STATEMENT BY H.E. SHEIKH PROFESSOR ALHAJI DR. YAHYA A.J.J. JAMMEH PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF THE GAMBIA ON THE OCCASION OF NEW YEAR 31ST DECEMBER 2013
Bismillaahe Rahmaanir Rahee; Alhamdu lilaahe Rabbil Aalameen; Alhamdu lilaahe Rabbil Aalameen; Alhamdu lilaahe Rabbil Aalameen; Assalaamu Alaikum wa Rahmatullaahe Wa Barakaatuhu
Fellow Gambians, Friends of the Gambia at home and abroad.
We praise Allah for another year of peace and progress in our beloved motherland, The Gambia. As we look forward to another new year, it is incumbent on us to reflect on the past while planning for the future. Like any other, the New Year will bring challenges, opportunities and successes, but each challenge should unite us, and each accomplishment should make us stronger. Indeed, ours is a strong nation, and as believers who put their trust in the Omnipotent Allah, our optimism is boundless. Indeed we can achieve any goal we set ourselves and lift our nation to greater heights if we work together towards a common destiny.
We have come a long way in our journey for national development. We have brought education to the doorsteps of all Gambians; we have made affordable health care available to all and sundry to the extent that even communities that lie across our border come to The Gambia for basic health care at costs next to nothing.
We have built roads and other critical infrastructure that have brought to life areas of this country that once laid waste due to lack of accessible roads. These areas are not even far away, just in the suburbs here, the coastal roads are one of the shining ornaments of development ushered in by the July 22nd Revolution.
Government will continue the rehabilitation and expansion of our existing rural, urban and cross-country road networks. The vital Brikama-Soma highway is almost complete and by the end of the first quarter of 2014, the entire south bank road stretch - Banjul to Basse would have been completed. The much talked-about Laminkoto Passimus road that used to be dangled to Gambians as an attractive candy for political ends during the first republic will finally see the light of day with a new project for its construction to be commissioned in 2014 inshaa Allah. The funds for the project have been secured by the grace of Allah and it will be my pleasure to present this to Gambians as yet another fulfillment of a promise to my beloved citizens of this great country.
Our development achievements were attained in the past 19 years thanks to a vision for national development that is anchored on faith in the Almighty Allah, self-reliance and honest productive work.
Having come thus far, with the philosophy outlined above, I am not going to change that philosophy overnight because of foreign influence tagged to the bait of aid that is conditioned on the acceptance of alien cultures like homosexuality and unbridled freedoms that are not in line with our religious and cultural beliefs.
Yes we will guarantee the rights of all Gambians within the framework of our established traditions and cultural norms. Yet the guaranteeing of such rights is sacrosanct only to the extent that they do not trespass onto the rights of others or the general welfare of our society. Therefore, taking from the theme of the last July 22nd anniversary, I want to once again remind all Gambians to strive together and live in peace and harmony according to our religion.
Let me hasten to add here, though, that my call for us to live according to our religion is not limited to the traditional concepts of worship in mosques and churches only. Yes we should continue to pray in our churches and mosques but our religions are not confined to the narrow definitions of worship that we tend to limit them to. The religions brought to us, by Jesus Christ and his brother in spirit Muhammad (SAWS) did not only teach us the art of praying but brought us practical examples of how to work and earn legal and decent livings based on the law of Allah. Their teachings showed us the importance of self-reliance based on faith. Just like both religions fought and won battles literarily and metaphorically based on faith but also active participation of their followers; so shall we win our battles, against poverty and ignorance based on faith but worked by our owns hands and sweat.
In this vein, let me call on my brothers and sisters, the Gambian youths, to heed my call to go back to the land and the sea to help our parents and our young ones to achieve food self-sufficiency. This call to action is not a new one. It was my clarion call from day one when I took over the reigns of power in this country and I have been explaining this principle in many ways but more specifically through my proverbial three days that define the world: yesterday, today and tomorrow.
Yesterday I called on our youths to join my mission to cultivate our lands and feed ourselves. Some heeded the call, the majority did not. Today after the global food, fuel and financial crises, my calls have been heeded better than before because of the experience that we went through with the rest of the world albeit, the impact was less severe here due to proactive fiscal measures undertaken by my Government to lessen the impact of these crises. Now that most youths are heeding my call to go back to the land, let me invite you all to join me in my mission of making The Gambia self-sufficient in food production by the year 2016.
Already we have great signs that our goal is achievable by the significant increase in food production nationwide not only in recent years, but particularly 2013. In this vein I want to commend all those youths that have joined this bandwagon such as the Youth in Agriculture and Fishing initiative (YAFI), under the aegis of the APRC bureau. I want to encourage other youths to come up with pragmatic projects in the area of agriculture and fishing because my promise to fund such ventures still stands. It is my promise to fund such initiatives and I await project proposals in this direction.
Let me take this opportunity to caution Government officials managing agricultural and other social projects funded by Government loans and grants that the days of paper projects that yield no tangible results are over! We are sick and tired of projects that would spend millions of dollars on the purchase of cars, fuel and per diem for travels only to submit reports at the end of the day that gather dust on our desks without any impact on the livelihoods of our women and children.
The Office of the President is now actively monitoring progress on all projects and the basic defining rule for continuity and job security for project officials is “results or retribution!” you either deliver the expected results or go home at best; and at worst go to the State’s five star hotel. We want our projects to create useful outputs while providing the opportunity for gainful employment for the citizens of this country.
On the international front, The Gambia will continue her active participation in our regional and international organisations with a view to continue to contribute positively and significantly in global issues. As a model for peace, stability and religious tolerance, we will continue to advocate for the peaceful resolution of all conflicts without taking sides. Our foreign policy remains anchored on our faith in Allah who has created all of us as brothers and sisters in one human family. We will respect the sovereignty of all nations just like we expect others to respect our independence and sovereignty.
Our principle is based on the equality of nations regardless of size, colour, and other mundane considerations. We stand for the truth and we speak for the voiceless anywhere in the world because we have faith that there is only One God, Allah, before whom we are all equal. We are not against any country or race. We believe in the oneness of humanity and we shall continue to operate our foreign policy within that framework in our dealings with other nations and expecting nothing less than, mutual respect.
As we celebrate yet another new year, we pray for the restoration of peace and tranquility in all the troubled regions of the world, especially on the African continent.
We pray to Allah (SWT) as He taught us at the end of Surah Fatiha to continue to “Show us the straightway, The way of those on whom Thou hast bestowed Thy Grace, those whose (portion) is not wrath, and who go not astray.” Aameen. Happy New Year!