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‘Gambia has scope to do more…’ Commonwealth SG

Apr 26, 2012, 2:15 PM | Article By: Sainey M.K. Marenah

The Secretary General of the Commonwealth has said that the government of the Gambia has scope to do more in electoral and political reforms, and that the Commonwealth Secretariat will support the government in those areas.

“Going forward, we have also seen that there is plenty of scope to do more work, and this I have discussed with the IEC Chairman and government as an area in which the Commonwealth is ready to participate, and also for them to be able to take advantage of the network directly,” Karmalesh Sharma, who ended a two-day visit to Banjul on Tuesday told journalists at a press conference at the Kairaba Beach Hotel.

“In my discussion with Government of the Gambia, I learnt that there was an attempt to create a media commission but that attempt did not succeed for whatever reasons. My suggestion was that we can again attempt and collaborate towards the creation of this commission,” he said.

This, he added, will address all the issues regarding the media environment and journalism practice, which he went on, reflects the Commonwealth’s values for press freedom and freedom of expression.

“This has to include various aspects of media freedom, which may be legislative, operational, dispute settlement or hearing of particular cases,” Sharma told journalists.

Commenting on the Commonwealth election observer mission to the recently held elections in the Gambia, Sharma said the group monitors what have been done well, which requires improvements and not only the election day itself, but before and after the polls in terms of a level playing field, abuse of incumbency and the media environment.

Election observation, he stated, is one of the core strengths of the Commonwealth, and the reason for this is that a credible election is the starting point for a culture of democracy.

According to the Commonwealth Secretary General, a parliament which reflects and is seen to be reflecting the choice of the people and laws that are made in the parliament and all that proceeds thereafter has its origins in the credibility of an election.

“Therefore, we have taken several measures, one of which is the creation of a network of commonwealth election observers,” he added.

On the recommendations and reports made by the Commonwealth election observer team, Secretary General Sharma said many of these recommendations have been accepted by the authorities, which the Commonwealth has acknowledged.