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Wednesday, September 23, 2020

On the cancelled passports

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Dear editor,

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Please allow me space in your credible paper to make comments on the issue of the so-called cancelled diplomatic passports by the Government of The Gambia and the list of holders published in your paper and elsewhere. I am a civil servant and once worked in the Foreign Ministry.

It is yet another blunder by the Administration especially by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. This is a clear manifestation of either ignorance, sabotage or carelessness on the part of those who allowed the list to be issued as it is. I don’t think it is ignorance because the current Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Director of Protocol are both veterans in their respective fields and they should have provided proper advice to avoid embarrassment to the Government.

The principle of cancelling diplomatic passports for non-entitled or illegitimate holders is justified but you cannot put everyone in the same bag. In the list published, you have the following categories:
Those who were issued diplomatic passports on the discretion of the former President.
Those who were issued through the back door at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Those who were issued by virtue of their diplomatic status.

Those who were issued by virtue of their high position in Government or the private sector according to policy.
Those who were issued due to political patronage or unclear circumstances.
Yes, you may cancel diplomatic passports issued under categories 1, 2, and 5.
But under category 4, (that is those issued by virtue of their high position in Government) the most disturbing name on the list is that of the former Vice President. The least we owe to our former VP is to allow her to retain her diplomatic status until found guilty of any crime against the State which many believe will not happen. We all know that the problem of our country was one man and we know him. In all countries where sanity prevails, Vice Presidents are always referred to as Excellency VP. What do we gain by cancelling the diplomatic passport of a former Vice President?

The same goes for all those on the list who were issued diplomatic passports by virtue of their high position which was according to Government Policy. The wise thing to do would have been NOT to renew when the passport expires. Let us remember that all of us will become ‘former’ and when that time comes we would like to be honored not degraded. Please do on to others as you would like others to do on to you.

Under category 3, did the PS or the Director of Protocol advise the Minister that according to policy (Foreign Service Regulations) former Ambassadors have option to retain their diplomatic passports. Remember that once an Ambassador, always an Ambassador at least in countries where sanity prevails and I believe The Gambia is one of those countries. They are however obliged to return passports of their family members once they retire. Of course the Government always has the right to revoke a diplomatic privilege depending on circumstances and the PS and Protocol should remember that they too will soon be former Ambassadors and senior Civil Servants therefore you owe it to your conscience to advise properly. I have no doubt that if properly advised, the politicians will make the right decisions because that is what is in their best interest. In fact many of the passports listed were already returned by the holders and some of them even expired. So who vetted the list? And where is the Secretary General in all this mess?

Finally, let us not allow ourselves to be the laughing stock of our neighbors and the world. There are basic practices that are internationally accepted and we must always strive to be adopting best practices. President Barrow and Foreign Minister Darboe must realize that as far as this matter is concerned, the buck stops in their offices.

A civil servant

Gambia is bigger and shall ever remain!

Dear editor,

I count myself as lucky to have got a lot of friends both on and offline from all the political parties with many of whom I share very cordial relationships which have for long been growing thick protective walls.
However, I struggle to comprehend why a few of them, some I knew for almost two decades see me cynical and a bully to a specific political party when the government, if my memories are still intact, is a coalition one but one thing they may not know about me is my refusal to be a sycophant despite my relationship with some of the political party leaders.

And it’s thus good for them to know that I have over 10 years personal relationship with both the niece and nephew of Darboe, Henry is a blood family relative, Sallah is a role model and his niece is a respected friend and sister, Hamat I know personally and was a close neighbour at Fajikunda for more than 5 years and Jammeh is a godfather and his family are also very close and respected friends as applied to some top executives of the GDC, a party whose formation I knew several months before its launching because of my relationship with one of its former founding members.

All these, I see and count as an honour which will forever prevent me from disrespecting any of them at a personal level BUT I cannot and will never subdue to dishonesty under an enabling environment when it comes to the good of the nation as my desire is known and which is to not see a repeat of the mistakes of yesterday. And I’ve refused privileges during the former regime simply because I value integrity over pride!
It’s very humane that what you do or say as a person may not please everyone but it’s a duty to always work hard in doing what is right for the greater good.
For which I pray daily against sycophancy because its result is nothing more than stagnation!

Muhammed Teks Tekanyi
US

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