In what has been the longest ever New Year Message to Gambians, the Secretary General of the People for Democratic Independence and Socialism, Mr. Halifa Sallah, has been chatting in a 19-page statement “on political, social, economical and cultural issues, as well as sub-regional and regional concerns.” Read on….
Compatriots, Pan Africanists, Internationalists, today marks the end of the first decade of the 21st Century and tomorrow the second decade shall begin. It marks the beginning of another beginning. It also marks the eve of an election year for the Sovereign Gambian people. 2011 is not an ordinary year. It is a year of contemplation, stock taking and decision making. Awareness is the key to sound decision making. The APRC is transforming the year to one of patronage and fanfare. PDOIS will transform it into a year of information sharing and awareness raising so that patronage and fanfare will not stifle the sovereign will of the Gambian people to become the architects of their own destiny.
We, the PDOIS leadership, wish to draw the attention of the leaders of all the political parties in The Gambia in particular and all civic leaders in general to our irrevocable duty to ensure that we build a Gambia where all may live in prosperity, freedom and peace each day. It is our candid view that wherever there is prosperity and liberty there will be unity, peace and happiness.
Political parties have the duty to enact the instruments, build the institutions and formulate the policies that should bring about the prosperity; freedom and peace that the people need and aspire to, once they are given the mandate to lead. They must make preparation to meet those needs and aspirations while waiting as opposition forces to be given the opportunity to lead. This signifies the essence of a functioning multiparty system.
We therefore hope that the leadership of all political parties in the country shall bear in mind that leadership is not an entitlement or a right ascribed to be monopolised by any particular individual, family, ethnic group or other lineages; on the contrary, it is a duty to be entrusted by the people, irrespective of their individual characteristics, to persons of their choice regardless of their origin. This duty to lead should be performed to promote the welfare of all, without fear or favour, affection or ill will.
As we enter the chambers of a new year we would like to remind ourselves that the fundamental ethos of political leadership in a Republic is to derive legitimate authority from the consent of the sovereign people and to exercise such authority to promote their liberty and prosperity. It is common knowledge and it certainly is not even worth repeating, that during the colonial period the colonialists saw themselves as a civilized power while our people were reduced to the wretched of the earth and castigated as uncivilized natives and subjects.
We struggled for the attainment of the right to self determination and Independence so that we would cease to be subjects and become the architect of our own destiny. This is why Gambia became a Republic. Now few citizens among us have the audacity to appeal to the rest of us to voluntarily accept to return to our monarchical past and become subjects of our own fellow citizens. This is preposterous to say the least. Today no Gambian leader could be considered genuine unless he or she accepts in both word and deed, that power belongs to the people and that he or she is their mere servants.
Hence any national who wants to lead without deriving legitimacy from the consent of the Gambian people, through periodic free and fair elections is not fit to lead a Republic in the twenty first century. In the same vein, any one who harbours personal ill-will or hatred for any other national is not fit to preside over the fate of a Republic. A genuine leader of the Republic must have a heart and mind which speaks the language of truth and justice. Such a leader must be ready to perpetrate injustice to none and do justice to all without fear or favour, affection or ill-will.
As we move towards another decisive phase in the political history of the country we hope the heart of each political leader would speak the language that befits a person who leads or aims to lead; a sovereign Republic and a Sovereign people. Each should show zero tolerance to any monarchical inclination of the presidency of the Republic. The days of the Sovereign Kingdom ruled by a sovereign Monarch are gone and never to return to the soil of the Gambia, as we know it today.
In this new year, we wish to renew our promise and commitment to combat and eradicate the last vestiges of monarchical despotism from our homeland. We will follow the monarchists to every nook and crane of the country to oppose and expose their decadent vision of our people as subjects who need a King. We will sow the seed of sovereignty in every Gambian heart and mind so that no single Gambian who has an iota of dignity in him or her would ever be proud to be a subject or slave to his or her fellow human being. We shall record their anachronistic and decadent views. We will classify those who are campaigning to turn the wheel of history to make us subjects of a sovereign king and abandon our supremacy as a sovereign people, as those people who collaborated with those who captured their own brothers and sisters and sold them into slavery.
Notwithstanding our determination to combat the monarchists, we would like to give assurance that a crown shall never be worn by the head of a Gambian on Gambian soil. That is the verdict of history and political science and it is irrevocable. That is the duty we owe to preserve the legacy of Edward Francis Small, the pioneer of the National Liberation struggle for Self Determination and Independence .
Secondly, the PDOIS leadership is currently aware that many people, who claim to be supporters of the opposition, are straining their vocal chords to perpetuate the view that 2011 is already a lost cause for the opposition. They claim that the main problem is PDOIS and UDP who are engaged in a power struggle. Instead of helping the Gambian people to know what PDOIS and UDP are proposing to effect democratic change in the country and then decide which strategy or tactic could lead us to achieve our aim of effecting Democratic change in the country they are busy sowing the seed of political apathy by indicating that the victory of the APRC is inevitable.
