J Darbo extols ‘excellent’ White Paper

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By Alagie Manneh

Top lawyer Lamin J Darbo yesterday heaped praise on the Barrow administration for producing an “excellent” White Paper on the recommendations of the TRRC.

The government released the White Paper at a public event yesterday and vowed to implement almost entirely recommendations of the TRRC, leading the top lawyer to heap praise on the Barrow administration.

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“The White Paper is very, very good,” J Darbo said. “A great number of statements were taken and about 392 witnesses testified, majority of them during the public hearing. So, yes, it [the White Paper] is an excellent document.”

Of the 265 recommendations of the truth commission, the government rejected only two. While many have described that as selective justice, Mr Darbo called it “logical”.

“The government position is legally correct if only because the alleged wrongs of NIA DG Ousman Sowe occurred outside the outer limits of the TRRC mandate.”

“In the language of the law,” he argues, “TRRC has no jurisdiction to decide the matter of Ousman Sowe”.

In the past, specific actions of the state have led many Gambians to believe that the recommendations of the TRRC may not be implemented, however, Mr Darbo said the decision to almost entirely honour the recommendations did not surprise him.

“This is a different set of circumstances, really. Whatever the TRRC was mandated to investigate, I believe and understand that many of those things came at a surprise. I wrote an article. And Dr Baba Galleh Jallow also wrote an article about the shadow state. There was a normal government; and then there was also the state that was operating below the radar. And that state that was operating below the radar probably included some ministers, [and] some senior government personnel, but some of the ministers I spoke to, years ago, told me they didn’t know these things were happening in the country… obviously, there was a shadow state operating. You could say, arguably, that you don’t know anything about it or you were not part of it, but to say that you’ve not heard about it, no, I don’t think that is credible,” he stated.

He then explained why accountability is important for the Jammeh-era crimes.

“It is like they said, ‘Never Again’, but ‘Never Again’ is rooted in governance as well. You have to look at the governance structure. Government must be held accountable, and government must accept that without accountability, impunity will continue. There must be accountability. If government rejects that, then obviously, we may not go back to full scale Jammehism, but it is indeed possible for some violations to continue and that will negatively impact on our governance.”

The top lawyer said sedition should not be maintained in Gambian laws, submitting that its continuous existence is not about protecting state secrets.

“When they want to protect government secrets, you can do that in a different way, but the way sedition is actually in the criminal code, it’s not about protecting secrets; it’s about insulting public figures like for example the president, like insulting the judiciary. All of those are categorised as seditious offenses. I don’t think that makes any sense. Sedition needs to come out entirely.”