By Omar Bah
The newl Speaker of the National Assembly, Fabakary Tombong Jatta has said he still believes former president Yahya Jammeh should come back and be accorded all the privileges of a former head of state.
“I still believe Jammeh should come back. This is not just about Jammeh but every other future president. It is wrong to exercise revenge or humiliate our former presidents for the mistakes they made,” FTJ told BBC Focus on Africa’s Omar Wally.
The leader of Jammeh’s former ruling APRC added: “I have been an advocate since I became a parliamentarian in 1997 especially at the Pan-African and ECOWAS parliaments that Africa must revisit the way we treat our former presidents. This issue of revenge and humiliation of our ex-presidents for the mistakes they made is responsible for their refusal to hand over power.”
FTJ said Jammeh decided to break away from his team but it was never his intention to break away from the former leader.
The former majority leader under Jammeh’s parliament added: “There is a lot of partisan politics in the National Assembly to the extent that we compromise the supreme interest of the people. My first task will be to try and shape the mindset of the members so that the Gambia’s interest takes precedence in all that we do. I believe when you are elected or nominated to the parliament, you should deal with the matters of the nation and avoid our religious, tribe or regional biases influencing our decisions.”
Critics of his nomination
Reacting to critics who claimed he should not be at the National Assembly given his past political records, FTJ argued that his nomination is based on his competence and experience in the National Assembly. “And for Barrow, he has never been our enemy but a political opponent,” he said.
“I have no regret in campaigning against the rejected Draft Constitution but I have no qualms about coming up with a new constitution or amending the 1997 Constitution. But if the rejected constitution returns to the Assembly, I will campaign against it because it is not in the interest of this country,” he said.
FTJ said the rejected draft has a number of clauses that his party believes should not be in it.
“There are a lot of contradictions and provisions that are aimed at straggling the leadership. Constitutions are not meant to suit individuals and groups. We have petitioned the Constitutional Review Commission to review and give us feedback on those clauses but they did not,” he said.
Disputed 2016 presidential election
FTJ said he still believes that the APRC should have been given the opportunity to challenge the 2016 presidential election results in court.
“The claim that we were not having judges is not true because we had five at the time; the Chief Justice, three from Nigeria and a Sierra Leonean. It was easier to bring those judges to decide on the case than bringing arms from all over the world to come and attack the Gambia. It is our right to go to court. I believe there was foul play in the election. That is why they never wanted us to go to court,” he said.
Mr Jatta said he was never against Barrow as an individual but the government.
“You see, since I met Barrow my perception about him changed because APRC has pledged to be an opposition with a difference. We will never undermine his government and I will do everything possible to make sure that his development projects are given priority but we will not also relent on ensuring that government funds are spent judiciously. I will not be a stooge for President Barrow or anybody,” he said.
The Speaker also said that if President Barrow’s NPP works closely with the APRC, they will take the Kanifing mayoral seat from the UDP next year. “I will challenge Ounda Nyang and all the leadership of the NPP in KM to work on unifying all the supporters in the area to make sure that we prepare for the mayoral election,” he said.