There is no doubt that the Gambians in the diaspora played a pivotal role in ousting the former president. When the dictator dug his heels in and refused to listen to reason, our Gambian brothers and sisters in the diaspora spoke out. They wrote, approached foreign governments, contributed financially to ensure that the country is free from the yoke of dictatorship.
Today, as we are happy to claim to be a democracy, we must not forget the huge role they played. We must ensure that they are enfranchised and given back the rights which were seized from them by the former government. Most of these people are in the diaspora not by choice but because they were forced to flee the country either due to threats to their lives, or due to the economic woes caused by the bad policies of the previous government. Thus, it is high time we gave them their due.
Furthermore, enfranchising the diaspora should not just be about enabling them to vote, but also enabling them have a voice in the way things are run in their home country. We must, in the next National Assembly Elections, create a seat or two for the Gambians in the diaspora in the Parliament.
Mr President, around the world, countries have given their citizens the right to vote. Take Senegal for example, just a few days ago, we saw the Senegalese nationals in The Gambia actively campaigning for the national assembly elections in their country. They campaigned and, on the day of the elections, they went out and cast their votes thus fulfilling their civic duty. This enabled them exercise their franchise even though they are not home.
Our brothers and sisters in the diaspora are as passionate about their country as anyone of us here at home. They have taken an active part in the political affairs of the state and they continue to do so. It is only fair that they are given the chance to be more active in our democracy.
Thus, it would be advisable for your government to set up a committee to look into ways and manners to make this happen. Certainly, it is complex but can be done as we have seen other countries do it. We need the expertise and experience of those Gambians in order to move forward. All Gambians are equal in the eyes of the law. Therefore, being away should not prevent a person from exercising his or her franchise.
Have a good day Mr President.