By Madi Jobarteh
I hereby totally and unreservedly reject the false press release issued by the Barrow Government about the source, amount, use and reason for the suspicious D11.2 million. I demand that the Speaker of the National Assembly summon the Vice President as per Section 77(3) of the Constitution before the whole house to explain these acts of bribery and corruption that has become hugely prevalent in this government.
The National Assembly must realise that they are the true Governors of the Gambia and therefore they ultimately take responsibility for the lawful and unlawful decisions and actions of the president.
The National Assembly’s primary function is to make laws and then monitor the Executive as they enforce those laws. Hence the National Assembly bears responsibility to ensure that the President is seen to be acting according to law. Receiving gifts and then declaring donors anonymous is a violation of the law and the norms of good governance for which the National Assembly must not sit by to watch just like that.
The fact that the so-called philanthropist is anonymous immediately raises issues of corruption, criminality and abuse of power. Is it in fact true that this is a donation and not public wealth stolen by the president to patronize pilgrims? Could this so-called philanthropist not be a drug dealer or arms trader or a criminal who is compromising the president or buying his or her way into our country to engage in nefarious activities?
How do we ascertain that the ‘philanthropist’ gave only 11.2 million dalasi and not more or less? If this so-called philanthropist is indeed genuine why would he or she remain anonymous? Or is it that he or she is a celebrated international criminal such that the Government did not want to disclose the identity.
For these and many questions the National Assembly must step up to ensure transparency and accountability and upholding the reputation of the Gambia and the right of citizens to know.
First it was a Senegalese businessman who donated houses to Barrow and he never declared it officially as required by the Constitution. Then there were 57 vehicles also donated, anonymously. Then Barrow himself acknowledged that friends and Akon built houses for him in Mankamang Kunda and electrified his home. Now we have 11.2 million dalasi donated to the president, again anonymous! These are what we know publicly for the moment.
Yet Barrow and his team cannot realise that they are blatantly accepting bribes and engaging in corrupt practices contrary to the law. When will Barrow realise that he is not a private man sitting in Mankamang Kunda but an elected public official at State House serving as the Head of State of a republic? When will Barrow realise that nothing must go into his hand or leave his hands on his own whims and caprices?
Everything that Barrow says or does or receives or gives out must be guided by law, processes and institutions for which the Gambian People have a right to know at the right time and in full. None of these so-called donations constitute a national security issue such that they cannot be disclosed publicly at the right time. Yet Barrow chose to keep mute over them but only gives scanty information that he feels like giving. The National Assembly must act!
This Government press release is nothing but an insult to the dignity of citizens. It is clearly a false narrative that is premised on the attitude that Gambians are fools and they can be fed with any garbage regardless. When governments are turning dictatorial they start with fabricating information to mislead their citizens. It is when there are no more room for lying and cooking up stories that they start to engage in acts of violence and arbitrariness against citizens. Gambians must wake up.
This statement cannot be said to come a government that is committed to the fight against patronage and corruption. No self-respecting president and government dare issue such an insulting statement to its citizens unless if that president and his government perceive citizens to be zombies. This statement is indeed nothing, but a bunch of disrespect splashed on the faces of Gambians.
Elected officials and public servants working in the Gambia Government must be told that they own neither the Gambia Government nor the Republic of the Gambia. It is the people who own the Gambia Government and the Republic of the Gambia. Elected officials and public servants are only caretakers of the Government on behalf of the true owners, the Almighty People. Hence elected officials and public servants have a duty to inform the sovereign owners of the Gambia Government and the Republic what they do on our behalf and in our name.
The idea that anonymous persons and entities can approach our president and deliver goods without being disclosed to citizens is in itself a direct threat to national security. It clearly shows that there is self-serving interest both on the part of the so-called donor and the recipient who is none other than the president. Two years after Dictatorship was booted out of this country one cannot fathom how dictatorial practices could still persist in this society!
The Gambia Government is not a private property or a criminal gang. The president is not a private person on a private errand. Whatever our president does must be in line with the law. The Gambia Constitution does not have any provision in any way that grants the president the authority to receive gifts from anyone. Rather the Constitution is categorical that public servants must not receive gifts except for customary reasons such as ‘njansa’ in our social ceremonies. Hence any butut or mango fruit that the president receives as gift from any other person or entity must be told to the citizens to know.
Chief Servant Barrow must be told that his legacy is in his hands. His story is in his hands. However way he behaves will determine the quality of that legacy and the chapters of that history. It was with much hope and high expectations that Gambians voted for him on 1st December 2016. While one may not expect miracles the least we expected however is to not see more of APRC in the form of blunt, direct and open acts of corruption and gross inefficiency.
At the minimum we expected Barrow to proclaim and cling onto accountability as the means to ensure real system change. It is however quite unfortunate that Barrow does not wish to chart his own path upwards but rather wish to follow the downward paths of the erstwhile governments of PPP and, worse off, APRC! This is indeed a tragedy of enormous proportions!