By Kebba Jeffang
President-elect Adama Barrow assured the Gambian people that the country will join the international community and will respect all protocols as the country cannot be left isolated.
He said this on Thursday, December 08, 2016 at his first press conference held at the Kairaba beach hotel.
Earlier, Madam Fatoumatta Jallow Tambajang welcomed the media and said the gathering is a strategic response to the request of the media to talk to the president-elect. She labelled the new president as a brother and partner for progress. She assured that their government will continue to work closely with the media.
Mr. Sidia Jatta, Dr Isatou Touray, Mr. Mai Fatty were all present at the media forum on Thursday evening.
Mr. Barrow described the moment as a historic one as this is the first time he is holding a press conference after the election. He indicated that ‘we have a new Gambia and that this moment is a turning point in this country’. He used the opportunity to thank everyone as each person has contributed to freeing the Gambia.
“We are a small country and we cannot be isolated and it is a priority when we come in January to start working with all the partners for the progress of our nation. Already so many international partners assured us partnership in the best interest of our country,” President-elect Barrow said.
Reacting to a question about the low budget allocation to the youth sector; Barrow said youths have been desperate for years and that is why they are sailing to Europe illegally. He assured that his government will take it as a priority in creating jobs since young people are the future leaders. “We will be prioritizing light industry and fishing as part of the economic building process and we will take very good consideration in allocating budget to the young people from now on.”
Asked about whether he met president Jammeh after the election, he said he didn’t meet the president yet but they have a technical team working on the issue of handing over and everything is normal. However, he could not give exact date on when he would meet Jammeh as according to him his team is working on it. He assured that by next week they will be working on fixing their cabinet.
On whether he received allegiance from the Chief of Defence staff after the election as reported in the international media, Barrow said “He called me last week to congratulate me and he said they were loyal to APRC but now that I am elected President they will give me 100% support. That boosts up my confidence in the Gambia Armed Forces”.
The President-elect said peace is very important and people must work towards sustaining it since nothing could be done without it there cannot be development. She said tribal sentiments are not important and everybody should refrain from it. He said for him, he belongs to all tribes as he is a Mandinka, Fula and Sarahuli and that two of his sisters re married to Jolas.
Barrow said the Gambia was at the brink of collapse due to the high rate of poverty resulting from dwindling economy but was saved from that direction on 1st December when Gambians voted for the Coalition. He said already, a handful of partners in the international community have assured them of support.
“We are going to have blue prints and we have a good team and intellectuals that can change the situation around in this country,” said Barrow.
On the issue of being accorded with Senegalese security officers and not from the state almost a week after his election, he said “we have hired a private firm for security officers from Senegal and not from the Senegal government. I have to formally request for security from the government but for the meantime I cannot expose myself just like that but there will be security.”
He was asked whether a 3 year transitional period is enough of what is expected of them, he said coming together is not easy and it has come out of sacrifice from all sides. He said they have signed 3 years and that will be respected but they will surely work very hard.
On the suggestion whether to bring in technocrats in the government and leave out politicians in order to avoid conflict of interest as the government consists of different people from different parties, Barrow said political positions are part of the politicians and technocrats will have good work to do with them as technicians. He assured that Gambians should not be worried about any potential conflict of interest during his term.
Reacting to whether there will be free media, he said “We are going to be media friendly because we believe that information is crucial and to stop the harmful and unnecessary rumours, the media has a role to play. “We understand the bad media laws but we will revisit the media laws to make changes.
“Gambians in the Diaspora are very important to us and they have tried a lot to see that change is done. There will be electoral reform and that will include Gambians living outside voting,” he said.
On whether his government will transfer anyone to the ICC for prosecution, he responded that if that is going to happen, they can prosecute anyone in this country because the local courts can take care of such proceedings.
He said the new government will meet with the European Union by the 15th of this month to discuss a lot of things geared towards the progress of The Gambia.