By Dr Henry DR Carrol
His Excellency, President Mr Adama Barrow, The President of The Republic of The Gambia and Commander-in-Chief of The Gambia Armed Forces, recently concluded his 2018 Presidential Meet The People Tour, which is a constitutional requirement of Section 222, Clause 15 of The Gambia’s 1997 Constitution, which reads: “The President shall undertake a Nation-wide tour at least twice a year, in order to familiarise himself or herself with current conditions and the effects of Government policies.” During the aforesaid tour, His Excellency President Mr Adama Barrow, made the much-talked about allegation that, some journalists once came to him and asked him for money, so they would in turn be writing good things about his Coalition Gambia Government, in both the national and international media.
The President went on to say, that because he refused to give those Journalists money, they have now made it a habit of regularly attacking him unfairly, in both the National and International media, and that he was giving those journalists one last warning, so that if they unfairly and untruthfully attack him in the media again, he will certainly disclose their names to the general public. His Excellency President Mr Adama Barrow, rightly refused to grant the request of the aforesaid unscrupulous, dishonest and unknown Journalists, who are indeed “wolfs in sheep’s clothing” (deceptive people).
After His Excellency President Mr Adama Barrow, made the aforesaid alarming remarks about the said journalists, a plethora of Gambian journalists (notable among them were: Ms Fatou Camara, the founder of The Fatou Network, Mr Bah alias “Scribbler Bah”, Mr Sam Sarr of Foroyaa newspaper and Mr Musa Sheriff of The Voice newspaper came out openly and aggressively, and asked our calm and well-composed President, to compulsorily disclose the names of the aforesaid journalists, to the general public. I do understand the eagerness of members of the media fraternity to know the names of the said journalists, because they want the Gambia Press Union (GPU), to severely punish them for acting in an unethical, unprofessional and dishonest way, that can clearly bring their noble profession into disrepute. Despite this noble objective, this does not give them the right, to force His Excellency The President Mr Adama Barrow, to speak, when he in fact does not want to speak.
I strongly disagree with the aforesaid journalists, because His Excellency President Mr Adama Barrow, is under no legal obligation whatsoever, to disclose to the general public, the names of the aforesaid ill-intentioned journalists. No one in The Gambia, has the locus standi (Latin: legal standing), to hire a lawyer who will go the High Court on his or her behalf, to obtain an Order Of Mandamus, which would command His Excellency The President, to compulsorily disclose the names of the aforesaid dishonest and unprofessional journalists. This is a sheer legal impossibility, because His Excellency, The President of The Republic of The Gambia, Mr Adama Barrow, whilst occupying the aforesaid high and exalted office, enjoys Presidential Immunity, and this is clearly confirmed beyond all reasonable doubt, by Section 69 (1) of the aforesaid Constitution, which reads: “Except as provided in subsection (2) no civil or criminal proceedings shall be instituted or continued against any person while holding or performing the functions of Office of President in respect of anything done or omitted to be done by him or her whether in an official or a private capacity.”
Section 69 (2) reads “Nothing in subsection (1) applies to an action for a declaration under Section 5 (enforcement of the Constitution), an any proceedings under that section against the President or a person performing the functions of that office that shall be brought against him or her, by his or her official title or style, and he or she shall appear, and be represented by, the Attorney General.”
His Excellency President Mr Adama Barrow, is indeed the victim of bad press, or should I say, “a victim of gutter journalism” (malicious, substandard and untruthful journalism). His Excellency The President, as he is rightly doing now, may decide not to disclose the names of the aforesaid journalists, thereby exercising, what is called in English Common Law, “his right of silence”, which in American Law is called, “The Fifth Amendment.”
We the citizens and other residents of The Gambia, must not forget, that His Excellency President Mr Adama Barrow, because of the aforesaid Presidential Immunity, while he is occupying the aforesaid high office, can indeed sue any person or Corporate entity, (both in and out of The Gambia), but he cannot be sued or prosecuted. Those unscrupulous Journalists in question, can indeed be sued by His Excellency The President, Mr Adama Barrow, for “Defamation” in Civil Law or The Law Of Tort, which is authoritatively defined thus: “The lowering of the dignity and integrity of a person, in the opinion of the right-thinking members of Society.” When a defamatory matter is spoken or uttered, it is called “Slander”, and when it is written or published, it is called “Libel.”
