A person with the name Fongbondi Jatawuleng, which is not a normal Gambian name, disagrees with Halifa Sallah’s approach on how to handle the post-civil disobedience.
Foroyaa would advise that Gambians develop the capacity to engage ministers, members of the National Assembly and others holding public trust in an open and vigorous manner without hiding behind fictitious names or using a language that could not be ordinarily published by newspapers. Foroyaa wants to use this column to promote divergent views and dissenting opinions.
According to him security is a fundamental right. Hence it is wrong to say that arresting a few from a mob that has committed crime would tantamount to injustice. He alleged that Halifa Sallah said that the police should not have arrested a few out of the mob and that his statement is inflammatory and is not expected of him. We hope his view has been summed up in a fair and accurate manner. If he feels that any substance has been left out, he has the right to further clarification.
His view was put to Halifa Sallah and his response is as follows:
First and foremost, the critique has not followed the genesis of the civil disobedience or he is deliberately ignoring it. The KM civil disobedience was not an ordinary one, even though the spark was the news regarding Ousman Darboe’s death, eventually it conflagrated into one of the mightiest, if not the mightiest, civil disobedience in the KM which turned violent.
Tear gas had to be used in residential areas to disperse youths who were able to move and come back in their droves and as the evening slowly crawled into the night, thousands of young people assembled around the main police station at Serrekunda with a market nearby with hundreds of millions stored.
This was the situation which the police could have tried to suppress by using bullets since the tear gas was no longer serving the purpose of dispersing the youths or a way found of diffusing the tension.
I would like to know from the critique, since he has so much knowledge about security, how such a situation could have been diffused and I hope he would reply to help the nation to understand with his genius on how to handle such a situation without any bloodshed.
The second point to note is that Halifa Sallah was not alone. The Deputy CDS, the Commander of the Gambia National Army, the police commissioner for KM and high-ranking security personnel were all at the scene. Would there be any need to give speeches at the police station after the release of people who were arrested in connection with the civil disobedience as a means of moving away with the thousands who had almost encircled the Serrekunda Police Station with the darkness of night creeping in, for either rampage or receiving gun shots for another history of April 10/11 to be published in the papers? Was this another way of increasing security. I pause for his reply.
Results constitute the way to pass judgment and the success or failure of measures adopted. Evidence is available to prove that after the speeches at the police station and moving with those released the crowd followed, and the market place and main police station were freed from any visible threat, thus enabling the security forces to continue to safeguard life and property without using bullets on their own children. Was this a way of inflaming a situation or a display of an art of diffusing tension? I pause for him to give a reply.
In the same vein, wouldn’t it be an act of responsibility to maintain the trust and confidence of those who heeded wise counsel not to destroy tax payers’ property at their expense or destroy the personal properties of their neighbours and merit their contempt by advising the state which has earned full control of the security situation to show great restraint in pursuing mass arrests of those seen in video screen to be present during the civil disobedience. How can such advice lead to greater insecurity or be inflammatory?
Advice could only be given by a mind which is independent and impartial, not one like the mind of a critique who cannot even presume those arrested to be innocent until they are proven by a court of law to be guilty or have pleaded guilty. The 37 people who are charged are required by the constitution as well as criminal law and procedure to be presumed innocent and deserve bail or be released. This is why I called for the state to step in to remedy the situation and even go further to study what is best in order to handle post-civil disobedience issues. Parliamentarians, the security, the executive all should go back to the drawing board, put emotions aside and draw relevant lessons so that we will not repeat any history of bullets used to contain civil disobedience. That is how matters stand.