By Omar Bah
The Minister of Justice, Abubacarr Tambadou has used his monthly press conference to address recent issues pertinent to his ministry, including the arrest of UTG lecturer Dr Ismaila Ceesay, the ID card contract and the plight of victims of Jammeh.
According to the Minister, the invitation by police for questioning does not amount to any violation of the right of Dr Ceesay.
“The Police have a duty to investigate if they have reason to believe that a crime was committed.
But I have to say that there are a lot of positives to take from the whole incident, including the fact that civil society was galvanized. This is good for our nascent democracy. It shows vigilance and is a welcome development,” he said.
Tambadou further said: “I was informed that Dr Ceesay was invited to the Police and that he responded to the invitation by driving in his own car to the Police Station. I am further informed that when he was requested to go home, he refused to leave the Station. This was clearly not a wise decision on his part.”
“In our quest for a new Gambia where respect for fundamental human rights is sacrosanct, we must understand that the State also has responsibilities to maintain law and order,” he said.
Minister Tambadou further emphasised that it is not the role of civil society to determine what constitutes a crime or a violation of a right to freedom of expression.
“It is ultimately the responsibility of our courts to determine these matters. This is how democratic systems all over the world function. I say this because some of the statements made in connection with Dr Ceesay’s matter are unjustified,” he added.
He said no matter how strongly one feels about an issue, “We must always exercise caution and be measured in our response. In other words, let us avoid rushing to judgment on these critical issues and allow due process to take its proper course. The alternative is a risk of the breakdown of law and order. Our democracy is in progress and challenges of governance will continue as we seek to build strong foundations.”
Addressing the victims of the past regime, the Justice Minister said the Coalition government will only succeed if they avoid another victims’ centre.
“We want to be successful but our success is not going to be measured by the fact that the commission was established and people have come and testified and recommendation are made and published. Our success will depend ultimately on the fact that what happened in the past 22 years never happens again and that is the priority of this government,” he said.
Biometric ID Cards
Responding to comments made by the former Interior minister Mai Fatty that government holds a liability of 100 Million dollars in the Semlex deal, Minister Tambadou said there is no specific amount stated in the contract between the government and Semlex.
“It only makes reference to cost and in case of loss of profit in the event they should quit. It is on the basis of that premium in the contract that Semlex has written to government stating that the legal liability for the government may amount up to 100 Million dollars, so this is Semlex’s claim. It is not necessarily the average amount as at this point we do not know how much it maybe but as far as records are concerned, that was the claim from Semlex,” he said.
“I did not hold a different view at the time with my counterpart at Interior. What I was focusing on is the fact that we need to take our time to review the matter and not jump onto conclusions because both Semlex and Pristine Consulting at the time were claiming that they still have existing contracts with government and the Ministry of Health respectively. These are legal matters and you cannot jump into conclusion with legal matters. We wanted to come to a conclusion that we can justify,” he said.
He added: “We also wanted to provide Pristine Consulting, a Gambian owned company an opportunity to also compete and that was the reason why we suggested for some strategic legal reasons. I cannot go any further than that.”
On the Semlex bribery allegation Mr Tambadou said: “I keep saying make sure that when you make allegations like that against government officials, please bring proof. People have worked hard over the years to establish their reputation and integrity. People must not just throw words out there that may potentially damage other people’s reputation without proof. It is unfair.”
On the controversies regarding Semlex, Mr Tambadou said the government is concern about those controversies particularly their activities in Africa, “And that is why as a precautionary measure, we have reached out to the Belgium authorities to request them to share with us recommendation about their investigations into the activities of Semlex.”