The Daily Observer (Banjul)
BY MUSA NDOW, 7 SEPTEMBER 2012
“The Gambia will not bow down to any type of pressure in the execution of its legal instruments. So let the government of Senegal look back and reflect, respect our laws as a sovereign state and accept that our laws are applicable to both Gambians and non-Gambians alike,” said Hon. Fabakary Tombong Jatta, the Majority leader and National Assembly member for Serekunda East Constituency.
Hon. Jatta made this call Thursday afternoon at his Kanifing Estate residence during an interview with the Daily Observer in reaction to comments earlier made by Senegal’s president Macky Sall, who told reporters at the Senegalese airport on Tuesday , August 28th, 2012 that he is calling on the Gambian authorities ‘to return to reason’ referring to the decision to have all death row prisoners executed before the end of September to tackle a rising crime rate and to dissuade people from committing “heinous crimes”.
The Senegalese government on Wednesday, August 29 published a statement on the Senegalese government website stating that the country’s prime minister summoned the top Gambian diplomat in Senegal in which the PM made known his “deep reproach,” calling the events leading to the executions as “opaque”.
The Majority leader clearly emphasized that the dictates of the Gambian constitution which mandated the president to carry out the execution can only be removed by a referendum . To this, he said the international community including Senegal must not be emotional of and should understand that no life is better than the other. He continued: “The Senegalese should know that we are a sovereign state standing by the dictates of our law and that people should not point fingers to our president for the execution if there is anything to be blame at,” he said.
He described President Jammeh as a very honest leader who tells people what is his intention and what is in his mind. “This is not usual in politics. Just like the old days politics, you tend to fool people telling them sweet things even if you will not do it, that is a major difference with President Jammeh. Imagine somebody from Senegal was congratulating just yesterday, so you can see we are in this political world.
The gimmicks of politic are like that. You want to dance to the tune of the people so that they can hail you and support you but then you are not dictated by your consent, so this is the difference between President Jammeh and other leaders. And for the Senegalese, we know we are brothers, neighbours and two independent states so we will not for whatever reasons bow down to the dictates of anybody, come rain, come storm. We have not committed any crime and if they want let them shout to any extent. I listened to Buba Baldeh’s comment when I was in Senegal but I think he should assess himself we know each other'” said the majority leader.
“After so many re-occurrence of people killing each other and the convicts being sentenced to death and have exhausted all the appeal should be killed and before that he has engaged religious leaders to talk to the people because he cannot allow this country to be turned into a battlefield and therefore the life of those that are killed are as important as those who killed them. I think these are political gimmicks on the side of Senegal. They are political games, because the death sentence is in our status books and there were Gambians involved who committed murder and were sentence to death likewise any other person,” he said, while arguing that execution is happening in many countriesand their is no outcry, why The Gambia?
“Look! The signals I want to send is Senegal is our neighbour and we look forward to cordial relationship with them. Gambians have said and likewise the Senegalese too that the two countries are one people in two countries. Let’s not be emotional in our dealings with each other. Gambia will not compromise or allow any country for that matter to dictate us what our laws should be. That responsibility lies with the Gambian people and it should be the Gambian people’s desire that they can bring about a change. That is the right of the Gambian people and is also the right of the president to defend the constitution as per the dictates and the wishes of the Gambian people,” he said in the strongest terms.
“Let us ask ourselves who sentenced the nine people to death and who mandated the death penalty in the Laws of The Gambia. We must not forget that the 1997 Constitution unlike the previous constitutions went to a referendum where the majority of Gambians agreed, then it was ratified and enacted by the National Assembly so that it is a legal instrument for the entire Gambians owned by the Gambian people. From 1997 to date, I have not heard of any single Gambian knowing that in our status book we have the death penalty and nobody complained or said it should not be there. Whether be it you are an opponent or you are a member of government,” he said.
According to him, if there is anything wrong or “we feel otherwise with that clause in the constitution, the whole Gambian people should take the responsibility and blame ourselves for it”.
On the calls by opponents of the government for targeted sanction against The Gambia, the Majority leader said: “Which country or body will sanction us and for what? The president swore that he will defend the constitution of the country and if he does not do so, the same people cry. The president should do that and he should defend the constitution now that he has done what he should do by the laws. So why blaming him?” he stated, while adding why was [some states in] America, China, Saudi Arabia and others not sanctioned.
He described as utter nonsense that the execution was not transparent, Hon. Jatta said the people who were convicted and sentenced to death or those who were executed went through the whole process of legal apparatus in The Gambia. He said, “If they have pending issues or pending appeals they are not touched. You’ve gone from one court of appeal to another until to the last court of appeal and your sentence to death is maintained so what next?” He queried.
International reactions hypocritical
The Majority leader further stated that the reactions that have been coming from the international community since the announcement for the execution is indeed hypocritical. However, he acknowledged the fact that the whole process is by the belief and concept of different people. He: “If US is telling us to halt when the whole world including the Amnesty International appealedto them [the US] not carry out their recent execution of a death row inmate but they went ahead with it because the vperson was sentenced to death . Are those people qualified to tell us to halt?”
He continued: “The Gambian law is for the Gambian people and is only by us and nobody can dictate to it. We don’t mind people can make appeals but there is nobody be it the European Union (EU) and others who have the mandate in fact they should hail the president for defending the constitution. If they feel that the death sentence should not be part of the laws, let them appeal and talk to the Gambian people, convince them so that they can remove that clause from the laws of the Gambia and even that has to be through the national and then a referendum. As for me, I believe they are just political talks because they have no justification.”
Hon. Jatta said as parliamentarians their views are dictated by their people, but highlighted his belief that no life is more important than the other and sees the death penalty as a deterrent. In his opinion, if there is death penalty, people will avoid deliberately killing their fellows. “But where it is persistent I don’t think there is better place than if you kill and you are kill I think is tit-for-tat,” he posite.
According to him, it is not the mandate of the president to remove the death clause in the constitution but to carry it out. “It is the Gambian people who can say we no longer want it they can remove it by sending it to parliament and to a referendum. So it is the will of the people and if the Gambian people say tomorrow we are going to remove it and if they still believe that it is a deterrent that else has the mandate to remove it, nobody?” He said.
“But as for me I don’t think if there is any fault, because I have ever known that the death sentence is a clause in the constitution and the president is mandated to carry it out and he is also given the prerogative of mercy and if he decides to carry it out he is mandated to do so,” he concluded.