#Article (Archive)

The Need for Effective Communication

Oct 9, 2008, 5:48 AM

It is at once amusing and annoying to see the Lord Mayor of the KanifingMunicipality, Yankuba Colley, claiming that his infamous remark of sending erring butchers to the State Central Prisons at Mile Two was "understood out of context". That is the standard reaction when public officials slip on banana skin. To his credit, he did not say he was quoted out of context.

In his rebuttal, the public relations and human resources manager of the Kanifing Municipal Council (KMC) Pa Kalifa Sanyang, is quoted as saying: "It is rather unfortunate that the Lord Mayor's comments were apparently understood out of context. He is very much aware of his role as Mayor and is equally conscious of his mandate and limitations."

Clearly, the Lord Mayor is not "conscious of his limitations" in the context given. It took Lawyer Assan Martin to remind him of his mandate and limitations. If Lawyer Martin had not challenged his untenable comments, the Lord Mayor would not have had the presence of mind to take back his words, or make them to be 'understood in context', as his image maker would have us believe. One does wonder also how PRO Sanyang knows and could state categorically the conscious or sub-conscious state of Mayor Colley's mind, which is subjective.

Contrary to what the spokesperson of the KMC have stated, Mayor Colley appeared to be out to browbeat the general public into subservience. Given his elevated status, Mayor Colley ought to know that coercion is antithetical to democratic values. He ought to know that he could have made his point without attempting to instill fear in the butchers. It is no longer fashionable to rule by intimidation.

As the Lord Mayor of KMC, he should have seized the opportunity of that GRTS interview to explain to the butchers why it was necessary for them to bring down meat prices, especially during the Ramadan. He should not have over-reached himself by saying that he would send any butcher who failed to reduce meat to Mile Two. He should simply have said that culprits would be taken before the law for justice to take its course.

Instead of his shallow rebuttal, we call on the Lord Mayor to issue a public apology to the general public for his threatening comments that are legally unfounded and unbefitting to his status.

More importantly, he has to learn from this unfortunate incident to express himself simply and clearly in the future, without resorting to metaphorical statements that could be "understood out of context". Public officials who are not able to say simply what they have in mind are usually their own worst enemies. A word is enough for the wise.

'Lord, make my words sweet and reasonable. Some day I may have to eat them.'

Paddy Ashdown