By Omar Bah
The Independent Electoral Commission has declined to comment on calls by Right 2 Know Coalition-Gambia, a civil society group, for it to suspend the governing National Peoples Party for failing to hold a congress within two years as required by the Elections Act.
In 2019, the IEC suspended the National Convention Party because it could not hold a united congress under section 127 of the Elections Act.
The group, which consists of human rights activists, had therefore demanded the IEC to explain why it has turned “a blind eye to a clear violation of the Elections Amendment Act by the NPP.” They said the NPP was registered and established as a bona fide political party on 31 December 2019, under the hand and stamp of approval of the IEC but had failed to hold a congress as required by law.
But when contacted for comments, the IEC chief electoral officer, Samboujang Njie, not only refused to comment on the matter but also picked a quarrel with us. He said: “I will not talk on this matter because the last time you called our spokesperson who granted you an interview but that did not satisfy you and so you decided to call the chairman because you were not comfortable with the reaction you get from the spokesperson. You don’t work like that because anything anyone of us talks to you about here, we have already discussed it among ourselves. So being a journalist doesn’t mean people should talk to you. We have a right not to respond. So I am not talking to you on this matter.”
Samboujang is referring to an occasion when The Standard called IEC chairman on UDP’s allegations against the commission after we were unsatisfied with the response of the electoral body’s spokesperson, Pa Makan Khan.
Minister Sillah’s reaction
Meanwhile, while the NPP as a party has not made any official response to the issue, Information Minister Ebrima Sillah yesterday said on Coffee Time with Peter Gomez on West Coast Radio that NPP is spiritedly engaged on winning the majority of the National Assembly seats and they would not want to be distracted by Jeggan Grey Johnson and his team. “When holding people accountable, which is normal in a democracy, you should do it with discipline but when you are writing a position paper and you are calling people lackeys and all kind of names associated with those people, you don’t expect them to treat you with respect and hope that they will take note of that because they are nobody’s children here. When we were doing this struggle here, the likes of Jeggan were nowhere to be found. I am surprised people like DUGA, very credible people, are allowing themselves to be in cohort with some of these people who were nowhere to be found even when we caged the lion in this country. They would only come to Dakar and whenever the lion roars, they would run away. These people were nowhere to be found when we were doing this struggle, so we have got our democracy. There is no perfect democracy anywhere. I have no problem with anybody caricaturing me but when writing in my capacity as a minister, at least if you want me to reply to you with respect, write to me with respect. These are people who have shown allegiance to the opposition,” Sillah told West Coast Radio.
Contacted for comment on the Right 2 Know Coalition’s position, the UDP spokesperson Almamy Taal said the IEC has disregarded anything they feel uninterested to them and they are getting away with it.
“In fact, Jeggan Grey Johnson and his colleagues had secured a ruling against the IEC from the Supreme Court on diaspora voting but they are refusing to enforce it because they choose to behave as they are above the law. So as Gambians, we should all be outraged that the Supreme Court had made a determination on an issue and the IEC has chosen not to comply with it,” Mr Taal said.
“If the IEC could ignore a court’s determination, how can political parties have any influence on the IEC in this context? Even the courts are only effective when other interests are affected, not the interest of the government or political parties,” he said. Taal said people will take complaints to the IEC and they will do nothing about it.
“The whole system called IEC is what needs to be profoundly reviewed because without that we will continue to have a lot of problems,” he said.