They have made themselves self appointed prosecutors and judges who are already identifying who to blame if their self fulfilling prophecy were to materialise. Those who resign to the inevitability of APRC victory and are comfortable in preparing their charge sheets before it happens are in fact accomplices of the APRC. Every word they utter kills hope instead of keeping it alive. Such people are perpetuators of voter apathy. They are in fact part of the problem. Just ask them whether PDOIS is proposing for UDP to endorse a PDOIS candidate. They would confirm that PDOIS is not and has never called on the UDP to endorse a PDOIS candidate. Ask them further whether PDOIS has not said that if a member of the UDP is selected at a primary by the people we will support the person and they would confirm that those are our very words. Where then is the power struggle between UDP and PDOIS?
Some people have approached us to question why the UDP is not automatically endorsed to lead a coalition. We have indicated to such people that in 2006 NRP endorsed the leadership of the UDP but the results revealed that UDP did not add the number of votes the NRP had in 2001 to its results in 2006; on the contrary, it even had less votes than it had in 2001. Hence automatic endorsement does not necessarily lead to the desired results. We have told people that if we sincerely want change we must find out the causes of voter apathy and deal with it.
Hence we want to be heard loud and clear that Agenda 2011 is not hatched to deprive the UDP of leadership. We, the PDOIS leadership, are not engaged in any power struggle with any opposition party. We came to the realisation that the number of people who did not vote at all was more than the number of people who voted for either President Jammeh or the other opposition Candidates combined. It is therefore clear that if one concentrates on the votes of those who voted for the opposition alone we would not be assured of victory in 2011.
How are we to inspire the majority who did not vote to vote, and draw more voters from the camp of the ruling party to add to the camp of those who voted for the opposition to vote for the opposition, is the challenge that the opposition parties have to address in 2011. We called for a multi partisan primary to select one candidate for the opposition to contest the presidential election so that the candidate would automatically receive a multi party backing. We propose for the primary to be open to Independent Candidates so that the politically apathetic who do not support political parties would be drawn onboard because of the broad options.
We are also proposing for the victor to serve for only one term like Nelson Mandela because of the multi partisan nature of his or her selection and election. In short, a person who receives a mandate from protest votes should not lead on a partisan or personal basis but should satisfy the rectification demands of the electorate and create a level ground for individuals and parties to contest to get the mandate of the people on the basis of their policies and programmes. PDOIS is clear and without any ambiguity. It should be explained to the people and leave them to decide whether it is acceptable to them or not. Those who disagree with our position should formulate options to put before the people.
Let the future generation be informed that history has its fatalists and doubters. Edward Francis Small had to combat their fatalism to sow the seed of National Liberation in the Gambia. We will proceed to sow the seed of the sovereignty of the people and complete the democratic Revolution to its fullest phase to ensure that each Gambian recognises his or her sovereign power to determine the destiny of this country and entrusts that sovereign power to those who would guarantee their enjoyment of liberty, dignity and prosperity. Those who perpetuate this notion that 2011 is a lost cause for the opposition are on the wrong side of history.
What all Gambians who wish the country well and who are truly committed to democratic change should be saying is that, the APRC leadership has already overstayed. 30 years of one person leadership in the first Republic and 17 years of one person leadership in the second Republic is enough. We need a Government that will have the political will to create the instruments, Institutions and political culture which will make it impossible for one person to preside over the affairs of the Republic for more than ten years. Genuine democrats in the Gambia should spare no effort in campaigning for an end to self perpetuating rule in the Gambia.
They should be telling the APRC leadership that the eradication of the constitutional provision which made it unconstitutional for any one to become president of the Gambia in the first round unless one receives 50 percent of the votes cast is a subversion of the principle of leadership through the consent of the absolute majority of voters. This is where the problem lies. If the APRC regime is sure of its self it will repeal its constitutional amendment and restore the second round of voting. In this way all parties could have participated in the first round and then form coalitions in the second round as had happened in Senegal during the time of Abdou Joof and Guinea.
If it fails to do so the members of other parties should realise that even though it is their right to put up Presidential Candidates, the removal of the provision for a second round puts them at a disadvantage. This calls for them to innovate strategies and tactics to overcome the disadvantage. The Gambian people should evaluate each strategy and tactics to determine what could be more effective in yielding the desired results. The entire wrangling and clamour between so called UDP and PDOIS supporters is not based on evaluation of strategies and tactics put forward by the two parties to effect democratic change in 2011.
Critics rely on this to claim that the UDP and PDOIS are on each other’s throat. As far as PDOIS is concerned Gambia belongs to all Gambians and each has a right to elect or be elected. We have no qualms in any person being elected president. We will continue to serve the people as dictated by times and circumstances regardless of who is elected President. PDOIS does not stand for the politics of personality and character assassination. We are spending more time on the discourse about strategy and tactics between opposition forces because of the elimination of the second round of voting. Otherwise we would have called on all opposition parties to intensify their campaign to win enough votes to deprive the incumbent of 50 percent of the votes cast in the first round. Our proposals are not recipes. They are articles of good faith which should be reciprocated by the formulation of other proposals that could be put in the public space for consideration by the voters. Those who are inciting hatred among the opposition forces are also on the wrong side of history. The supporters of opposition parties are fully aware that if they head towards confrontation they will all end up being losers. It is the partisan elites who could even leave opposition parties and join the ruling party when it suits them who are the hardliners and who have become masters in peddling fiction as facts.
