Dr Isatou Touray, the independent candidate in the December 1 presidential election, yesterday told journalists that she was still indecisive on joining the opposition coalition.
On Sunday seven opposition parties met at the Kairaba Beach Hotel to select a single presidential candidate under an agreed coalition by some opposition party leaders, which initially included Dr Isatou Touray, an independent presidential aspirant.
It was agreed that each of the parties to the coalition should mobilise 70 delegates (10 from each region of the country) to vote in a primary so as to get a single coalition flagbearer, who will contest the seat of the presidency with incumbent President Yahya Jammeh in the forthcoming presidential election.
But to the surprise of all, independent presidential candidate Isatou Touray was absent nor was her representative or delegate present during the primary held on Sunday 30 October 2016 at the Kairaba Beach Hotel to select the coalition flagbearer.
Present at the primary were leaders of the People’s Democratic Organisation for Independence and Socialism (PDOIS), the United Democratic Party (UDP), the National Reconciliation Party (NRP), the National Convention Party (NCP), the Gambia Moral Congress (GMC), the People’s Progressive Party (PPP), and the Gambia Party for Democracy and Progress (GPDP).
The flagbearer of UDP Adama Barrow was elected by 308 of 490 delegate votes at the convention.
Media reports quoted sources close to Isatou Touray that she had decided to pull out of the coalition, but in a press briefing held yesterday by Dr Touray at her residence in Brusubi, she said she “could not make any decision at the moment regarding the coalition” until she discussed with her “people”.
“I have to go back to the people to discuss with them,” she said. “I want to tell the world out there that all this effort done is to promote democracy in The Gambia, because all of us want change, and those in the diaspora also want positive change for The Gambia.”
She further said: “I did not pull out of the coalition, but what actually happened is I was sidelined. I came with a purpose to work in unity together to be able to achieve the singular goal of making a change in The Gambia; so that The Gambia would be able to build up a young generation that is going to take leadership and responsibility in the future, create an enabling environment for the people.”
She said she had many other issues about the coalition she decided to keep close to her chest.
“I have not shared them with the public, because I felt it was an internal matter and it was important that we trash them out because it is all about promoting good governance and dealing with the process, and ourselves as leaders who want to move The Gambia from this current situation that we are in,” she said.
She further explained that on her second attendance of the coalition meeting, she tabled some pertinent issues that were commented on by other members of the coalition.
“During that meeting, when I made my presentation there were comments. I went back and when I came back the third time, I came with everything that they suggested which I felt were very critical and important and also responding to the need,” she told journalists.
She said in that presentation she brought in all the concerns, and it was on that day that it became “quite clear” she was an “unwelcomed guest”.
“I was sidelined, I was marginalized. I was discriminated against, but that did not affect me because I felt I have come to join this space to move democracy for the people,” she added.
Dr Touray further told journalists that she was not pleased with the way and manner she was treated, but she took time to remain in the meeting until everything was over, and was given a second chance to talk.
“I explained that I am available. I am still an option they can rely on, and I’m still an option that they can trust and we are here to move the country, not our selfish interest.”
She said she joined the presidential race as an independent candidate in order to promote the will of the people, “the will and concern of the Gambians both at home and in the Diaspora.
“With all the efforts, I realised that I was not being recognised within the space. I said I can understand it is the same trust or mistrust for 22 years, which has been going on; the lack of trust between the parties, and it is the same feeling that is being transferred to me,” she added.
Dr Touray further stated: “I have realised the type of system going on during the process. I was there, but it was unfair and undemocratic; there was lack of transparency in the process, and I was marginalised for not being part of this process,” she continued.
“For you to have done a convention, for me to be part of, and then after the convention for you to bring the document that is supposed to legitimise my participation, in itself tells you a lot that we are not promoting good governance.
“We are not respecting transparency and accountability. If we are going to start with this, it is a non-starter, because we want to change things in the positive direction.”
Dr Touray said she was kept in the dark in the process, although she made a lot of efforts to partake fully.
“However, Mrs Fatoumatta Tambajang, for one reason or the other, was not forthcoming,” she told reporters.