Let me first of all appreciate the many Gambians who believe in me and the work I do to the point that they voted for me to be among the only four nominees for the ‘Man of the Year’ award.
For me it is a validation of my convictions and my work that this country deserves nothing other than the promotion and protection of each and every citizen’s human rights and dignity where the State upholds the values and standards of democracy and good governance. It is a recognition of my drive to ensure that transparency and accountability permeates throughout our State and society so that there will be social and economic justice for all. It is an appreciation for my contributions in holding the State as well as political parties, businesses and indeed every individual citizen including myself accountable.
I strongly hold that it is only through accountability can we ensure progress, peace and justice. Only accountability will make our public institutions efficient, effective and responsive to the needs and rights of citizens. It is only accountability that will make our leaders honest, open and productive. Without accountability no individual or society, organization or institution will progress. Therefore, I am utterly grateful to the individuals who nominated and voted for me. I shall remain eternally grateful. You have shown me that the path that I am on is the right path and rest assured I shall never veer off that path. Nyaato dorong!
On that note let me therefore congratulate Fatu Camara and her company, Fatu Network for this groundbreaking initiative. Indeed, private initiative has been at the root of development in any society at any time in history where freedom prevails. The envious Nobel Prize or the Grammy Award and the Golden Globe Awards as well as the Academy or Oscars Awards among other regional and international awards such as the Pulitzer Prize are all products of private initiatives. Hence this pioneering work by Fatu Network is in the right direction in recognizing and nurturing the culture of service, excellence and initiative within our society.
The Heroes Awards night was a great event. The ambiance was scintillating and electric! Period.
If I have to offer any suggestions for improvement, it will be to also have a special category for ‘Sports Personality of the Year’ which if need be can be separated into male and female. Also I would suggest future programs start pretty earlier with strict time management so that it does not spill over to the next day. Furthermore, I would suggest organizers invite various personalities from various sectors and regions of our State, business, academia and society to grace the occasion in order to make it truly national that is worthy of the weight and seriousness such events deserve.
Finally let me express my deep appreciation by congratulating Mr. Abubacarr Tambadou for clinging the maiden covetous award, ‘Man of the Year’. Indeed Mr. Tambadou has made significant contributions to our nation over the past three years as the Minister of Justice. Not only has he led the country to accede to major international conventions on human rights but he has also made the Gambia Government accept rulings of the ECOWAS Court on the violations meted out to our journalists and other citizens and making the Government to compensate them accordingly. The leadership he demonstrated in the creation of the Janneh Commission, the TRRC and the CRC as well as the unequivocal position he took about bringing the Despot Yaya Jammeh to justice as well as leading the efforts for the protection of the Rohingya of Myanmar before the world court are indeed efforts that worth commendation. For these and many other achievements I strongly hold that he deserves this award!
While I commend him profusely for this feat, I am sure he will also take this achievement as a further challenge to respond to issues in this country even more strongly and uncompromisingly. For example, it is necessary to highlight that while he led the defense of the Rohingya Muslims against their own government for persecuting them he will also bear in mind that in the Gambia we also have a minority Muslim population, the Ahmadiyya who also face persecution from the society and they need his protection.
Similarly, the incidence of sexual harassment against our girls and women is widespread in the private and public sectors as well as in the wider society. Until today suspected rapists are working in our public offices without being held accountable. Overall the prevention, detection and prosecution for sexual violence, early marriage and FGM remain hopelessly low because law enforcement is weak. This needs his attention.
Furthermore, the tide against democratic norms and human rights violations is increasing and it is perpetrated by the Government he serves. The recent illegal arrest and detention of Three Years Jotna leaders and the blatant closure of Home Digital and King FM and the harassment of their journalists are legitimate issues that the Minster of Justice should have stopped even before they happened.
The incidence of police brutality and corruption are widespread. There have been several investigations announced for several incidents of police brutality and corruption by State agencies and officials yet no report ever comes out hence no accountability. As the Minister of Justice, he is the chief law enforcement officer in this country hence he must enforce the law without hesitation. Therefore, this award must trigger him further to ensure that all those dormant investigations are reignited so that Gambians get to know the outcome and he goes further to prosecute those public officials and security officers found to be liable.
Finally let me express similar appreciation to the other nominees of this category, namely Mayor Talib Bensouda and TRRC Lead Counsel Essa Mbye Faal. These are two gentlemen who equally deserve my personal vote. This is a healthy competition in which everyone is a winner! With this nomination I hope they will also continue on the path they tread.
I wish to commend the Mayor for the efforts he is taking to transform Kanifing Municipality into a decent place to live so that our citizens enjoy their long denied right to quality, affordable and accessible social services. Similarly, I have no doubts that Essa Faal will leave no stone unturned and spare no person in ensuring that truth, justice and accountability takes place as we seek to heal the nation.
Gambians, if you had thought these awards were a joke please I beseech you to change your perception. If they have not inspired you until now please let them serve as an inspiration and encouragement to realize that service to humanity is the highest demonstration of self esteem, faith and patriotism. Therefore, let us all rise up to this opportunity to double up our efforts in serving our society, promoting excellence and celebrating each other. Thank you Fatu Network!