PDOIS respects the sovereignty of all persons and associations of persons in the form of political parties. We do not seek to dictate to anyone. Our focus is the sovereign Gambian people whose will and aspirations should dictate the policies of parties. Those who believe that they could win elections without coalitions should go ahead with their campaign on their own. We are convinced that charismatic leaders with a solid mass base like Nelson Mandela and Tumani Touray could rise up at the eleventh hour and create a wave for change. If we had such a personality in the Gambia he or she could call on people to give him or her support for change. Leaders and parties who should demand automatic recognition to lead a coalition are those who have a winnable support base. Those parties like PDOIS that is of the view that divided and apathetic votes cannot bring about democratic change should continue to put their proposals before the voters. They the voters would ultimately indicate which proposal will be able to unify the people of different parties and awaken the apathetic from their slumber.
PDOIS is responding to every burning issue in this country, the sub region, the continent and the world. PDOIS supporters should not be diverted to a discourse on the peculiarities of political leaders or pass judgment on behalf of the voters. They should draw the attention of others on PDOIS’ position on all issues of National importance and then ask the people to judge whether those positions are in the interest of our people in particular and the people of the world in general. This is the task of a genuine party supporter and not the trading of insults, subterfuges and tirades.
As for the issue of a coalition in the coming elections, we are convinced that with the elimination of the second round of voting there is need to prevent the voters from being apathetic or divided. We have endorsed a strategy on the way forward and all parties who also have the aim to combat political apathy and the division of voters should come up with their strategy and tactics on how to achieve our common aim. These strategies and tactics should be forwarded to the voters in good faith so that they will exercise their minds to determine what is acceptable to them. We therefore call on all PDOIS supporters to devote their time on the task of telling the people the strategies and tactics that are being put forward to create a formidable opposition force for Democratic change in 2011. Clarity, conviction, openness and willingness to debate in good faith are the tools PDOIS supporters need to be part of the solution of the problems of the Gambia. Those who incite hatred and fatalism have no place in PDOIS:
There is no need for any one to despair. Where there is sincerity, clarity and conviction all difficulties will be surmounted to attain victory. The people of the Gambia should pay a deaf ear to any political leader who seeks to sow the seed of despair. Leaders are inspirers and problem solvers and not prophets of gloom and doom. They create possibility where others see only impossibility. We therefore call on all political leaders who wish to earn respect to desist from claiming that a coalition between parties is made impossible by hatred and insincerity.
Coalitions are not formed based on love, otherwise, Gbagbo and Soro of Cote d’Ivoire would not have been able to be part of the same Government. Coalitions come about through the dictates of interest, time and necessity. This is why the NCP came to form a Coalition with the APRC. This is why NDAM is able to work with APRC today. This is why NRP forged a link with UDP. Neither UDP nor NRP would accuse the other of harbouring members imbued with hatred and insincerity to cause their split. In our view, it is interest, time and circumstances which led to the split. The task of finding out causes is left to historians and academics. Political leaders and political activists should focus on combating political apathy and any division among the voters who want democratic change. Those who make it their duty to inspire the apathetic to become active and the voters who want change to endorse tactics and strategies that will unify them are part of the solution. Those who incite hatred among the voters and spread the view that the cause of democratic change is lost are part of the problem. They are the ones who will be indicted by history for having failed to act in accordance with the dictates of the public interest and the exigencies of our times and circumstances.
We, the PDOIS leadership, are convinced that a Grand Coalition of the People is necessary and possible if democratic change is to be effected in 2011. We are convinced that there is no gulf that is wide enough between the opposition that cannot be bridged in the interest of the people.
In our view, opposites could be united by common interest, especially if the interest is the public interest. What is necessary is to create democratic instruments and institutions which could permit them to cooperate to serve the public interests despite their diversity. This is the mechanism which binds parliaments where one has opposition and ruling parties.
It is instruments and institutions which enabled opposites to coexist in NADD. This is why we also instituted that if the party leaders did not agree on a candidate the people will be left to do so at a primary to ensure that a multi partisan choice of the people emerged, since ultimate victory in an election would have to come from the votes of diverse party or non party members. PDOIS sacrificed its individual party interest to be part of NADD.
In a normal multi party system each party should struggle to earn the trust and confidence of the people by its own policies. We do not have a normal multi party system. There is no second round. It is therefore prudent for the opposition to have their own first round as a tool to get every one involved. In our view, an alliance of the people irrespective of party affiliation is the most durable form of alliance. An Alliance of parties in the absence of a second round is proving through practice to be the least durable form of alliance since any party could abandon the alliance at the eleventh hour relying on the most precarious pretext to justify their action. We are firmly convinced that democratic change is desirable and possible and we will do our best to ensure that a viable opposition candidate emerges to contest the 2011 Presidential elections. This is the verdict of the popular will and common sense and it is incontrovertible.
On The Inter-Party Committee
PDOIS wishes to alert all Gambians that democratic change is only possible if the people have the aspiration and exercise the will power to make it possible.
This brings to the fore the need to create an environment conducive to the holding of a free and fair elections. All political parties should be interested in the establishment of a free and fair voting system. The Inter-party committee was established in 2006 to create the environment for genuine inter-party cohabitation to shape the political will of the people and facilitate genuine elections.
PDOIS calls on all parties to breathe new life into the inter-party Committee and transform it into an oversight institution that would foster genuine elections in the country. A meeting of the committee is desirable to look at its governance structure with a view to introducing rotational chairpersonship and prepare its mandate for the registration process. The Committee could play a major role in guiding the International Community on how to finance and enhance the holding of genuine elections in the Gambia.
