By Nelson Manneh
The National Assembly Member (NAM) for Banjul North Constituency, Ousman Sillah, said President Adama Barrow stands to benefit more if he respects the 3 year commitment of his election Manifesto, submitted to the Independent Election Commission (IEC) as a Constitutional requirement.
“It is an issue of integrity and respect for the President to honour his word when he made the commitment in his manifesto to contest as an independent candidate and to head a Coalition Government that serves for only 3 years, and I underline the word “only” as it is stated in the document,” said Sillah.
Sillah said this in an interview with this reporter who is sounding opinions on the debate as to whether or not President Barrow should respect his commitment on the three year transition as per the agreement of Coalition partners before the 1 December 2016 presidential elections, which brought him into office. He argued that the President would earn the respect of the whole world if he steps down at the end of three years, in order to honour his word.
“In doing so, President Barrow would certainly be the winner of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation Award which attracts 10 million dollars, in addition to receiving annual payments for the rest of his life,” Sillah said. He added that the President would be invited everywhere in the world for speaking engagements and would be paid for addressing such fora at universities or formal lunch and dinner events. “This would even help one to avoid being accused of any graft or plundering of the nation’s resources, human rights abuses, etc,” he said.
Sillah expresses appreciation for being interviewed to discuss about the future of the country which belongs to every Gambian. “Each and every one of us has a stake in the country and as such, I want to remind everybody that this present dispensation is a transitional Government that came into being after the political parties that were then in the opposition came together to form a Coalition to contest the elections, in which they presented an independent candidate,” he said. Sillah said the agreement reached by the Coalition of parties was that the elected candidate will not belong to any of the political parties in the Coalition, but that the person will be supported by all these parties to contest as an Independent Candidate, and if elected to head a Coalition Government, the agreement was that his or her presidency should last for three years and will be neutral.
The Banjul North NAM was told that some people even in some of the Coalition parties, argue against the president staying for three years and asked what his response is to these political personalities on the issue. “As far as I am concern, these comments are coming from people who are not President Barrow who stated in his manifesto that he will stay for only three years as head of a Coalition Government,” he responded. Sillah challenged people who are interested or are not in agreement to revisit the manifesto of President Adama Barrow, the Independent Candidate, which made this three-year commitment very clear. The Banjul North NAM was quick to add that the decision for President Barrow to step down after three years, or to continue to serve five years, is entirely his.
When asked what he or the people of the Gambia would do if President Barrow decides not to honour the three year agreement, Sillah said he doesn’t know what the response of the people would be but that as far as he is concerned, President Barrow is at liberty to do whatever he chooses.
“If President Barrow were to seek for my advice, I would tell him to honour the commitment in his manifesto because I wish him well. I have been working with him very closely immediately before and after the election by virtue of the various coordinating roles that I played. But this is my advice,” Sillah said.
He added that the argument that stepping down after three years is unconstitutional or is not adequate to deliver, is a none-starter. “For anyone to say that he would be contravening the Constitution or would not be able to deliver on promises if he steps down, is untenable. This is a transitional Government that cannot or is expected to resolve all the problems of the country. It is a dispensation that was meant to build the foundation or building blocks for a solid democratic, inclusive and prosperous country,” he said
He said what is required if he chooses to honour the agreement, is not only for him to resign but that this should be accompanied by some Constitutional reforms to accommodate a transition in which the vice president would step in for ninety days, in order to organise a fresh presidential election. “This provision for the VP to serve for ninety days and organise election is not in our current 1997 Constitution,” he concluded.