By Musa Bah
According to The Standard Newspaper issue of Wednesday, 23rd August, 2017, dozens of drivers and their apprentices were charged by a magistrate court in Kanifing for taking part in a sit-down strike in protest of the reduction of transport fares by the government.
Mr President, even though I personally did not agree with the drivers [I was affected by the sit-down strike], I was happy that our democracy has come of age to an extent that drivers could mount a sit down strike in protest of a grievance [genuine or not].
In a genuine democracy, citizens should have the right to protest against any grievance without let or hindrance. This is what democracy entails. What message is the government sending if protesters are charged just because they marched in the streets to show that they are not happy with a particular decision?
In a democracy, you cannot pick and choose. Democracy comes in a package: the good, the bad, and the ugly. If we want to enjoy the good fruits of democracy, we have to be prepared to bear the bad and the ugly.
The drivers were simply showing that they were not happy with the reduction of fares [whether they are justified or not] is irrelevant here. The truth is that our constitution grants them the right to strike. This is worth understanding.
We have a nascent democracy and we must nurture it. Divergent views are to be welcomed, not stifled. The action of arresting and charging the drivers and their apprentices, in my opinion, will set a bad precedent. In the future, even if the rights of other Gambians are violated, they may not have the courage to manifest their displeasure. This is dangerous and this attitude should be nipped in the bud immediately.
The world is watching us and as such, we must ensure that the rights of the citizenry are always protected. This is what we refer to as the Rule of Law. A democracy seeks to protect the rights of the majority – the ordinary person – it may not always be smooth, but we have to work towards granting everyone their rights.
Drop the charges and free the drivers and their apprentices immediately.
Have a good day Mr President.