The Boundaries Commission
PDOIS wishes to express its disquiet that registration of voters is to take place without the enactment of an Act establishing a Constituency Boundaries Commission. We will exert all the advocacy measures we could, including consultation with the opposition members of the national assembly with a view to influencing them to introduce a private members bill to establish the Commission. It is ridiculous for a constituency with 30,000 (thirty thousand) voters and one with less than 5,000 (five thousand) voters to have the same number of National Assembly members. The practice that is in line with International standards is to demarcate or delineate boundaries after every census and then conduct general registration of voters. In our case, registration of voters is just around the corner but no delineation of boundaries has taken place because of the absence of an enabling statute. This constitutes gross negligence on the part of those who have the majority in the National Assembly.
We consider the appointment of nominated members to the National Assembly and their removal by the executive as alien to the principle of the separation of powers and an affront to the Independence expected of oversight institutions. PDOIS will intensify its campaign for the elimination of this monarchical tradition of appointing what amounts to ex-officio members of parliament and replace the practice with proportional representation.
Furthermore, PDOIS would work for the enactment of a proviso which would make it impossible for National Assembly members to lose their seats by being dismissed by their political parties. They would only lose their seats if they join other political parties to provide a basis for a by election. Those driven by their parties would automatically become Independent members until they are recalled by their constituencies.
PDOIS is quiet concerned with the registration of voters. Since the first Republic our Pan Africanist policies have compelled us to raise the alarm for something to be done about the stateless persons in our midst who are growing in their tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousand. There are still people born and bred in the Gambia who are still considered aliens by statutes and constitutional provisions.
The Constitution and the statutes on Nationality have created four criteria for citizenship. There is Citizenship by birth, citizenship by descent, citizenship by naturalization and citizenship by registration. A review of the situation on the ground reveals that there are many stateless people in the Gambia. Some have realised their statelessness while others have closed their eyes to it. Few have done what is necessary to put it to an end. This has engendered a crisis of citizenship in the country which PDOIS has committed itself to address to ensure that there is free and fair elections. It will also try to influence any coalition to address this problem of statelessness of a growing number of people who are either born in the Gambia but have lived here all their adult life. How then is this to be addressed especially when we are faced with registration of voters in 2011?
The Constitution of the First and Second Republic divided citizenship into two chronological phases, that is, those born in The Gambia before 1965 and those born in the Gambia after 1965. The Constitution and the Acts dealing with Nationality state that, those born in the Gambia before 1965 could only be considered citizens if at least one parent or grand parent was born in The Gambia or has naturalized to be a citizen of the Gambia . Those who were born in the Gambia before 1965 without any of the parents or grandparents being born in the Gambia were required to be registered as citizens by 1967. Those who did not register became stateless citizens. However the 1965 Independence Constitution provided room for those who were born in the Gambia but had parents and grand parents who were neither born in the Gambia nor naturalized as Gambian citizens, to be registered as citizens before the end of 1967. The state did not do any campaign to enable those affected to be registered as citizens. Hence many people were deprived of citizenship just because of ignorance. Such people were born in the Gambia without being citizen. If a person who is born in the Gambia before 1965 or after 1965 is disqualified from being a citizen marries another person who is disqualified from being a citizen their children would also not be qualified to be citizens of the Gambia.
As we face a registration year we must alert all those parents and grandparents who could have naturalized decades ago to be able to get their national documents lawfully that, as Pan Africanists, who strongly hold that lawful means should be created for Africans, at home or in the Diaspora, to assume the citizenship of their choice in any African Country, we must say that our hearts feel their sense of insecurity as well as the statelessness of their children. They should see those who help them to get National documents without showing them the way to become Gambian citizens as fraudsters who are against their welfare and the welfare of their children.
The authorities in the First Republic and Second Republic should have studied and formulated policies and instruments to address this major problem of statelessness once and for all and save those who register voters from being bombarded by attestations as means to get a document to be registered as a voter. The political parties and the national and international monitors should ask the IEC to keep a record of the number of people who are registered by relying on attestations. This will reflect the level of statelessness which prevails in the country today and which could undermine the freeness and the fairness of our voting system. In short, anyone who holds himself and herself as a stateless person could easily be intimidated to vote in a certain way by those who assist them to get voters’ cards.
Let all those who are stateless be informed that with a PDOIS leadership the citizenship crisis will be addressed and the problem of statelessness will be a thing of the past. The instruments shall be put on their correct footing and every mistake of the past shall be rectified and within a year every citizen of the Gambia shall have a birth certificate, a National Identity document and certificates of Naturalization or registration as required by law. The acquisition of three documents shall be the responsibility of the State without any charge, that is, a birth certificate, a National Identity card and a voter’s card. These documents shall be acquired as a right which shall be enshrined in the law.
PDOIS will also try to influence any coalition that it becomes a part of to adopt similar policies to address the problem of statelessness.
In this registration year, the PDOIS leadership would like to tell those who are stateless that they should not see those who monitor the registration exercise with a view to ensuring that those who are entitled to be registered do so without favour as their obstacle to getting a voter’s card. The obstacle is the very instrument and opaque administrative procedures which have not made it evident how they could go about to naturalize to become citizens of The Gambia. All those affected should in fact form an association to highlight their plight and call for political leaders to embrace their cause in their political platforms. This is the way forward to campaign to end statelessness.
