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Saturday, September 19, 2020

Letters: State of nation address utterly inadequate Part II

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Dear editor,

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Martin Luther King had said that riot is the language of the unheard. Let me therefore put it to President Adama Barrow that so long as his Government fails to listen, engage and solve the urgent life and death issues of citizens he will be forcing citizens to riot all the time.

Therefore, it is misleading to only condemn protests and riots yet fail to identify and acknowledge the issues and concerns that propel such protests and riots in the first place.

It is precisely because of Pres.

Barrow’s failure to identify and acknowledge the daily challenges of the country and speak to the urgency of those issues that his address became irrelevant and poor.

The State of the Nation address is a constitutional requirement.

In that address the Constitution demands the President to speak to the ‘condition of the Gambia, the policies of the Government and the administration of the State’.

Did the President fulfil this requirement in this speech? Certainly not. Rather Pres. Barrow chose to ignore the real conditions of the people and only focus on what he considers his achievements.

His speech was hugely inadequate, misleading and utterly irresponsible.

It is yet another great opportunity that the president lost in effectively leading this country.

To merely list ongoing projects and routine government functions is not what is expected of the State of the Nation Address! Therefore, not only has the President lost a unique opportunity but in addition he has also caused huge waste of public and private resources.

This is because both the Government and the independent media as well as individuals have spent so much financial and material resources as well as time to give the day what it deserved only to have an address that falls short of the standards of the day!
The civil, political, social and economic conditions in this country are dire.

Only a uninformed President will ignore or downplay these conditions which indeed pose a clear and present danger to the very existence of this country.

I was therefore painfully and disappointingly perplexed to hear the President claim that over the past year the only challenge his Government faced was the cancellation of the OIC Summit! Really?
Therefore, let me remind the President that foremost in the issues and concerns of the country is the blatant betrayal of the promise that the President himself made to Gambians.

Therefore, why did President Barrow fail to speak about the three-year agreement that he and his Coalition partners made to Gambians in 2016? Instead of addressing this matter which is severely polarising our citizenry and generating fears with potential instability in December, Barrow decided to be completely silent about it.

why?
Secondly the high incidence of corruption in his Government since he first took bribes by receiving 57 vehicles and houses in Senegal is a matter that require his explanation.

Furthermore, the incidence of numerous anonymous donors continues to undermine public trust and confidence in his leadership which also needs his attention. The lack of transparency and accountability for the various contracts signed by his Government, foremost among which is the ID cards contract to Semlex and the ongoing presence of a Chinese fishmeal factory along the coastline are also urgent matters that citizens need to hear their President address.

Until now the President has not spoken publicly about the fate of the millions of dalasi lodged into his wife’s foundation accounts, yet Barrow decides to ignore that as well.

The protests in Brikama as well as the gross failure and inefficiency of his Government to meet the social and economic aspirations of the people require the President to address those.

Above all the issue of diplomatic passports, number plates and growing polarisation in the society all require the President to speak about them.

These are among several other factors that are fuelling resentment and disillusionment in most Gambians. The incidence of wastage of public resources on foreign travels, ceremonies and procurement and maintenance of government vehicles coupled with high cost of living are the issues that one would expect the President to recognise, acknowledge and tell citizens how he will address them. But Pres. Barrow decided to ignore those issues completely! He has only succeeded to deliver a speech that failed to inspire, engage, provoke and build the confidence and unity of the people.

In effect Pres. Barrow was merely speaking to himself!
It is three years now and until today his Government has failed to put before the National Assembly any bills for the reform of various provisions in the Constitution and other laws since they changed that single provision about age limit in 2017.

It is indeed very late that the President would announce that in December 2019 he will put before NAMs the anti-corruption bill. Why was this bill not the first item put before Members since 2017? Is it that Barrow does not care about corruption such that he can make such a bill a non-issue?
I wish to call on NAMs to severely hold the President accountable for this poor, irrelevant and irresponsible address. Why is he coming at the latter part of the legislative year to address the Assembly? Why did he not come between January and March to lay out his policies and plans before the people’s house so that by the end of the year the National Assembly and citizens would be able to assess his performance.

That is what will demonstrate responsible and accountable leadership that is committed to the development of this country. But what the President has demonstrated is that he cares less, if any about the progress and future of the Gambia.

Madi Jobarteh
Boraba Village

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