By Omar Bah
GMC leader Mai Fatty and UDP surrogate Momodou Sabally have expressed their strong disagreement with President Barrow over his claims that the increase in crime in the country is a result of the prevailing democracy.
In an address to the nation on Monday, Mr Barrow said because of the newfound democracy some individuals and groups are taking advantage to engage in violent-related crimes, such as illegal possession of arms, robbery, burglary, rape and various types of assaults.
But Fatty said the surge in crime, particularly violent crimes, has nothing to do with the expansive enjoyment of political freedom.
“It has everything to do with governance deficit, high unemployment, hopelessness among the youth, misplaced priorities and neglect of the basic needs of the Gambia Police Force and other internal security agencies. Linking political freedom to violent crime rates, demonstrates a fundamental misunderstanding of the underlying causes. That is a huge problem.
“We had hoped for concrete action plans, with specific details as urgent intervention variables, to directly tackle this emergency head on. It did not come; instead what came was very abstract and did not even address the challenge. That too is a huge problem. Tackling such an emergency calls for decisive leadership.”
For his part, Momodou Sabally said the president’s speech “came in too late and its content are too little as well”.
“Given the enormity of our national security nightmare, one would have expected a comprehensive statement with concrete action points that would reassure our vulnerable citizens, jittery tourists and concerned development partners. But Barrow’s statement was a mere wish list bereft of key reassurances,” he said.
He said there was “no mention of the cocaine case that is purportedly still under investigation; the issue of mass importation of guns was not a critical matter too. And we all know that guns and drugs are a combustible mixture if found in a society with high youth unemployment rates”.
“But what is actually worrisome and worth challenging is President Barrow’s brazen and ominous announcement that he has put the National Guard Battalion on standby to be called upon anytime soon. With the known history of the assignment of police duties to the national guard and the past abuses of excessive military interference in internal security matters, Barrow’s intention of calling up the national guard should not go unchallenged,” he added.
Sabally said Mr Barrow needs to tell Gambians about the progress regarding his national security sector reform agenda; progress on the investigation of the cocaine case; how much additional resources would be allocated to strengthen the operational capacity of the Gambia Police Force and reassurance of potential tourists and foreign investors.