MY OPENING STATEMENT
Members of the Steering Committee, Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen.
On behalf of my colleagues and on my own behalf, I extend wishes for a peaceful and prosperous new year in advance. We pray that 2018 brings even greater blessings to the people of The Gambia and indeed the world at large.
As indicated on your invitations, this gathering is a meeting of minds aimed at validating the constitution of a new party and setting the organization in motion.
The endeavor is the first step to ensuring that popular participation and the consolidation of democracy in The Gambia is prioritized by putting people first in everything that this new political party does. Our immediate objective is to bring together a diverse group of likeminded Gambians, both at home and abroad, to infuse structure, process, and selfless dedication in the nation’s body politic. The new party we envisage will be a non-sectarian, non-sexist, non-tribal/ethnic liberal grouping that will always fight for truth, justice, peace and reconciliation for The Gambia.
Needless to say, a political gathering as this one, would have been unthinkable under the repressive regime of Yahya Jammeh. Many of us meeting here would have faced severe consequences for even visiting our homeland. Political space, if there was any, was severely constricted. That was then; this is now.
The Gambian people must be commended for coming together in many ways to finally defeat a force that tormented every sector of our nation. We are grateful to all those who sacrificed their resources and lives to make this day possible. And it is incumbent upon us all to maintain that legacy by ensuring that The Gambia remains on a path of truth, justice, and accountability.
Ladies and Gentlemen, your presence here today right after a long holiday period underscores your commitment to the well-being and future of the New Gambia. We are particularly pleased to see you and look forward to frank and fruitful deliberations as we attempt to form a vibrant and liberal political party.
It is our conviction that as a political force, we must seize the opportunities presented by the new dispensation to galvanize all Gambians to focus on issues, not personalities, and ensure that our goal of participating in the affairs of our country remains paramount. We can no longer afford to cheer from the side-lines. The Gambia is too important for observation alone; we must choose to participate in meaningful and relevant ways.
If the Gambian people give us a mandate, our party would:
1. Provide a permanent solution to the country’s perennial energy crisis
2. Ensure that a credible and victims-centered transitional justice process is set in motion
3. Reform the prison system and make sure that it meets minimum universal standards
4. Continue steps to guarantee the independence of the judiciary
5. Adopt policies to reduce food prices
6. Recruit qualified and willing Gambians into the public sector while weeding out ghost workers
7. Create a truly independent electoral commission as a step toward comprehensive electoral reform; redraw constituency boundaries, review voter registrations, and change party registration requirements
8. Ensure that political parties have equal access to public media.
9. Begin comprehensive reform of media laws; decriminalize defamation (libel and slander)
10. End Impunity; Make sure that Rule of Law prevails. Initiate investigations into all reported cases of murders, disappearances, torture, extrajudicial executions, and illegal arrests under the previous regime; Bring Jammeh and his accomplices to justice
11. Improve infrastructure – road network, communications networks – and healthcare system.
12. Ensure that the new polity guarantees the rights of women and eliminates barriers to their full participation in all aspects of national life
13. Uphold freedom of religion
14. Liberalize the ICT sector
15. Guarantee freedom of expression and promote freedoms of assembly and association.
16. Fundamentally change the character & role of the security forces
17. Engage business community & international partners in devising urgent job creation and youth employment policies and programs
18. Create an effective human rights commission
19. Overhaul the 1997 Constitution (real separation of powers; term limit; abolition of death penalty; curbing executive power; etc).
20. Reform the education sector (our schools must do better).
21. Recover loot and pay reparations
22. Review tax code
23. Restore closer ties to Senegal and The Gambia’s traditional allies through policies and concrete actions; rejoin and/or remain in key international bodies
24. Establish and support an independent Anti corruption Agency.
25. Protect the environment and provide incentives to environment-friendly investments
0. Promote The Gambia as a major tourist hub while exploring ways to enhance the industry and its contributions to national development; and,
0. Devise a blueprint to revitalize the agriculture sector
These and similar objectives, we believe, should constitute the core of our new party’s manifesto.
Finally, Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, you have been selected to participate in this important milestone in our country’s history largely due to your dedication to the principles we hold dear. We thank you once again for honoring our invitation and hope that you will engage in insightful discussions aimed at taking The Gambia to greater heights.
With that, I say let the deliberations begin in earnest.
By DR. AMADOU SCATTRED JANNEH