By Alagie Manneh
President Adama Barrow has used his eid-ul-fitr speech to address heightened security concerns and public safety in the country.
He described the “disturbing” reports of domestic violence in communities, including the recent spate of stories of criminal acts of drug abuse, theft and destruction of property and other forms of crimes as regrettable.
Over the past few years, and in recent times, crime rates have increased in The Gambia with reports of wanton homicides, burglary and rape.
In a televised speech last week, the president warned the crimes pose a threat to peace and stability, while singling out the Sanyang uprising of March as a case in point.
“It is alarming that Gambian youths can take the law into their own hands to the extent of destroying a police station, looting businesses and displacing law-abiding persons who had amicably integrated themselves into the Gambian community,” he said. “The impact of that incident affected the lives of a whole community. It dislodged people who had investments in the country and were peacefully earning their livelihoods in the area.”
He acknowledged that crimes that were novel to the country such as kidnapping and daylight robbery, have become common news headlines.
He said there are judicial means of expressing our views or the taking of action against any offence or perceived injustice, arguing they are meant to be followed.
He said: “Despite the dark period of our history, The Gambia is known for peace and stability. Gambians are recognised as peace-loving, tolerant and accommodating people who coexist peacefully. This is why the country earned the accolade ‘The Smiling Coast’.”
The president also said his government has, for the past four years, “consistently promoted” freedom and other democratic values that would “bring back our smiles in a peaceful and stable environment”, and accused “some people” of taking these values for granted.
“Disregard for the rule of law is disruptive,” he warned, while urging all citizens and residents of the country to act responsibly to advance peace and development. “The Government is determined to fight crime in accordance with the law. To succeed, everyone has to support the Gambia Police Force to accomplish their Operation Zero Crime.”
The president also used the message to praise his administration for the recent salary increment for civil servants and pensioners.
Elaborating on his government’s performance, the president reported the progress of his infrastructure projects in the country as “quite satisfactory”.
“Our objective is to support the farming community so that agriculture is transformed from subsistence farming to agric-business. This is an effective way to address the price hikes of essential commodities and avert food insufficiency,” he said.
On the looming December polls, President Barrow called for “respect” for processes governing election.