Njundu Drammeh

I demand the immediate release of Dr. Ismaila Ceesay. He is a citizen with a constitutionally guaranteed right to speak his mind or profess an opinion on any national matter he wishes to speak on or write about.

You don’t silence opinion by shackling it or arresting people for speaking up. You counter opinion with an opinion and allow the public to be the arbiter. What does the State gain by silencing an opinion?

If the statement of Dr, Ceesay published by the Voice newspaper is what actually precipitated his arrest and detention (for questioning), then there is something fundamentally wrong with the foundation of New Gambia. Is the statement false? Not in my opinion.

The President should be wary of the army or security forces and I would be if I were the President. For 22 years, the army in particular stood by, arms akimbo, and watched our rights being violated with impunity and basically took no action. In some instance they were the violators themselves.

Even when the nation was in the throes of an uncertain, unpredictable situation, a time bomb which was only waiting for the button to be pressed, the army did not come to our rescue. If they are seen themselves as human rights protectors, as ‘servants’ of the people, may be ECOMIG would not have come marching through our borders. The CSD himself acknowledged that the army did not rise to the occasion.

Who can trust an entire security apparatus that looked on while 2 wanted Generals leisurely walked through an airport to their homes without being stopped? Who can trust an army which knew about a death squad in its midst but did nothing about it? Who can trust a security agency which was both hated and distrusted by the people and associated with midnight kidnappings and disappearances, and had a terror chamber called ‘Banbadinka’? By raising the ‘trust’, Dr.Ceesay was doing a great service to the Presidency.

Dr Ismael Ceesay

It is the army or the security apparatus which should do everything possible to win the trust and confidence of the Presidency and the general public. The onus is on the army to convince the populace that it has turned over a new leaf, that we can trust them with our lives, property and safety. These are the salient issues Dr. Ceesay has raised. To detain such a man, for doing a great service is, unfortunately a great betrayal of the democratic mandate of the State.

It is time we all knew that there is no greater threat to ‘national security’ than the violations of the rights of people. Yaya was booted out because of his poor human rights records, the fear he injected in all of us, the undignifying and unedifying treatment he meted out on those he claimed to love. Thus, Gambians ‘rebelled’ against tyranny and oppression, a consequence of systematic violations of human rights.

Above all else, the focus should be on human security. “We will not enjoy development without security, we will not enjoy security without development, and we will not enjoy either without respect for human rights” said Kofi Annan in the report “In larger Freedom: towards development, security and human rights for all”. If the arrest of Dr. Ceesay is actually in connection to the innocuous statement he made on the Voice Newspaper, then the State should know its action is an affront to human rights which it pledges to protect and a great a security threat.

Law enforcement officers should know they are duty bearers and therefore human rights protectors. If they fail in that area, they may have no one to stand for and with them when they also become right holders. We all have New Gambia to protect.

I am Dr. Ceesay. His rights and my rights are intertwined. If his is violated, mine is too. The bell tolls for all of us.

The pessimist shouts “the more things change, the more they remain the same’

Long live The Gambia.