Compatriots, Pan Africanists and Internationalists, the Gambia has an internal and external personality. PDOIS has been formulating alternative policies to show that it is politically mature to guide the people to build the internal and external personality of the country, in terms of its civil, political, economic, social and cultural spheres and thus safeguard its internal and external sovereignty and integrity.
In the civil sphere the PDOIS leadership has proven in practice that it is more committed to the protection of freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, freedom of association, freedom from arbitrary arrest and detention, right to fair hearing, right to security of person and freedom from inhuman and degrading punishment and treatment.
Under the APRC regime the state media serves the interest of the party. It curtails divergent views. Officials do not see it as a duty to give information to the media. The PDOIS leadership, on the other hand, conceives freedom of expression as the spinal chord of all fundamental rights and freedom without which the violations of all other rights would go unknown except to a silent few. We have utilised the exercise of this right in a creative manner to prevent, pre-empt, reduce, reverse, rectify or remedy the violation of rights or expose to shame and restrain the violators of rights. There is no detention without trial, disappearance or delay in justice which is known to us which is not reported and pressure brought to bear to enhance redress. We have shown by example how the voices of the sovereign people could be amplified. We will never be able to make the people quiet again if we were to take over the leadership of the country even if we wanted to do so.
Under a PDOIS leadership or a coalition which we have helped to come to office, we will work for the enactment of a freedom of information Act so that access to information shall be a matter of right and its expression shall not be hindered by any draconian law. All state and non state media, press or electronic, shall have equal right to publish or broadcast any news or commentary in any language. All associations including political parties shall have free access to the state media to carry out political and civic education and put their policies and programmes to the people.
It is also common knowledge that when innocent people were arbitrarily arrested, detained and subjected to inhuman and degrading treatment and stigmatized as witches the PDOIS leadership did not hesitate to challenge this crime against humanity and nib it in the bud. It is amazing that those who claim to have supernatural powers to identify witches have not developed supernatural means to combat those witches without the knowledge of others. That is why those of us who are Pan Africanists and who are of the conviction that every African in particular and every human being in general is born free and equal to all human beings and is an embodiment of dignity and self worth that are inviolable, could not and did not stand idly by to watch crimes against humanity being perpetrated against innocent people.
It is also evident that Trade Unions, Women Federations, Youth Federations, Farmers Unions and Human Rights Associations are not designed to serve as oversight institutions which help to shape public law and policy, monitor compliance and implementation and conduct advocacy to pressurize agencies to satisfy the public interest.
Non Governmental organisations either function to promote the APRC or are completely marginalized. Take the Dock and Maritime Workers’ Union as an example. The PDOIS leadership in the National Assembly did visit the Dock Workers to inform them of the content of the Bill which had the aim to repeal the Port Labour Board. The members of the Dock and Maritime Workers’ Union took the imitative to attend a National Assembly Caucus of the APRC with the hope that they would be influenced to oppose the repeal. They did not succeed and today the same workers who could not exercise any other right to defend their legitimate interests are being accused of being opposition supporters.
The NGOs in the country rely on Governors, Chiefs, APRC Councillors and Women Chairpersons they call Yai Compins to carry out their programmes in the Country. These programmes are generally graced by influential members of the APRC and the benefits go to those associated with the party. However they do not hesitate to accuse the NGOs of favouring the opposition whenever it is convenient to do so. In fact, we have discovered that the more opposition figures feature in the activities of the boards of some NGOs the more the NGOs would do things to serve the APRC just to be in their good books.
Hence very few Associations are in a position to differ with the status quo. Under a PDOIS leadership or Coalition it could contribute its ideas for consideration we shall advocate for the strengthening of civil societies such as Trade Unions, Press Unions, Women and Youth Federations, Human Rights Organisations and other associations so that they would exercise checks from below to ensure that laws, policies, plans and programmes are implemented and recommendations are made to influence policy and law making.
Compatriots, Pan Africanists and Internationalists, allow us to re-echo that the struggle in defense of civil rights has been uppermost in our agenda. It is like yesterday when the PDOIS leadership had to awaken the conscience of all decent human beings to the murder of Deyda Hydara, defend his integrity and call for diligent investigation. Our hearts did beat in unison with the heart beat of Femi Peters as he was incarcerated as a result of steps taken with the intention to expand the democratic space for Freedom of political Assembly to be exercised without restriction. We did work through the Inter-Party Committee to ensure that the restrictions are done away with. Under a PDOIS leadership or a Coalition we as a part of his record will not only be left unblemished but will be awarded National Honour for standing for his principles.
PDOIS has not left any stone unturned in promoting the protection of law and its due process in all works of life. This is why we took up the case of Bakawsu Fofana, the Case of GAMCOTRAP and the Bar just to name a few. We have counselled for civil societies like the Islamic Council not to sink into impunity by issuing banning orders without statutory powers providing for them. We have called on Gambian authorities to work according to international standards in handling the GAMCOTRP case because of its international sensitivities. A matter between NGOs in the modern world is handle through civil suits.
