of The Lord Mayor (Son to the Lead Counsel) in the selling of the confiscated tractors and the Secretary General (Uncle to The Lord Mayor and Brother to the Lead Counsel) involvement in a response that we were expecting to see a more professional reaction rather calling and cautioning Secretary Kurang. “My sister” Secretary General referring to the Lead Counsel, in an official document from the highest office and the most senior custodian of the General Order, I doubt whether that will not threaten any Gambian of a foreseeable Drammeh-Bensouda Dynasty (The Triangle) in the new Gambia.

In conclusion, I will urge President Barrow to suspend the Lead Counsel to prevent her from tempering with facts that will distort the outcome of the Janneh Commission. I will also challenge the Chairman and all the other commissioners of the Janneh Commission to be brave enough to make the right decisions. The secretary being one of the main administrators of the Janneh Commission might be the main custodian of all the administrative procedures. He has better understanding of what take place in the commission. Axing him at the eleventh hour can jeopardize the outcome of the Janneh commission.
Finally, the Lead Counsel I will tell you that the best honorable people are those that resigned at the peak of an allegation.

The Gambia awaits your decision.
Reaffirming Allegiance to The Gambia.

Sarjo Touray
President, University of The Gambia Social Sciences and Humanities Students’ Association (SoSHSA)

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