Two of the contending candidates in the Dec 4 presidential election, Hon Halifa Sallah of PDOIS, and Independent Candidate Essa Mbye Faal, on Saturday clashed on ideas as to how they intend to run the country should they be given the mandate by electorates.
Sallah, is a great proponent of socialism, while Faal believes in capitalism; and, both disagreed on which is best suited for the Gambia.
Both men took time to present their views to the audience on five key areas of the national economy namely, infrastructure, health, agriculture and education, as outline in areas of debate by the Commission of Political Debates.
“His is socialist and mine is capitalist. It’s just like Nokia 3310 and Iphone 13pro,” Mr Faal, a lawyer-turn-politician said.
“But let me tell you, Mr Sallah, I would not apologize for having views that are different from yours. Gone are those days when we are indoctrinated and caught in awe of some of these statements you have made.
“We have come of age, and we must free ourselves from that shackle of domination. We are now able to think for ourselves and look at things, and not awed by the language that we use.
“Rather we scrutinize the content of what is said, and I do not apologise for having capitalist views. For I believe it is the system that will make the world run, and not the archaic and dogmatic and old systems that did not even work where they are created, let alone in this country.
Sallah fired back, saying: “This is not the type of debate I wanted to engage in; it is very combative. I expected something different. But then when personal assault comes, I will hit the person right in the face, and people must be careful.
“There is nothing in a republic that can turn the country into an ideological state. So all those people who are saying those things are misleading you.
“I am a member of ICP-OACP assembly. I sit with European parliamentarians, and they listen to me. People who are hoodwinking you that what they are saying reflect the ideas of Europe are deceiving you.
“Europe will speak for itself, Africa will speak for itself, but not these people who are misleading you to believe that when a particular person is in power…
“Even Jammeh could not be isolated because of international politics. He was getting grants, pretending not to, he was getting loans, pretending not to.
“How many roads have been built by the European Union? So you must bear in mind when you’re running a government. Now we should not talk about ideology, because we have a constitution and the Honourable Gentleman knows that.
“I was appointed as a minister when the coup took place, and I rejected it. And when that happened eventually they closed all chapters of political parties. I struggled against it.
“Whether briefcase lawyer or whatever, he was there, among those people who were prosecuting me.
“He should know how I value democracy, how I value the republic. I fought for it, I have lived for it, and I will die for it. We will build the most democratic country on this continent. That’s what we intend to do.
“People should love for the republic, and they should love the people.”
Faal in response told Sallah: “I am really surprised that Mr Sallah appears very angry. I must apologize, if I have said anything that riled you up. That was never my purpose. It was a simple debate where we exchanged ideas, and I challenged some of your ideas.
“So, I am not talking about ideology. I am talking about practical ideas that would work in this country. And, Mr Sallah, let me tell you. Like you, many of us have also made sacrifices for this country.
“I have left a great deal to come and do this truth commission, that is being talked about everywhere in the world, and it was a personal sacrifice. So we are all in this together.
“And, I respect you for who you are, I respect you for what you have done for this country. But equally, you must respect other people for what they have done for their country. You do not have a greater love for this country,”
Saturday’s presidential debate was moderated by journalist Fatoumata Ceesay of the Gambia Radio and Television Service (GRTS) and Saikou Jammeh, former secretary general of Gambia Press Union (GPU).
It was streamed live on many online media planforms.
So far, only these two out of the six presidential candidates appeared for the first debate.
The rest, Gambia Unity Party flag-bearer Abdoulie Ebrima Jammeh, the incumbent President Adama Barrow of NPP, UDP Leader Lawyer Ousainou Daboe and Mamma Kandeh of the Gambia Democratic Congress did not turn up.