By Tabora Bojang
The Speaker of the Parliament of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Dr. Sidie Mohamed Tunis, who is on pre-election fact-finding mission in Banjul, has said the regional parliament is working very hard to ensure all processes that lead to free, fair and transparent election are observed in The Gambia as the country heads to the polls in December.
Speaker Tunis, who is also a member of the Sierra Leone parliament, made this revelation during a press briefing at the National Assembly yesterday where he held a presentation about the findings of his week-long mission in the country.
He had engagements with key stakeholders involved in the Gambian elections, including the IEC, political parties and Civil Society.
According to Dr. Tunis, the vision of the Ecowas parliament which represents over 300 million people is to not only ensure member states abide by the democratic principles of free and fair elections but also ensure the election is “devoid of any harassment” as well as peaceful democratic transition.
“As parliamentarians our business is to maintain democracy, to ensure there is peace and security in this country and that the voices of the people are heard through the ballot box in a free, fair and transparent manner. For now, we [Ecowas parliament] are working very hard to ensure processes that lead to free and fair elections are observed because if those processes are faulted, trust me, there is no way we are going to have free and fair elections,” he said.
Dr. Tunis, who served as a majority whip under the All Peoples Congress-led government of Sierra Leone, called on fellow lawmakers to ensure all impediments to franchise are “cleared.”
According to Dr. Tunis, one of the issues that was brought to their attention is that of access to the media.
“Political parties are complaining that the media, especially the public broadcaster [GRTS] is not covering their activities. These are issues I believe I have already discussed with our ambassador that as soon as possible she will begin work on them. That is our responsibility.”
He said another concern raised by the political parties is the issue of security.
“But I am very pleased to announce that in my meeting with the CSOs, they informed me there has already been a commitment from the Gambia Police Force to ensure that it provides full security to the political party leaders and political party offices. A lot of people have also talked about the competency of the IEC but from my discussions with them, I think they are very ready for this election.”
The Speaker also called on politicians to ensure their utterances are guarded and devoid of sparking chaos among supporters.
“Every election has its own peculiar environment and tensions, but it is our responsibility to appeal to the political leaders that their utterances must be guarded, and in line with peace and security of this state. You cannot be on a podium and make statements that will create hate among citizenry that will lead to the breakdown of law and order.”