Friday, March 18, 2011

Gambia: Olympic future remains uncertain

Youth & Sports Minister
When the Gambia National Olympic Committee (GNOC) presidential elections where held in a confusing atmosphere though the general body voted 26-0 to elect Momodou Dibba as president at the expense of his rival Abdoulie Touray’s storm-out.
It was hope that the dust for the long-standing presidential crisis has settled down once and for all, with the intervention of the National Assembly Select Committee on Sports prior to the second scheduled date for the polls.
However, following a petition by Mr. Touray’s camp challenging the manner in which the February 12 votes were conducted, the Sport Ministry announced that it had set up a Sports Tribunal effective March 10, 2011 to look into the elections.

“Following the recently conducted GNOC presidential elections and the manner in which it was conducted, the Minister of youth and Sports by the powers vested upon him by the Sports Council Act 2000, section 24 (2) has appointed the following as members of the Sports Tribunal effective 10th March 2011,” a press statement by the Ministry said.
According to the statement, the Tribunal is headed by High Court Judge, Justice Lamin Jobarteh and the rest are Mr. Ebrima Sanneh, a legal practitioner; Mr. Mustapha Carayol, Independent Electoral Commission Chairman (IEC); Mr. Charles Thomas, erstwhile Executive Secretary National Sports Council (NSC); Mr. Cherno B. Touray, erstwhile Director Youth and Sport; Ms. Sainabou Kujabi, President Gambia Sports Journalists Association (SJAG); and the Executive Secretary of the NSC as Secretary to the Tribunal.

Mandate questioned

The statement urges individuals and associations having issues pertaining to last month’s GNOC presidential elections to address petitions to the Tribunal for review. However, a pro-opposition newspaper, Foroyaa in Banjul has since questioned Tribunal’s mandate and urged the Sport Minister, Hon Sheriff Gomez to re-examine the reason for setting up the tribunal.
“Foroyaa has looked at the mandate of the Sports Tribunal as provided for by Section 24 and 25 of the National Sports Council Act and strongly urge the Minister to revisit the motive for setting up the sports tribunal,” the paper on March 16.
It added: “The Act envisages the establishment of a Sports Tribunal with the Objective of creating an oversight institution that would be able to provide remedy to any wrong done by the council upon application by an aggrieved person.”
The paper quoted Section 24 subsection 1 to have read: “There is hereby established a tribunal to be called the Sports tribunal which shall adjudicate on all disputes arising out of the administration of this Act and referred to it by the Council.”
On appointments, the paper stressed that “it is not the best option” for the IEC Chairman, the NSC Executive Secretary and SJAG President to be members of the tribunal.

Potential crisis

The turn of events is likely to reignite the crisis pending the outcome of the Tribunal. The Sport Ministry has since been alleged to be siding with the aggrieved candidate Abdoulie Bax Touray. In fact, upon cancellation of the October 20 polls, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) accused the Ministry of interfering with the affairs of the GNOC.
The IOC has since endorsed the 12 February election of Mr. Dibba as president and had earlier on warned of a potential suspension of GNOC in the event of Government interference.
It remains to be seen what these twists and turns will do to the “uncertain” future of Gambia’s National Olympic Committee.

Flashback

The protracted GNOC elections was first scheduled for October 20, 2010 but called-off by the NSC after allegations of unconstitutionality of the voter list. This followed a stalemate prompting the National Assembly to intervene, conducted a commission of inquiry into the allegations and come up with a Report, which scheduled February 12, 2011 as election date.
However, Bax Touray’s camp, led by the President of Gambia Cricket Association John G. Gomez boycotted the polls on grounds that they cannot be a party to elections after his demand for the voter list to be read out was not heeded to by the national election body, the IEC.
“The voter list that the IEC has is the final voter list that was reached by the National Assembly which has been endorsed by the GNOC,” IEC’s Director of Operations Mr. Samboujang Njie said. But Gomez regarded the list is deemed to be interim as the report of the Assembly was interim.

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