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Halifa takes issues with Jammeh over TV interview

Mar 28, 2012, 1:11 PM | Article By: Yusuf Ceesay

The Secretary General of the opposition Peoples Democratic Organisation for Independence and Socialism (PDOIS), Halifa Sallah, has made arguably the strongest reaction yet to a GRTS interview by President Yahya Jammeh, in which Jammeh attempted to run down the opposition, stressing that Jammeh’s comments in the interview “are a mere reflection of the very obstacles that the opposition exposed to the IEC”.

“Fundamentally, the remarks made by the President constituted the very reasons why the Group of Six decided to engage the IEC on a programme for electoral reform prior to the holding of the NA elections,” he said.

Sallah who was speaking at a press conference held at the Peoples Centre in Churchill’s Town Tuesday, said he convened the press conference as the spokesperson of the Group of Six opposition parties, that had issued declarations on the NA elections, which had been the subject of comment on national television by none other than the head of state of the Republic.

According to him, some people have been preoccupied with certain derogatory remarks made against the opposition and independent candidates.

Noting that the press conference was convened as a direct response to President Jammeh’s remarks, Sallah emphasized that as far as the Group of Six opposition parties is concerned, those remarks “are mere reflections of the very obstacles that they exposed to the IEC, obstacles which needed to be remedied”.

“From a political angle, we see it as a mere diversionary tactic from the issues. The head of state is well informed; every document that has been issued; had been copied and transmitted to him; he is fully informed of the position of the Group of Six,” he told journalists.

“So if he decides not to deal with the issues, and engages in name calling, we will simply say that when you have no sound argument to give, you must engage in name calling, if you so desire.

“But to us, dogs do not engage in debates, monkeys do not engage in debates, it is human beings who engage in debates,” Sallah said, while challenging President Jammeh to what he called a debate on National TV on the issues that he raised, to show that the arguments of the opposition are sound and are superior to that of the ruling APRC party.

Further noting that the press conference was called not to engage in an argument, but to buttress the very position of the Group of Six; a position that they have clearly spelt out and disseminated for all to understand, Sallah stated that “abuse of incumbency” is a major threat to a genuine multi-party contest in The Gambia.

“The President has proven us right. Campaigning is going on, but after nomination of candidates, you have 20 independent candidates and 8 NRP candidates. Independent candidates are provided for by the Elections Act and, once they stand as independent candidates, they no longer belong to any other group.

“But the presidency issued a press release condemning the candidature of those candidates, and indicated very clearly to the nation that he has no respect for the opposition,” he added.

Sallah further noted that since the President mentioned the position of the Group of Six opposition parties, the GRTS should have gone to them based on the right to reply.

“Prior to broadcasting the interview of the President, the GRTS had interviewed me, but it has never gone public. So what do you call that? That’s abuse of office,” he said, emphasizing that as a Group of Six, they know very clearly what is expected of the IEC".

“We decided to take a stance, and we want to emphasize that we are not boycotting elections. People think we are saying this just for the sake of semantics, but we are saying this on the basis of principles.

“We are not boycotting elections; we have been excluded and we don’t mind being excluded, because we believe that is what is necessary to be able to reform the system,” Sallah further told journalists.