In the case of the Bar Association we have defended their mature position in boycotting the courts for three days just to show how justice could be imperiled if there is prosecution without the defence counsels with the sole objective of getting the executive to recognise and protect the privileges and immunities required for them to conduct their professional duties without hindrance. We have made it abundantly clear that the right to legal representation is inviolable and that justice will be held hostage if one cannot select the legal representative of one´s choice. We have argued that courts and parliaments could only serve the public interest if they allow the fullest exercise of the right to freedom of expression so that the truth is borne out of the fullest interrogation of information emanating from opposite sides. PDOIS orchestrated the watch word that intimidated Counsels, Magistrates and Judges should not wear the wigs of justice. We have made it clear that the unalloyed truth comes when the bench allows opposing sides to do every thing they could to present their partial conception of the truth so as to finally give an impartial and independent verdict on what constitutes the whole truth. We would like to assure the Gambian people that PDOIS would advocate for the creation of the constitutional provision that would free Counsels from any liability for action taken in good faith to defend a client. We would also try to influence any coalition we become a part of to provide the same immunities to the bar.
In fact, we are advocating for the establishment of a Human Rights Council or Commission to monitor violation of human rights and work for the creation of an environment conducive to the protection of fundamental rights and freedoms.
PDOIS is at the forefront in defending the most significant of all political rights that is, the right to be a Sovereign person. It is only when sovereignty resided in each person that a Republic is fully established. It is when the authority to lead is solidly anchored on the free will of each sovereign person that a Sovereign Republic becomes democratic.
It is abundantly clear that the APRC, some of whose National Assembly members are contemplating the rise of a monarchy cannot be fully committed to the promotion and conservation of the sovereignty of the people or Government based on their consent, through a free and fair voting system. This is why it amended the constitutional provisions which called for the election of district chiefs and village heads if a consensus is not reached by villagers. Now it is the President who appoints chiefs and the Minister for Local Government and Lands who appoints Village Heads. The Area Councils which were supposed to be autonomous are now under the supremacy of regional Governors.
PDOIS has maintained that National Liberation starts with the creation of the Sovereign Nation and becomes complete with the creation of the sovereign citizen whose will determines the manner of government at the Village, District, Regional and National level.
At the moment the whole process of decentralization and the devolution of power to local councils have been fettered by the concentration of power in the hands of the executive.
PDOIS takes it as its historic mandate to contribute to the achievement of the second phase of National Liberation, that is, to institutionalize and consolidate the sovereignty of the people and extend the power of the sovereign people in the form of representative institutions at the village, district, regional and National level.
Hence village councils will oversee village development and the provision of community services at that level, District Councils would do the same for that level of decentralized Governance, and Regional Councils would provide Development and services at their level.
Governors would be replaced by Regional Permanent Secretaries who will coordinate Central Government functions and services at the District and Regional Levels and would not interfere with judicial matters or the representative institutions at the village, district and regional level. The role of chiefs shall be to head district tribunals and help to administer customary laws which would be gradually modernized and codified to eradicate any inadequacies in guaranteeing justice to rural dwellers. The villagers shall have the right to be part of the tribunal on the basis of a jury system. Parallel magistrate Courts shall be available to enable rural dwellers to have a choice to pursue court action. Village heads shall be members of village councils and would maintain registers of birth and deaths in villages and shall have advisory function in all matters affecting a village.
We shall ensure that there is no restriction to political assembly and dissemination of divergent political views in line with standards of best practice in a democratic set up. The Public media shall be open to debate by political parties. It shall be enough for a letter to be written to a station officer to inform him or her of intention to hold a meeting so that he or she would check whether there is any obstacle to the use of the stated location for a meeting and give a go ahead within a day. Matters should only reach higher officers if there are disagreements.
There will be complete separation between party and state. Public servants and Security agents shall owe allegiance to the legitimate instruments and institutions of the sovereign people who belong to diverse political parties. They will be obliged not to show their party loyalties while performing state functions and none would be discriminated for exercising any right.
We shall create the instruments that would guarantee the existence of an Independent Electoral Commission. The statutes will establish the criteria for membership in accordance with the standards of best practice. For example all opposition parties shall have the right to send proposals for the selection of three of the seven members by the Special Service Commission. The ruling party will also propose three members. The last member who shall be the Chair shall be appointed from applicants to the Special Service Commission and subject to confirmation by the National Assembly. No member could be removed without the setting up of a tribunal to review allegation against their violation of their constitutional or statutory mandate.
The right to education, Good health, work, adequate means of survival, stable community and family life and leisure are all fundamental social rights.
The APRC is quick to indicate that Education and Health are priority areas of the Government. However, their words are ahead of their practice.
Education has its nursery, primary, secondary and tertiary levels. The nursery level provides a foundation for the primary level. A survey of nursery services would reveal that most of them are provided on a private basis which is steadily rising above the reach of the families as standards are laid by the state or on a community basis through charitable organisations. There is neither equality in accessibility nor standardization in the quality of services. The services also are increasingly becoming unaffordable to the impoverished families. The NYAKOI Nursery Programme which the PDOIS leadership pioneered is now 25 Years old. It has given quality orientation to many children from impoverished homes. We are now preparing the launching of a new phase in the development of Nyakoi to coincide with the commemoration of its Silver Jubilee. Practice has shown and it is recorded in cassettes for posterity that the child is a unique person and could amaze adults with their brilliance if provided with a fertile environment for their physical, mental, emotional and behavioral development. The experience of five or six year old children indicating the capital of every country in Africa at the snap of a finger or naming every part of the body and their functions has never ceased to marvel spectators in any event involving Nyakoi children. After 25 Years of running an early childhood education facility for impoverished families under not so conducive facilities one could say that we are fully equipped to provide an efficient and effective early childhood programme if we happen to be at the helm.
