‘Hamat’s comments cannot cause diplomatic row’

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By Omar Bah

Almamy Fanding Taal, a prominent legal luminary and political commentator has weighed in on the intense controversy over Tourism minister Hamat Bah’s anti-Senegal remarks.
Speaking on GRTS radio’s ‘This Morning’ programme, Taal said the relationship between The Gambia and Senegal is special and too important to be significantly affected by remarks made by the tourism minister.
“Because if you can remember President Jammeh used to make it a hobby to attack the Senegalese leaders and their institutions but that never really affected the very warm cordial relationship between the people of Senegal and the Gambia. So really this thing must be conceptualized as just one minister or one person in the Coalition who cannot be speaking for The Gambia,” he observed.

He continued: “The rest of the Coalition should tell that person ‘look we are going to apologise as you cannot be speaking like this when we are trying to build a reputation and finding our place into the international community after 22-years of dictatorship’ because there is no excuse for making such errors.”
On what impact the tourism minister’s comments may have on the country’s foreign policy, Mr Taal said: “This is clearly a new situation. Making statements in government is not the same thing as making statements as either a political commentator or a political opposition. Now you are responsible. You are in-charge. Now you should act like that,” he said.

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Mr Taal said people in The Gambia have developed the habits of talking out all our problems without doing anything about them. “This is what we need to change. Because our politicians think that the more you talk the more you have solved the problem. This is not the case. We need our politicians to be measured, to be very clear as to what needs to be done and try to do that,” he said.

On what other steps government should take apart from the apology to remedy the situation, Mr Taal said: “Well, I am not in government and I would be the first one not to start trying to suggest codes of action. I think an apology is the way to go. But I think again internally within the Coalition itself there is a need for a very clear line coming from the chief executive telling all that when you are talking politics please make sure that you pick the foreign policy of the Gambia out of it and make sure that you don’t cause offence to our neighbors or any of our friends.

“Because you cannot solve a problem just by one person saying one thing and then the ministry of foreign affairs apologising for it, you have to solve it internally. We cannot accept any of our ministers to just go to any place and talk as they like,” he concluded.
Meanwhile the self-styled opposition All Peoples Party APP leader Omar Beyai said minister Bah should resign or be sacked over his remarks. He said relations with Senegal are important and strategic to the Gambia and the authorities must send a clear message that Mr Bah is not speaking for the Gambia or the government.

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