By Momodou Jarju
President Adama Barrow has urged the commissioners of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) to prioritize the needs of the poor, marginalized and hard to reach communities of this country.
Speaking yesterday at the swearing in ceremony of the five commissioners of NHRC and three permanent secretaries at State House, Banjul, Barrow added that the establishment of the regional and district offices throughout the country is imperative for the people to feel the commission’s presence.
“The role of the commission to promote and protect human rights means that you stand in a very privileged position as all categories of citizens would look up to you for the protection of their individual and collective rights and interest. I implore you to deal with all complaints fairly and objectively regardless of the identity, ethnic or political background of all complainants,” he said.
The commissioners who took their oath were former chairperson of the Faraba Commission, Emmanuel Daniel Joof as Chairperson, Jainaba Johm, Gambian in the Diaspora as Vice Chairperson and Njundu Drammeh , Imam Baba Muhtar Leigh and Dr Agnes Adama Campell nee Kallay, a Gambian in the Diaspora as members.
The long-awaited commission is a permanent body established in 2017 to promote and protect human rights, recommend appropriate remedial action to the government and seek appropriate redress on behalf of victims.
Public awareness creation and education programs to promote a culture of human rights in the country and assist the government formulate policies to guarantee human rights are among NHRC mandates.
Meanwhile, Barrow said the absence of an independent NHRC has always been a major vacuum in Gambia’s human rights participation, thus the appointment of the commissioners is a historic milestone in the fulfillment of the country’s human rights obligations.
Speaking further, Barrow said the commission is not a substitute for the court system but its effectiveness is expected to have far reaching consequences on the lives of the ordinary Gambians by creating an avenue to provide redress to issues affecting their rights.
Barrow said The Gambia housing the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights headquarters for over 30 years has tasked her to serve as a role model in the promotion and protection of human rights in Africa.
He added that his government is committed to rendering the necessary assistances for the commission to realize its objectives.
“The budgetary provision in the 2019 national budget is to ensure a smooth take off for the commission. Apart from this financial commitment, I also pledge the moral support of my government to safeguard the independent and autonomy of the commission for the execution of its mandate. I am confident that you will live up to expectation in reshaping the human rights landscape of The Gambia from now on,” he said.
Barrow said the appointed PS are the technical drivers of their institutions and implored them to stay committed to national service and take the responsibility to provide the policy guidance needed in their office to institute meaningful and effective institutional reforms in the best interest of the nation.
The three new permanent secretaries who took their oath of office were Ndey Marry Njie for the Ministry of Youth and Sports, Alasana ST Jammeh for the Office of the President and Saikou Sanyang for the Ministry of Land, Regional Government and Religious Affairs.
The event was witnessed by top government officials and partners of the government.