By Madi Jobarteh
The tendency by our public officials to attempt to mislead, intimidate and suppress citizens in an attempt to deny human rights and freedoms must be condemned in full as disingenuous and unpatriotic.
We recall during the sit-down strike by our doctors a few months ago the Secretary General and Head of Civil Service attempted to threaten the doctors that as public officers they have no right to strike.
On the day of the #DafaDoy protest the former Vice President invited the protest organizers to her office with an attempt to sway them from holding the protest. She invited the full force of the national security apparatus in her office where state officials tried for hours to threaten and bribe these young patriots just to sway them from protesting, unsuccessfully.
Now we have seen the Minister of Justice of all people also using a GRTS talk show to engage in propaganda intended to deny a right and ridicule citizens who wish to exercise their rights. Mr. Tambadou should know that he is the very one who should have advised the Gambia Government to recognise and protect rights and not to seek to deny or delay them.
In the ‘Perspective’ talk show on Friday July 5 the Minister raised the ridiculous point that where there is dialogue going on then there is no need to protest. To him dialogue and protests are mutually exclusive or substitutes. He went further to say that protest in any case must be the last resort. And to add insult to injury he made the rhetorical question as to what was even too much in this country in the first place for which one as to protest. His condescending remarks about Alieu Bah were totally uncalled for and abusive!
I hereby put it to the Minister of Justice that the life of deprivation, poverty and poor, erratic and expensive public services in this country is enough. I hereby put it to the Minister of Justice that the corruption and patronage in this Government is enough. I hereby put it to the Minister of Justice that the incidence of police brutality in this country is enough.
I hereby put it to the Minister of Justice that the continuous disregard of the rule of law in this country is enough. Therefore the instances of abuse, corruption and poor services are too numerous that it is utterly disappointing that our Minister of Justice, instead of seeking to correct these bad situations would rather question citizens for expressing their disillusionment at these bad situations.
For example, it is one and half years yet the Gambia Government is unable to address the Bakoteh dumpsite. When the PIU officers were arrested after the Faraba incident, it took more than 72 hours before they were charged or released contrary took the rule of law. When Barrow appointed a vice president and ministers last, until today they are not sworn-in yet they continue to perform the functions in their new portfolio against the rule of law.
Several citizens including Mamma Kandeh, Fabakary Tombong Jatta, Dr. Ismaila Ceesay, Omar Touray and Fatou Badgie where arrested for merely expressing their opinions against public officials or the government. It is just few days of rain and all streets in our neighbourhoods are waterlogged and muddy. These are all instances that deserve the frustration of citizens.
The poor delivery of electricity and water supply; the poor quality of healthcare and education services; the bad roads in this country as well as the increasing cost of living, high taxes and high unemployment and limited opportunities for our youth; the exploitation of community natural resources by businesses at the expense of our people are all legitimate reasons for citizens to shout #DafaDoy! Enough is enough!
Since Barrow became president, we saw him publicly receive gifts from a businessman in Senegal. He also received 57 vehicles from an unknown entity. Barrow himself reported that Akon and some other benefactors electrified and built his home in Mankamang Kunda. These actions constitute corruption and patronage for which the Minister of Justice should have advised the President to return those gifts and refrain from receiving gifts anymore as stipulated by our Constitution.
Therefore how dare the Minister of Justice try to ridicule #DafaDoy and demonise Alieu Bah? If the Minister of Justice is having a very comfortable life with his family thanks to taxpayers’ monies, let him understand that the vast majority of Gambians and their families do not enjoy air conditioning in their offices, vehicles and homes as he does. So if the Gambia is comfortable for him because everything is well and good, I hereby put it to him that hundreds of thousands of Gambians do not enjoy such comfort in the Gambia. #DafaDoy!
Therefore the need to protest is a legitimate first course of action for Gambians every day. Protest is therefore not a matter of first or last action. Protest comes in different forms such as writing petitions, going to court, boycotting, sit-down strike, street protest, songs, drawings, or even putting on a particular kind and colour of T-shirt just to show one’s disagreement, disapproval and condemnation.
Protest can be directed at a government or business company or an NGO or even an individual or group. Protest can be targeted at a particular policy, decision, action, product or services. Hence there is no time when protest is right or wrong.
Let the Minister of Justice realise that he is the quality assurance mechanism of the Government to ensure that every policy, decision, action or services they deliver is in line with the rule of law and human rights. Therefore it is quite disappointing and frightening that our Minister of Justice would seek to rationalize protests with the intention to distort, mislead and deny that right. It is even more dishonest that our Minister of Justice would ridicule a fellow citizen with propaganda.
Alieu Bah may be a young boy with dreadlocks but Alieu Bah is one of the most patriotic sovereign citizens that the Gambia has ever produced. I have known Alieu Bah since he was a schoolboy as someone who has always stood up on the side of the people for truth and justice and to defend human rights and human dignity.
He has been a consistent and constant fighter for the mental liberation and unification of Africa. Well before most of our elites and big men and women of today know about standing up for country, Alieu Bah was there standing and shouting for the Gambia and Africa even without those big men and big women knowing it. Alieu Bah deserves only respect and encouragement and not ridicule and threats.