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2009 worse year for Gambia - President Jammeh

Mar 29, 2010, 2:55 PM | Article By: Sainey M.K. Marenah & Baboucarr Senghore

"All of you would agree with me that 2009 was the worse year in the history of this country, where outrageous heinous crimes such as rape, murder, drug peddling, abuse and subversion have been committed in this country," said President Yahya Jammeh.

He vowed that he would make sure that any penalty prescribed for crimes such as rape, murder, drug peddling and abuse would be carried out to the letter, stressing that nobody has the right to take the life of an innocent person.

The Gambian leader was delivering his State Opening of Parliament address on Friday at the National Assembly chambers in Banjul.

Emphasising that honesty and sacrifice are the core values that all, and not only public servants, should uphold, Jammeh tasked the judiciary to enforce the law to deter criminality, particularly on crimes that create national disorder or destroy the social fabric of the country.

"Let me make it very clear that I will also make sure that any penalty prescribed for those criminals would be carried out to the letter. Nobody has the right to take the life of an innocent person," he said, adding that, "not even the state has the right to take the life of anyone without due process of the law."

"Why are countries like Singapore and others developing? Because they have zero tolerance for those types of crimes! The most populous country on earth is the wealthiest, because they have zero tolerance for corruption," he further stated.

Why then, said President Jammeh, should the Gambia being one of the smallest and poorest countries on earth accept such crimes in the name of human rights?

"Where one gets up to end the life of another, they say any punishment meted by the law is a violation of the person’s human rights. What about the life of the person whose life has been taken? There is a lot of hypocrisy and a lot of dishonesty, because they want to make money in our so-called human rights activists," Jammeh said.

Outlining his government's plans for the year, as well as its past achievements, Jammeh stated that the attainment of Vision 2020 remains the central focus of his government's socio-economic development agenda. This, he said, is a must and a national duty as failure is not an option.

"For the achievement of Vision 2020, my government shall introduce a national development plan that I call the Programme for Accelerated Growth and Employment (PAGE)," he said.

The primary objective of PAGE, Jammeh added, "is to fast-track the realisation of Vision 2020."

He noted that it is intended to plan the economy with a more concerted effort to engender a higher growth trajectory above the 5% GDP growth registered in 2009, and even higher than the 7% growth registered in 2006.

He stated that government’s strategies for accelerated growth would still be led by the much heralded, but yet to be realised private enterprise, supported by private-public partnerships and highly selective public participation.

The President also announced that during the first session of the National Assembly in 2010, his government would bring to the attention of the National Assembly a bill entitled: "The Gambia Investment and Export Promotion Agency (GIEPA)."

The main thrust of this bill, he went on, is to provide the enabling environment for foreign private and domestic export-oriented investment.

On health and social welfare, President Jammeh emphasised that his government's policy remains to provide quality health services, making healthcare accessible and affordable to the entire population.

"Like health, education is the bedrock to building a sustainable human capacity for national development and, therefore, accessibility, affordability and quality are key elements of our policy at all levels of education," he said.

On foreign policy, he reiterated his government’s continuous pursuit of an open-door, non-discriminatory policy in its relations with the rest of the world, based on the principles of justice, equality, non-alignment, mutual trust and respect.

"We will continue to maintain zero tolerance for hate, racism, double standards and gunboat diplomacy in the resolution of conflicts," he declared.

Closer to home, he added, his government continues to be engaged in friendly contacts with the government of Senegal for a more collaborative fruitful and peaceful coexistence.

"These talks, we hope, will culminate in the re-establishment of the Senegalo-Gambia Permanent Secretariat that would further entrench the strong bonds of kingship and affinity between the peoples of the two countries," he remarked.

President Jammeh also declared his government's stance against all forms of terrorism, stressing that his government shall continue to collaborate in all efforts to eliminate terrorism.