Calls for Election of Opposition Candidates
Following the amendment of the Local Government Act by the National Assembly, to the effect that the president of the republic has been empowered to remove Mayors, Deputy Mayors, Chairmen, Deputy Chairmen and other members of local councils and municipalities in the country, Mr. Ousainou Darboe, leader of United Democratic Party (U.D.P), has underscored his aversion to the amendment.
Speaking to this paper on Friday, Mr. Darboe criticized the amendment, alleging that it has been designed to disempowered the Gambian people.
According to the Lawyer cum politician, the amendment seeks to undermine and devalue the constitutional rights of the ordinary Gambian, adding: “the amendment entrenches autocracy.”
“It is the very antitheses of democracy. The amendment has shown the unwillingness of the regime to implement its so-called decentralization programme. It is centralizing administration of all institutions in the hands of one individual,” he charged.
“One now starts questioning what is the use of all the seminars, workshops and consultancies on the decentralization,” he said, noting that all the funds that had been injected into the programme of decentralisation to effectively institutionalize the idea has been rendered useless.
Mr. Darboe maintained that the “Executive is gradually creeping into institutions, diluting the powers of the ordinary people to elect their representatives.”
Turning to the arguments advanced by National Assembly Members who supported the passing of the bill, Mr. Darboe expressed disappointment that the members in question defended the amendment with so much passion, saying: “This shows that the APRC deputies do not believe in elective principle, but appointing principle. I would have thought that the Local Government Act would have a section that empowers the people to recall a councilor ineffective. I would have also expected the Councilors to have the power to remove a Mayor/ Chairman who is guilty of misconduct after proper investigations, or who is ineffective, just as the National Assembly has the power and the authority to remove a president under certain circumstances.
“They should be warned that it is not unimaginable that the Executive would present to them a bill seeking to empower the president to remove a member of the National Assembly if he wants.”
According to Mr. Darboe, the history of the amendment is linked to issues arising from Pa Sallah Jeng’s (the suspended BCC Mayor’s) situation. “In order to give themselves the constitutional mandate, legal and lawful authority to do whatever they want to do, they came up with this bill.
“They are fighting against democracy. They are very effectively undermining democracy, diluting authority and the powers of the people to have a say in the running of the affairs of their councils,” he opined.
Mr. Darboe however called on the Gambian people to “renew their fight against autocracy.”
He added: “And they should do so at the Local Government level, to ensure that we do not have councillors who are incompetent, who would provide justification for him (the president) to put his autocracy into practice by taking over the councils.”
In conclusion, Mr. Darboe urged the Gambian electorate not to elect APRC candidates, but rather elect candidates put up by opposition parties, maintaining that those of the latter would be more effective and more responsive to their needs.