Top lawyer calls for full disclosure of buyers of Jammeh’s assets

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By Alagie Manneh

Lawyer Lamin J Darbo has said that the decision of the government to mask the identities of buyers of former president Jammeh’s assets is unlawful.

In a long write-up exclusively shared with The Standard, the Gunjur-born lawyer wrote: “…Governance under law must be the guarantor of the dignity of every Gambian, and of the protection of public property, a philosophy that appeared not to have reached the [Justice] Minister.

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“It was extraordinary that notwithstanding the assets question of the Professor arose out of an Act of Parliament triggered by an urgent need to address the abuse of power at the heart of Gambian public life, the Minister erroneously employed privacy as a prophylactic against accountability. As an entrenched fundamental right, Section 23 (1) of the 1997 Constitution of the Republic of The Gambia on privacy reads: “No person shall be subject to interference with the privacy of his or her home, correspondence or communications except as is in accordance with law and is necessary in a democratic society in the interest of national security, public safety or the economic wellbeing of the country, for the protection of health or morals, for the prevention of disorder or crime or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others”.

At the elemental level, “… the right of privacy is: the right of a person to be free from unwarranted publicity, the unwarranted appropriation or exploitation of one’s personality, the publicising of one’s private affairs with which the public has no legitimate concern …”.

“Where billions of Dalasis were lost to the Treasury, and over a billion recovered from the assets of the Professor, the funds realised must be utilised to advance the public interest. It was not proper that those assets were recovered and sold by friends to friends in complete secrecy. To avoid conflict of interest, Government officers must not be able to sell recovered assets of the Professor to themselves or to each other.”

Writing under the caption ‘the law requires full disclosure of those who purchased Professor Jammeh’s Assets, the UK-US trained lawyer added: “Equally, the rule of law and public accountability dictate that members of this particular Commission must not be able to purchase anything from the Professor’s seized assets either for themselves or for family members as that is the embodiment of conflict of interest. It is therefore necessary for the Minister to disclose the identities of all those who made purchases from the Professor’s assets given the legitimate public interest in the matter.

“Without question, the Minister was aware that politically, philosophically, ethically and legally his postulation was wrongheaded. The transaction implicates no legitimate privacy issues.”

He said what The Gambia needs is a system-change that liberates holders of public office from themselves. “The Minister’s position is indefensible and there must be full disclosure of who purchased what and for how much. I am convinced he wouldn’t advance such argument outside Government.”

“The Barrow administration, Mr Darbo went on “was founded on the straightforward question of liberty, dignity and accountability within the rule of law. In short, the failure of governance under law elected President Barrow in 2016. It remains the single issue up for appraisal by the ruled of the rulers. I hope the Minister is not telling Gambians he preferred lawlessness to accountability.”

Read more in our subsequent editions.