Going down legal memory lane, I can clearly recapitulate, several years ago, during The Gambia’s 1st Republic (which lasted from 24th April 1970 to 22nd July 1994), when His Excellency, Sir Dawda Kairaba Jawara, (KCMG), (GMRG) was the then able President of The Gambia, he had a good legal cause to sue West African magazine, that was then published in London, for “libel.” The bone of contention, (reason for a dispute), between the then Gambian President and the aforesaid magazine was that, the said magazine published a very dangerous, malicious, libelous and totally unfounded article, saying that His Excellency, Sir Dawda Kairaba Jawara, (KCMG), (GMRG), the then President of The Gambia, used Gambian money to buy for himself a luxurious yacht, while some of the Gambian population, did not have any food to eat. The Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary, by AS Hornby, authoritatively defines “yacht” thus: “1. Large sailing boat built specially for racing. 2. Usually privately-owned, usually motor-driven vessel kept by a wealthy person for pleasure cruising.” His Excellency President Dawda Kairaba Jawara, (KCMG), (GMRG), quickly hired the professional legal services of some top British lawyers (probably they were Queen’s Counsels -QCs), who filed a Writ Of Summons on Sir Dawda’s behalf, against the aforesaid magazine, in The High Court in London, for “libel.” His Excellency, Sir Dawda Kairaba Jawara,(KCMG), (GMRG), won this libel case hands down, and consequently the aforesaid court ordered the aforesaid magazine, to pay Sir Dawda Jawara, thousands of Pounds Sterling as Exemplary (Punitive) Damages or monetary compensation.
I do not think that there is any plausible reason, which should compel His Excellency, The President, Mr Adama Barrow, to disclose right away to the general public, the names of the aforesaid naughty journalists, because President Barrow knows them and they know themselves. “Whom the cap fits, let him wear it,” (those who feel guilty about the President’s remark, should come out openly, and admit that they were the ones whom he was referring to). They now know fully well, what the serious and devastating consequences will be, if they foolishly publish yet another unfair, unfounded and defamatory article about President Barrow. When this happens and President Barrow decides to blow the whistle, or to spill the beans, or to let the cat out of the bag, they will definitely regret there foolish actions, and they will not be prepared to accept the plethora of both criminal and civil consequences of their illegal publications. This being the case, now that His Excellency The President, Mr Adama Barrow, has now given a first and final warning to those mischievous journalists, I do not think, that they will be mad enough, to write yet another defamatory article about His Excellency, President Adama Barrow. Prevention is better than cure and a word to the wise, is quite sufficient, as the age-old and time-honoured adages go.
By rightly deciding not to mention the names of the said mischievous journalists now, His Excellency Mr Adama Barrow, is rightly giving them a chance to turn over a new leaf (to reform for the better), thereby fully complying with (1) the legal principle of tempering justice with mercy, (2) the sacrosanct and inviolable Theological Principle: “…and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those, who trespass against us…” This well-known theological principle, is encapsulated in both The Lord’s Prayer or The Our Father for Christians. It is also contained in The Al Fatiha for Muslims. As a senior Canadian-trained theologian, I strongly and wholeheartedly support His Excellency President Mr Adama Barrow’s understandable stance, on this important and controversial matter.
William Shakespeare, the erudite Bard of Avon, also alludes to the aforesaid famous theological principle, in Act 4, Scene 1, in his masterpiece play entitled The Merchant of Venice with these powerful, poetic and inspirational words:
Though Justice be thy plea, consider this,
That in the course of Justice,
None of us should see salvation,
We do pray for mercy,
And that same prayer doth teach us all,
To render the deeds of mercy…”
These inspirational words, were spoken by a doctor of laws, a senior lawyer, Lady Portia, in a court in Venice.
By Dr Henry DR Carrol (MRG), Solicitor General Emeritus Of The Gambia, senior Oxford-trained lawyer and founder senior UTG Law lecturer, 2007 – date.