The Gambia’s public officials versus the people

DA JalwoBy D. A. Jawo
Of course all people of conscience must be sympathetic to the former cabinet ministers and other public officials currently being detained for more than the statutory 72 hours limit allowed by the Constitution. It is yet another indication that this regime has no regard for the rule of law, but it is instead arbitrariness which is the order of the day in this country.
However, if we consider the perceived role played by some of those people in perpetuating such arbitrariness, particularly in the case of the former Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Lamin Jobarteh and the former Petroleum Minister, Njogu Bah, one would be tempted not to sympathize with them. But, even though they are now victims of the very system that they helped to perpetuate, it is incumbent on us to condemn such arbitrariness, no matter who is involved.
What these former officials are going through should be enough lessons to their replacements as well as those that they left behind that it is in the interest of everyone that we all do what is right, regardless of what position we occupy. It is however quite a norm in this country for those in positions of authority to become so arrogant and intoxicated with power that they would tend to forget that they are just as vulnerable as those ordinary Gambians whose rights are being violated on a daily basis.
Therefore, until those in authority assume their full responsibilities by respecting the rule of law and protecting the basic rights of the people, then the sort of harmonious society that we all aim to achieve in this country will continue to elude us.
We can all recall how Mr. Jobarteh, for instance, seemed to have turned a blind eye to the arbitrary detentions and other illegal actions happening under his very nose as chief legal adviser to the government.  Two good cases in point were the executions of the nine death row prisoners which did not fully comply with the constitutional provisions as well as the arbitrary detention of Imam Baba Leigh for more than five months without any legal justification. On both occasions, he either defended the action as being in accordance with the law, or he ignored it as a non-event.
In the case of Njogu Bah, we have also witnessed several occasions when he publicly defended some illegal actions by the regime. We also saw him, for instance, addressing Imam Baba Leigh like a criminal when he was “pardoned” by President Jammeh and released from his illegal detention. He also used the occasion to issue a strict warning to the religious leaders against using their pulpits to criticize actions of the regime, which is exactly what all religious leaders worthy of their salt are expected to do.
It is quite unfortunate that some of these public officials make comments or take actions which are incompatible with their status. For instance, the former Chief Justice Raymond Sock was recently quoted by the Daily Observer during events to mark President Jammeh’s birthday anniversary extolling the achievements of the AFPRC/APRC regime. “The Chief Justice of The Gambia and director of the Gambia Law School, Raymond Sock, has acknowledged the remarkable and unprecedented developments registered by the AFPRC / APRC Government under His Excellency Sheikh Professor Alhaji Dr. Yahya AJJ Jammeh, from 1994 to date.”Apparently, his objective for making such comments was to secure his job, but it has not prevented him from being removed less than a month later.
Therefore, as long as our cabinet ministers and other public officials allow their visions to be blinded by arrogance and intoxication with power, such arbitrariness and illegality will continue to mar this country’s progress.

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