The current Government talks about meeting the millennium development goals without bearing in mind that what has inflated access to education at both the primary and secondary level, is the double shift. One could see children in the street late in the evening trying to find their way home. It is also common for children to lose many school hours because of state functions. Quality of education is suffering without much attempt to do studies to find out the impact of the double shift and the inadequacy of locally produced learning materials and libraries to get reading materials.
Take the much acclaimed University Education in the Gambia. Where is the Campus? PDOIS has said that under its leadership the hostel and stadium complex in Bakau would have been transformed into a University campus. Cooperation would be effected with the MRC to expand the University Hospital concept.
Under a PDOIS administration or a coalition that we could influence, the University shall be specialized in being a corpus that provides universality in learning experience. We shall link tertiary education with the productive base of the economy by establishing a polytechnic in every region which would link theory with practice of manufacturing implements that are needed for farming, processing and the provision of other necessities such as water and other means of survival.
It should also be clear that the Youths suffer from poverty because of the interruption to their educational and professional pursuits and the difficulty in finding jobs. Many are trying to go abroad in search of income to help their families. Technical and vocational training are becoming more and more expensive even though the youths are accused of shunning such areas of employment.
The APRC regime has not created any institution that has specialised in collecting data on the number of youths that are unemployed and their level of education or training. Tens of thousands of young people are now vocationally trained and are ready to work but cannot find stable jobs which could earn them sufficient income to sustain their daily requirements. Young people are like shadows who sing praise to their leaders in order to get crumbs for a day´s meal. They do not have Independent lives of their own. PDOIS has made it abundantly clear that every twelve years our school system put approximately 300,000 children in the street. In short, there are approximately 180,000 children in our primary school, 60,000 in our Upper Basic Schools and 30,000 children in our Senior Secondary School. Where is the economy which is being built to absorb them when they finish school?
The health for all policy is just on paper. It is our candid view that poor nutrition is the greatest source of ill health and the greatest scourge which militate against the quick recovery of patients. Few Gambians have the possibility of getting three square meals of nutritious value daily. Raw waste erodes environmental sanitation. The public is hardly informed of the major killers and properly guided to prevent them. The costs of many drugs are above the means of many Gambians. Hence many are resorting to unregistered medicinal herbs and other substances for treatment. The demand is also having impact on the cost of seeing traditional healers. Hence many neighbours are now street doctors who pass on information to each other as to what to drink to effect certain cures. There are no proper recording of deaths. Hence the statistics on life expectancy is hard to come by.
It is however evident that many people are dying at a much earlier age than expected. The APRC regime does not have a comprehensive health strategy. PDOIS has a comprehensive health strategy. A comprehensive health strategy has a preventive, curative, rehabilitative and restorative component. Currently, preventive strategies are not linked to the combating of major illnesses. People are hardly informed of the duration for drugs to have the desired effect. They are hardly informed of the contraindication. Those recuperating form illness are hardly informed of rehabilitative strategies and those who have lost parts of the body or experience deformities are not exposed to restorative options.
A PDOIS administration would ensure that all village heads would have offices to maintain a proper record of births and deaths and no body would be buried without the prior reporting of the death to the head of a village for recording purposes. It would pursue a comprehensive health policy which will interconnect the preventive, curative, rehabilitative and restorative dimensions.
The Medical and Dental Association would be given self regulatory powers to oversee all matters relating to treatment both at the formal and informal and apply WHO standards in ensuring that health delivery is according to international standards and exposures shall be made and remedy provided for all breeches of standards.
Association For Advocacy
It could be observed that a Youth Federation, Women Federation, Federation of those living with physical disability, Workers Federations, Farmers Federation and other conglomerations could serve as advocacy instruments in the formulation of laws and policies and their implementation.
PDOIS does not stand for a Women or Youth Federation which adopts a leader as a father figure and sings praise to such a father. PDOIS supports the creation of a Women, Youth or any other Federation that will serve as an oversight institution. It would be responsible for monitoring the implementation of the Women, Children and other Acts and the International conventions aiming to eradicate all forms of discrimination and marginalization.
Such advocacy groups should study all sectors, civil, political social, economic and cultural, and identify all shortcomings which need to be addressed to improve the conditions of people. At the moment most Gambian women are tied to a life of drudgery using crude methods to get income, water and food to feed families. Many are dragged to disgrace by debt. Poverty is tearing down marriages and the dignity of bread winners is crumbling because of the sheer inability to provide the daily bread of families. Work and leisure are a luxury for many people and income that gives a good standard of living is still a dream.
Abject poverty has increased to 61 percent instead of being halved as required under the Millennium Development Goals. The Gambia is classified among the least Developed countries and the Highly Indebted Poor Countries.
There are four sectors of the Gambian economy which need to be developed in order to increase National and personal income. Currently none of the sectors is capable of leading the Gambian people out of abject poverty. Employment is low which is reflected in the contribution of income tax to the National Budget.
