By Landing Ceesay
The Leader and Secretary General of the People’s Democratic Organization for Independence and Socialism (PDOIS), Hon. Halifa Sallah said there is no political leader interested in solving foreigners’ interference in Gambian elections.
“The issue of what you call outsiders interfering with what you call Gambian elections is a very complex issue, extremely complex, and your leaders are not interested in solving the problem from the First Republic, or the Second Republic until now. When I say leaders, I am putting to you that all your political leaders are not interested in solving the problem. It is a blanket statement because we should debate on this issue. We started this debate in the First Republic, and the problem would have ended a long time ago.
“Let me give you an example. There should be no country without proper registration of birth and death. In the First Republic, the 1965 constitution. It stated that the Gambian citizen is born in the Gambia, with one of the parents born in the Gambia or naturalized in the Gambia. Then it goes further, that you can be a Gambian citizen through marriage, and you can also be a Gambian citizen through naturalization,” Hon. Sallah said.
The PDOIS Leader made these remarks in response to a question by a reporter about his Party’s stance on the alleged involvement of foreigners in Gambian elections.
Hon. Sallah said the 1970 Constitution also says the people who were born in the Gambia prior to 18th February 1965 of parents who were not born in the Gambia could go and be registered as Gambian citizens.
“That was not communicated to those people who lived during that time. Suppose at that time, which was communicated, and all those people got registered to become Gambian citizens in 1965. And then their parents naturalize to become Gambian citizens, and you have proper registration of birth and death. How can you have a problem with anybody infiltrating your system of birth and death registration? But the First Republic failed,” Hon. Sallah told the media.
The veteran politician further told Journalists that when the 1970 constitution was coming into being, the issue of naturalization and registration should have been addressed by having that provision so that people who were born in the Gambia will be registered by the 1970 Constitution.
Hon. Sallah said if the 1970 Constitution registered children whose parents were not born in the Gambia, those parents could have naturalized. He said that also did not happen.
“But they continued to give people national identity cards, Voters Cards, everything, and people continue to be born in the Gambia. We all know that if you were born in the United States or born in many of these places, you are considered a citizen. It is because of how their laws evolved. If we had done that, then we would not be talking about this problem now. That’s why I’m saying we are all to be blamed in the sense that we should explain things clearly to the people.
“When we explain clearly to the people and explain to those people who could also naturalize and all of us work together to ensure that those who have the qualification to naturalize would naturalize. Then you can have a good, clear template. All those who have the qualifications to naturalize will naturalize by a given time. And by their naturalization, their children will automatically also become Gambian citizens. And then it moves further and further, and we ensure that there is proper registration of birth and death. Then it will not be possible for us to have this problem,” he said.
Hon. Sallah said the advice he is giving to foreigners is that supporting anybody to come to power will not mean that that person will support you (the Foreigner) to be free from poverty.
The PDOIS Leader said the foreigner will live under the same conditions that other Gambians are living in.
“So that does not save you from any situation, and that will not save you also from being harassed here and there when they discover that you are actually not a Gambian citizen. So, of course, the advice would be any wise African will know that we should move ahead in Africa to another level where the continent will be a home for all of us. But we have not reached there yet, but gradually, constitutions can move towards the direction rather than engaging in real conflict among ourselves based on our national origin.
“You have seen the site in South Africa. Is that what we want in the Gambia, of course, you don’t want any of that in any African country, whereby in virtue of the nationality of people, you will harass them, brutalize them, and subject them to all sorts of conditions. That’s not what we should vow for, but rather a national consensus of how to address this problem once and for all,” he said.
Hon. Sallah said political patronage and coercion is against the law, and it is criminal.
Hon. Sallah said at their party level, they will do all they can to explain to the people what the codes are and why they are criminal in nature if one is engaged in patronage and coercion.