UDP spokesman says nature of bill makes Jammeh eligible
By Omar Bah
The spokesperson of the opposition United Democratic Party has said the National Assembly was misled by the Justice Minister on the controversial former presidents’ bill which was passed with majority of the opposition members walking out.
Speaking to The Standard, Almamy Fanding Taal also said though Jammeh’s crimes must effectively deny him any post-presidential largesse, this bill does not prohibit him from benefiting.
“The Justice Minister didn’t rely on the laws of this country. In other countries, his action will be considered misleading the parliament. You cannot go to the National Assembly as the chief legal adviser of the government and say things on a hypothetical basis or on a hooch,” he said.
Mr Taal, a lawyer and former judge of the high court, said a relevant question to ask is whether Jammeh will benefit under the enhanced law going by the bill as drafted.
“The answer is a resounding yes. Jammeh is entitled to all these benefits as a former president. Modern legislatures have evolved the good governance practice of public consultations with key stakeholders before legislation is made by carving out time for comments and recommendations from the public,” he said.
The UDP spokesman said everyone knows Jammeh has been indicted by the Commission of Inquiry and the TRRC.
“A US court relied on the Janneh Commission report to forfeit his property, but unless and until you are before a court and there is a bill of indictment saying that you are accused of so and so, your rights are preserved under all the laws, especially in a new law that has all these facts before it and doesn’t indict them into its own definition. I think this is very indigenous. I think the NAMs have been taken for a ride. Of course, we don’t want this to be a political football, but ministers, the president, and the vice president cannot mislead the public, especially when issues like this are discussed in parliament,” he added.
“So, Jammeh is the only living former president, and this law is for him. If it was not, why the need for a certificate of urgency?” he argued.
Taal argued that the minority caucus of the National Assembly should consider making recommendations along this line for better laws.
“Merely reacting to the agenda of the executive branch of the government, no matter how well articulated, is not a substitute for having a clear vision and the strategic thinking necessary for the transformation of our nation,” he stated.
He added that the minority caucus should consider adopting innovative strategies in the National Assembly based on the Standing Orders, the Constitution, and other laws of The Gambia.
“And where these are not adequate or helpful to that end, they should seek to amend them with a view to strengthening democratic governance and ensuring that the National Assembly has more autonomy of action and initiative, not just a rubber stamp House and talk shop,” he said.
Taal said Jammeh must pay for his crimes.
“The country’s transitional justice process is a bundle of contradictions because while a lot of time and money are being expended to ensure fair trials of Jammeh-era crimes, at the same time, the government is paving the way for Jammeh’s return to national respectability by augmenting the terms and benefits of former presidents. It is an open secret that the Gambia has only one living past president whose heinous crimes and gross human rights violations have been laid bare by the TRRC.”, Taal said.
On the former president’s party, the APRC, Taal said the party is divided and cannot stand. “The Speaker of the National Assembly is the official leader of one faction, alongside his deputy, the two played significant roles in plunging The Gambia into a political impasse in 2017. However, according to the Alliance, the other faction that won all seats in Foni is said to be closer to the dictator. So, let’s be clear about this matter, APRC, in whatever permutation or combination is a district party in the West Coast Region,” he chastised.
Therefore, Taal added, “whatever they are cooking up, APRC is a spent party, and its popularity should not be overestimated, especially now that the victims of 22 years of dictatorship can speak for themselves loud and clear.”
He said as the most victimised political party of the Jammeh regime, the UDP must never condone, enable, or stay silent about the despicable crimes of the Jammeh dictatorship.