If Former President Jawara Can Do It, Why Not Jammeh?
Friday, September 14, 2012
There were a total number of 34 inmates; these were men who were tried by competent courts of The Gambia for attempting to over throw a democratically elected government of Sir Dawda Kairaba Jawara in 1981. Some had already spent over 10 years behind bars at the time of the presidential pardon. They were waiting only to be killed if the then President degreed it after their convictions.
President Jawara did not. If he can do this, why can’t President Jammeh do the same? The best the President can do now after the executions of the 9 is to save the lives of the rest and give a presidential pardon. The world we live in today is much different decades ago. President Jammeh should listen to the calls to halt further executions.
Prominent among those who were to be killed in the aftermath of the 1981 abortive coup was the late Lawyer Pap Cheyassin Secka. He granted an interview to the TOPIC Magazine shortly after he was let go free in 1991. Here are some excerpts from that interview.
In that interview, Secka a lawyer and politician said if the end was to come I wanted it with dignity. We, the condemned got our legs shackles and all we agreed was no screaming or crying for mercy. We were going to face the end with respect and dignity the situation deserved. As soon as it was understood, we sat there and waited. I decided I would go like a man. Go like Dennis during the coup in Liberia. He went to the stakes as if mounting the podium to address the General Assembly . With dignity. In death even his enemies respect him. I wanted to earn that respect,” said Cheyassin.
When he was asked , you are free now . Who are you? This great lawyer and politician responded ; The old Cheyassin died on the 18thJune 1982 when I was sentenced to death. The Cheyassin which walk out of the mile 2 Prison on 18th February 1991 is a different person. Now I know what people would have said about me had I died. It is an inexplicable feeling.
Do you have anything to say for the government? Cheyasinsaid , one must be fair and congratulate the government for setting the tone for removing violence and death as a factor in our political interaction. This action has convinced me that we can conduct our politics without force and without blood. The release of prisoners over the years and the final closure of the coup chapter with our own release speak well of the intention of government.
If former President can forgive, our argument is why not the present President. The 1981 coup has seen so many people killed, and the mass grave between the old Muslim cemetery and that of the Christians was evidence for those who were 45 and above. That coup attempt was bloody. But at the end of the day, all of them were set free. Those of us who were old enough have seen some of those who did the killings during that period, and how they now behaved in the second republic.
So, Mr President we are once again adding our voice to the many for you to make use of the constitutional clause of section 82, and forgive the ones that are not yet kill.
Killing those who killed or those who took arms against your government and failed and sentenced to death would not be any deterrent. We believe that the best deterrent is for the system to create a culture of good manners, which is only attainable when the system put in a very good governance policy.
Let’s look at the contributions of late Secka. He was a lawyer for several years after when he was set free. No one can quantify how much development he contributed to the nation. He even served you as a political stalwart in one of the Banjul constituencies and a cabinet minister. If he was killed as prescribed by the laws of The Gambia, would he serve his country in that capacity, the answer is no. And Secka was not the only one, there were many more that were pardon and are doing well in national development.
Mr President, you can do it, please do it. You can pardon anyone for whatever offence the person did when you rely on section 82 of the 1997 constitution.
We at The Daily News are not saying you suspend or hold on to the executions for a while. We are saying do not orders the killing of any prisoners on the death row anymore.
Mr President our National Assembly should be held responsible for not respecting the very constitution by not complying with section 18 sub-section 3. They failed us by not reviewing the section to see if it is still desirable to have a death sentence in our law books.