The Private sector lacks the absorptive capacity for capital and is starved of the economics of scale. It provides only 577 Million Dalasis or 20 Million dollars to the National Budget as Corporate tax. Suffice it to say that any further increase of Taxation on that sector would lead to its contraction. It is concentrated mainly in the service sector.
The public sector provides zero dividend to the National Budget. There is no build up of sovereign national wealth from mining or oil. It is also being starved of capital.
The Cooperative sector features in savings and loan schemes as well as the extended and community farming and gardening.
The informal sector is simply providing a hand to mouth existence to the vast majority of people engaged in trade.
The state therefore does not depend on its productive base to have resources in the budget for infrastructural development and social services. Non Tax revenue amounts to just 18 Million dollars. Hence it relies on indirect taxation or a form of head tax, loans and grants to build infrastructure and meet social services. Tax on international trade is 1.07 billion dalasis while tax on good and services amount to 1.7 billion dalasis (or 76 Million dollars) which is transferred to the consumer in the retail prices for imported commodities.
The low productive base creates a narrow tax base. Consequently budget deficits are experienced annually thus leading to domestic borrowing which stood at 7 billion dalasis as of January 2010.
This is why the banking system is lending more to government than the productive base of the economy. In order to pay these loans the government has to impose more tax on the overtaxed population and corporations and undermine the growth of the income of both. This reduces private sector investment and increases poverty.
PDOIS has made it very clear that if the productive base of the economy is to be built and the income of the people increased then the four sectors must develop in a holistic manner. We will ensure that the Government borrows less from the domestic banking system so that their money will go to the private sector for investment in areas where it has comparative advantages under the present international economy.
The informal sector would be expanded by complementing the weekly markets into annual or semi annual fares to develop the economics of scale and provide a base for the infrastructural development of villages into small towns.
The Corporative sector would be developed by giving support to village farms and enterprises whose income would be utilised to provide milling machines, solar energy to power pumps, provide nursery facilities and other social services,
Finally the public sector will be made productive so that it pays dividend to the national budget. This will come from public enterprises and joint public/private initiatives in mining, oil production and other sources of sovereign National wealth. This will enable the country to earn income without increasing the tax burden on the population
It is therefore very clear that PDOIS has a realistic way forward to eradicate poverty, facilitate infrastructural development, improve general welfare and remove Gambia from the camp of the least developed and highly indebted poor countries.
PDOIS supporters should therefore take up the challenge against those who refer to PDOIS as a party of Ideologues. They should explain what our concrete policies are so that the people do understand that we have answers to their problems
Culture is a way of life of a people. If culture in the Gambia is viewed from a religious point of view one would note that there are Muslim and Christian ways of life and those of others who subscribe to traditional religions. If looked at from an ethno-linguistic angle one would discover diversities in issues of birth, puberty, marriage and death. However, if we look at Culture from the angle of the Republic it would become clear that all Gambians irrespective of religion, ethno-linguistic origin, gender or other characteristics share the culture of the sovereignty of the people, a culture which empowers all Gambians to be the depository of the sovereignty of the Republic and should not accept any way of life which makes them slaves or subjects to others. This is the culture that PDOIS is committed to propagate. We shall ensure that all tools of raising awareness such as literature, music, painting and drama will be utilised to reinforce the dignity and self worth of the sovereign Gambian.
Sub –Regional and Regional Integration
It is evident that a self reliant economy which could reinforce the right to self determination and Independence could only be created if an economy produces raw materials, Process raw materials into value added goods and produce the machines which do the processing. In Africa this could be possible if there is Sub Regional and Regional Integration. PDOIS is therefore committed to such integration. Suffice it to say that such integration would be facilitated by ensuring the sovereignty of the people in every country. PDOIS is committed to the establishment of standards of best practice in the Sub-Region and Region, in the area of civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights that reinforce the sovereignty of our people and their collective supremacy over all governments and state authority. We do not agree that Integration goes with subsidiarity; on the contrary, we conceive it to be a manifestation of enlarged sovereignty. PDOIS stands for African unity to promote the collective sovereignty of the African people.
This is why it is legitimate for countries like Cote d’Ivoire to be guided to ensure that the will of the majority prevails. Africa must first help to resolve the constitutional and Institutional crises in Cote d’Ivoire. Both Gbagbo and Ouattara should abrogate their swearing in as President. The faults of the Constitutional Council should be clearly explained to the Ivorian people and the council reconstituted. The results should be handed over to the Council and the winner declared accordingly. All sides will enter into agreement to make the ECOWAS Court as the final authority to determine the Constitutionality of declaring who should become President.
In the case of Guinea Conakry, it should be clear that a Sovereign Guinean Republic exists but a sovereign Guinean people who are above ethno-linguistic, religious and other considerations is yet to be in existence. The current Government has the primary task to involve the Guinean people to create and take ownership of the Constitutional instruments and the institutions that will empower each of them to be sovereign. It is the same task that will fall in the hands of the new leader of Cote d’Ivoire, Tunisia and all other states we refer to as ungovernable states where authority to lead is still contested.
This is the era of the sovereignty of the people and not the era of monarchs and autocrats. The quicker this is realised and assured in practice the sooner Africa will put war and poverty behind us.
A new International World order is demanding to be created but leaders in many parts of the world are refusing to acknowledge the demand. No country will be without storm and stress.