The bill which was assented into law by President Jammeh on 9 October, has prompted an international outcry from human right groups and the US government.
The PPP leader said it is “serious hypocrisy” for gays to be singled out and punished on moral and religious ground in a country where people are fornicating and worshipping idols which, he argued, are equally forbidden in Islam.
OJ said the secular constitution of The Gambia has provided protection for everyone regardless of belief as long as it does not encroach on the rights of others.
“The life sentence law against the gay people is wrong and it should be repealed immediately. I would rather leave things for God to decide and not me as He is the maker of every human being. I don’t think it is appropriate us to send someone to life imprisonment because we don’t like them or what they do. And I am telling Jammeh and the Gambian people that if we want to implement shari-ah law in this country, it is illegal, uncalled for and unconstitutional because this country is not an Islamic state but a secular state. Even those who go to the bush to adore their idols have the right to adore them in this country. I don’t see any reason why Yahya Jammeh is making so much noise about gays in The Gambia.
“The gays should have their rights respected as human beings. I am not saying that I support gays. It is not every time that what you support or like will happen. That is the world; every day you see things that you don’t like but who makes you the referee to stand in the place of Allah and punish them? There was no law in this country before Yahya Jammeh that said that gays should be prosecuted and still people lived in peace and I have never heard of any situation in any community in this country, before 1994, where gay and straight (normal people) have problems. We are not godlier than the Americans and the British; anybody who says that is lying. With all Jammeh’s condemnation of the European Union, all his major road projects are being funded by the EU.
“To start campaigning against gays is promoting homosexulaity in The Gambia which is not a problem in this country and has never been a problem. But people have to know that lesbianism and homosexuality are as old as the human race and nobody in the world can eradicate it. Just like fornication, people are doing things that all religions condemn particularly Islam but the requirements and the punishments that the Qur’an says should be meted out to them are never done. There are people here who have wives and kids but have got children outside their marriages and this is punishable by death in Islam. But how many people in this country have been jailed or beaten for having children outside marriage?
“So this whole issue about gays is to divert people’s attention from pressing issues particularly about the serious failures and deficiencies of the Jammeh regime. This is serious hypocrisy because we have seen women here wrestling with men and that is seriously condemned by the Qur’an and why are people not talking about that? We have seen males and females who are not married being gathered in Kanilai which is also barred under shari-ah law. The Gambia is not an Islamic state; we are a secular state where every religion should have the same freedom like any other religion. People should be allowed under the secular constitution to perform, respect or be a party to any religion of their will. This has nothing to do with the government. I think we should tell Yahya Jammeh to provide people with food for them to have decent meals because a bag of rice is now not affordable to the majority of the Gambian population,” he said.
OJ also alleged that the recent protest held in Banjul against gay rights was a “gathering funded and supported by the government in order to promote the agenda of Yahya Jammeh and not the Gambian people. The Gambian people are not interested in that protest; they are more interested in pressing issues of their lives. The hunger and starvation that has gripped this country since 1994 is historic. Just recently the UNDP has said that over 200,000 Gambians are in dire need of food aid and 80,000 of whom are suffering from malnutrition and 30,000 of the 80,000 are children who are suffering from acute malnutrition. That is what should be the agenda of Yahya Jammeh and not marching here to talk about gays.”]]>