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Saturday, June 12, 2021

Defense Minister under fire over ‘insensitive’ comments about Jammeh victims

By Alagie Manneh

Defense minister Sheikh Omar Faye has received condemnation for remarks he made during a Facebook Live appearance on For the People by the People Show.

Mr Faye, a former Jammeh ambassador and minister, said “let us suck it up and move on” in response to a question on how he intends to reconcile his past unalloyed defense of the Jammeh regime in light of the revelations today.

“Somebody has to do the job. Let us suck it up. Let us understand we made mistakes. Let us stop crying over spilled milk. Let us look for ways out, let us move on. This is my philosophy today,” Mr Faye told the popular show Monday.

Earlier on in the show, the minister admitted to “mistakes” of the former government and added that he was now ready to learn from those misfortunes. 

“I was ambassador, I was minister of youth and sports, I was director of press and public relations, I was deputy head of mission in Mauritania, just name it but we have made mistakes. I am ready to learn from those mistakes and I think together we should map out the way forward and we can discuss it. I am more than happy to open and talk about it but I want to build up on the new, my friend. This is my philosophy.”

When asked what to say to the victims who cannot ‘suck it up’, he replied: “No. We all made mistakes. Which victims? The TRRC is going on, my friend.”

Don’t you think you owe the Gambian people that apology for promoting a regime that was killing Gambians, co-host Coach Pa Samba Jow asked the minister. 

“For serving my country? That was the government of the day, my friend,” a defiant minister Faye replied. 

Calls for resignation

Many people, including his critics, accused him of disparaging the victims of Jammeh and for being unremorseful for his aiding and abetting of the dictatorial regime.

The comments also enraged the Victims Centre, who are now calling for his immediate resignation.

“We want him to immediately resign as minister of Defense. He is not fit to be minister or to serve in any capacity in government,” Sheriff Kijera, the chairman of the centre told The Standard.

He added that if minister Faye refuses to resign, the Centre will shift its focus on the president to sack him.

Following the wide spread condemnation of Faye’s remarks, his ministry issued a statement to ‘clarify’ the comments.

In it, the ministry claimed to have been “working very closely with these victims” and with the TRRC to bring “closure to their plight”.

But a former lead investigator of the Truth Commission, writing on his Facebook page, said the ministry’s statement was a cock and bull story.

“He [Minister Faye] is lying [about his ministry working with the TRRC],” Alagie Saidy Barrow said. “Ask Omar Faye how many times he ever visited the TRRC or the victims centre to discuss the welfare of his victims! General Drammeh visited the victims centre; Omar Faye is too busy to care.”

Outspoken critic Madi Jobarteh described the minister’s comments as a “security threat”.

“Sheikh Omar Faye had the audacity to face Gambians and insult them only to rush to his ministry to issue an equally insulting press statement as a cover up! Shame,” Mr Jobarteh said on Facebook. “This is a very nonsensical statement that is unbecoming of a Defense Minister. Utterly insulting and criminal for anyone to say ‘suck it up’ about the horrible experiences meted to our people.

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