By Aisha Tamba
Mama Fatima Singhateh, the last of former president Jammeh’s long list of attorney generals, yesterday told the truth commission that Jammeh’s refusal to accept the 2016 election result was an expression of his right.
During a heated argument with the counsel over the impasse that ensured after Jammeh refused to concede defeat, Singhateh responded: “I am saying yes, the president lost the election and conceded and then changed his mind triggered by the declaration by IEC of two conflicting election results. What we all knew was when his mandate expired, he would have to step down and his mandate would have expired only after the 19th of January and so he refused or reversed his decision to concede on the 9th December. So until the 19th of January, his refusal was lawful,” the former justice minister said.
She denied having any executive directives from Jammeh in matters of prosecution during her tenure.
She further argued that the president is vested with powers to address issues with national concern “be it economic, security interest or public interest, so everything has to be seen in the context of that executive directive. And to go further, my role as attorney general and principal legal adviser is to provide advice to the government, which is headed by the president and the cabinet and so whether the advices are accepted, that is not within my control. That is the fact and as lawyers we know this; we act on instructions, we give advice, we have no control whether the client accepts the advice or not. Every action I took was done in accordance with the laws of The Gambia,” she noted.
On the UDP demonstrations of April 2016, the former justice minister said the act that the UDP demonstrators committed was against the laws of the country and she also denied receiving executive directives from Jammeh to prosecute and pay special attention to the matter, including denying them bail. “That is not within my knowledge because I know I did not interfere with the judiciary,” she said.
Mama Singhateh further denied ordering that if the Bar Association members released a statement regarding the matter, they would be arrested. “That is completely and utterly false and outrageous; it’s absurd. I don’t have the power to arrest someone. That is even not my language and I will be happy to hear who said that since it’s a false allegation against me.”
On the controversial tax commission, Singhateh denied that the commission, which was established in 2011 targeted lawyers and stained businesses even though none of Jammeh’s businesses was summoned to the commission.
She said she advised Jammeh that for there to be an Islamic state, there should be a referendum. “Even though I am the principal legal adviser, the president has other advisers including religious advisers; so if my advice as a lawyer is in conflict with the religious advisers, knowing that this is what he wants, there is no way he would accept my advice,” she said.