TOP LAWYER ADVISES PRESIDENT TO ACCEPT DISSENT

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By Alagie Manneh

Top lawyer Lamin J Darbo has advised President Barrow to accept expression of dissenting views as integral to democracy.

Reacting to the social media furore that was generated after activist Madi Jobarteh accused the president of issuing a “death threat” to him on national television, Mr Darbo commented: “I hope the president is not thinking back. I hope we are not heading in that direction. You have to accept that you will be in disagreement over some of the critical issues and if that upsets you to the extent that you want to arrest and detain people, you can try, but I can tell you, it will not work. The country has gone beyond that level. 

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“The president must accommodate dissenting views. If that means people like Madi Jobarteh, yes. If that means other people in the constant opposition, yes. When people said there must be a limit to freedom of expression, we know those limits. When those limits are breached, everybody knows it, even the proponents of freedom of expression know that this one has crossed the red line. So don’t try to justify your action, or base it on ‘we cannot tolerate this’. We can tolerate it. These are just ideas. They are just words.”

Mr Darbo said leaders do not like to be criticised. “But this is public life. It is going to be contentious. It is going to be acrimonious. You should face competing opinions and people should come out and say what they think of your leadership.”

He said The Gambia “is a very noisy country” and consequently, criticism must be expected.

“I wrote about this during the days of Yahya Jammeh that those who intend to stay in the position of governance are going to have to deal with a lot of dissenting views and they must be ready for that,” he said.

Asked whether he concurred with calls for the president to apologise for his remarks, Darbo contended: “We are in a political arena that would not look kindly on apologists themselves. So, I wouldn’t want to put the president in that kind of corner. It’s up to him if he wants to apologise. All I can say is that a mistake was made; singling out an individual and saying that his behaviour is not good enough. There are issues underlying what Madi has said. Those are the driving issues…” 

He urged the president to surround himself with people who “have a high level of tolerance, and who have multiple views”.