By: Lawyer Sarjo Barrow
Building on Amanoour’s being truthful, and not neutral, reading through the official publication and public official’s timeline on Facebook, I couldn’t help but wonder if TRRC lessons are learned.
Now, every fair-minded Gambia condemned the heinous assault on uniformed officers that left two dead and the third critically injured. As the country mourns, we agree this is an opportunity to swiftly bring the perps to justice, for the police to learn from the incident, and make sure it does not occur again. Personally, for a crime of this magnitude, I thought (and did call in the AG’s Office) the police would conduct a joint investigation with the AG’s Office to make sure not only is the evidence collection by the book but the prosecution won’t be compromised.
Long behold, the government spokesperson went to the media, ostensibly linking a dangerous crime to a registered party without substantiating evidence. Significantly, he unintentionally created an alternate theory of the case that can have far-reaching consequences if you have a competent defense attorney. As a result, AG must advise HE to immediately fire the spokesperson, and distance itself from the claim to protect the investigation. Whether his conduct is criminal, that’s a question for another day. The Gambia can’t afford to lose this case.
Second, the police conduct a briefing. Although commendable, the briefing left citizens with more questions than answers. More so, the police want citizens and journalists to surrender their constitutional right to free speech and run every publication through them. That’s censorship. And it’s not SOVIET Gambia anymore. Under soviet Ganbia, we all had a tacit understanding to self-censor or book a luxurious stay at then “Bamba Dinka.” Only a few brave ones dare to speak for us all (I’m not the few. I know). Instead of the police distancing itself from the spokesperson, explaining how the suspect managed to leave the country in a shooting that involved officers, and the efforts that are undergoing to ensure first responders are on the scene for future events, everyone is busy praising the HE and not allowing questions from media unless if considered police approved instead of just doing the job—giving facts and information that can be shared at this time.
Finally, the old dictator playbook of questioning time at 4 p.m. on Friday. Frankly, how one decides to approach a police invitation is their choice. The laws are there to protect liberty. My frustration is toying with constitutional protection, and telling the unsuspecting public that it’s new Gambia and there’s no abuse. Just routine police work. It’s custodial interrogation if one is not free to leave for any reason and not a friendly invitation for questioning. I have no beef about the police doing their job and they should be unapologetic about it. The law and objective citizens would support you. Heck, arrest if justified. But do it by the book. Citizens and ordinary folks can mislead and outright lie on social media for political purposes. But we expect better from our institution and the public officials. I brought up this point because of what I read about Chairman Darboe’s sedition trial.
Indeed, we’re all made to believe he was charged and dragged to court this August. Only to read from Kerr Fatou regarding the appeal to the High Court that the police with all their issues, did charge in 2021 and presented their case in chief already. The defense submitted a no-case to answer. For whatever reason, it took the court over a year to decide on that motion without protest from either side. The very institution asking for more money to incentivize them. Anyway, what happened last month was a decision on that motion and for the defense to do their job. Period. Nothing new. Yet the reporting is untruthful but neither side bothers to clear the air. It’s abhorrent.
Of course, I have a problem with the seditious intent law. I believe it’s unconstitutional under the 1997 framework. But since those affected did not challenge it, we still dance to it. Now, how can a truly independent voter vote in the Gambia when political institutions consistently manifest credibility issues?