Wednesday, January 13, 2010

UDP 2010 New Year Message

NEWS GAMBIA, BANJUL- 2010 New Year message from Ousainu Darboe, Secretary General and Party Leader of the United Democratic Party (UDP)to Gambians and people residing in The Gambia.
The full text of the 2010 message reads

My Gambian compatriots and friends living in The Gambia;

Let me first of all extend to all of you, my greetings and that of the United Democratic Party. Just a few days ago, we celebrated together the auspicious feasts of Christmas and Tamharet. This is a pleasant coincidence with Christians and Muslims all over the world celebrating two of the most important events in their religious calendars. The Christian feast of Christmas commemorates and celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ whose prophet-hood and status, as one of the messengers of God, is recognised and accepted by every true Moslem.

The Moslem feast of Tamharet or Yumal Asura is the beginning of the new Moslem year. Both events hold promises of redemption and deliverance for mankind. The two feasts being celebrated in the month of December this year conjure peace and joy, good neighbourliness and harmony. In this month of December, Christians and Moslems the world over rededicate themselves to peace and renew their hopes for a better, more peaceful and a just world in the coming year. This is equally true for the Christians and Moslems in the Gambia. The occasions offer us, we Gambians and our friends living amongst us, the opportunity for introspection and retrospection of the year ending and anticipation of the New Year and what it may bring for all of us in terms of our welfare and well-being.

As we look back at the year that is about to end, we have to admit that the economic condition of the average Gambian has been dire. The prices of basic commodities have been on the increase and the means of making a living are not available. Employment opportunities, particularly for the young people, are virtually non existent. Work in the public sector is available mainly in the army, police, and prison services and even in this case, hundreds are turned away because of limited spaces. As government has not been able to provide employment for the great number of school leavers and other qualified people that are graduating each year, there is an absolute need for government to palliate this by encouraging the private sector to thrive and create jobs.

We follow with great anxiety, the difficulties facing the tourist industry, one of the major seasonal employment outlets in the country. We cannot continue to blame the failings of this industry on the global economic downturn. Our own management of the industry and sometimes pronouncements have resulted in high spending tourists looking for alternative resorts. We cannot ignore the fact that tourism, which is a major foreign currency earner, must be nurtured through rational and efficient policies on the part of government without sacrificing moral values.

At the beginning of December whilst counting down to 1st January, we were looking forward to 2010, with high hopes and expectations. However, with the recent increase in taxes introduced by the government in the 2010 budget, particularly the sales tax on rice, it is hard to see how the situation next year can be an improvement on this year. To the contrary, an increase in the price of our staple food by any means would spell additional hardship on the people. Any increase in the cost of living of Gambians has always been as a result of increases in taxes and duties.

The year 2009 has witnessed a series of arrests and detentions, the reasons for which in most cases, have been a matter of speculation for Gambians. Since we live in a country where the Constitution and other laws reign supreme, it is necessary for the citizenry to know the reason for arrests and detentions and in some cases dismissals from the public service. Transparency in these cases could allay fears and confusion. Mutations in government, indeed the civil service, have been difficult to follow, much less comprehend.

The global trend is to provide the media easy access to information. The media’s role in the dissemination of information and differing opinions is accepted and recognised by all democratic governments as a sine qua non to good governance. The arrest, trial, and conviction of six Gambian journalists earlier this year (subsequently granted Presidential pardon), are a direct assault on the right of individuals to express differing views on topical issues. As we approach 2010, we can only pray for a healthier government-private media relationship and a harmonious public media and dissent group relationship. To strengthen this relationships, The Gambia Radio and Television Services (GRTS), in the interest of the nation, must not only be objective in the dissemination of information but must also cover the activities of all political parties.

As we end the year, we cannot but remember our fellow Gambians who have not been with their families for a long time now and whose whereabouts or state of health are unknown to us. I think particularly of journalist Chief Ebrima Manneh and the UDP’s Eastern Kombo Constituency Secretary Kanyiba Kanyi, who were abducted by state agents some years ago and have not been seen or heard of since. We can only join the multitude of local and international appeals that continue to be made for their release, and demand that in the spirit of peace and goodwill, these two religious celebrations epitomise, these Gambian brothers be charged and brought before the courts or released.

A fortnight ago, the life and times of a great Gambian – Deyda Hydara – was celebrated. His life and what he stood for will continue to be celebrated but such celebration will have real meaning for his colleagues, family and those of us who were beneficiaries of his pen, if before the next anniversary of his death; those who cowardly brought about his untimely death are apprehended and brought to justice. Let us all Gambians pray to God the Almighty to remove any and all hurdles impeding the apprehension of the cowardly criminals.

The year 2009 has been a year of abundant rain and good harvest. As we enter the New Year, we would normally look forward to a good groundnut trade to the satisfaction of all actors particularly the farmers. Groundnuts have been, from time immemorial, the main livelihood of our farmers and the mainstay of our economy; a good trade season therefore, can only augur well for the economic well-being of the country. For this reason, we pray for a good and prosperous season so that our hardworking farmers will not be disappointed and will reap the benefits of their labour. We pray that this season will not be another season of broken promises.

Finally, as we start another year, we do it in the sincere hope that the peace and good as symbolised by both Tamharet and Christmas, be a reality and that the wishes and prayers we have made for the health and well-being of our families, ourselves and our country, be realised in the new year.

On behalf of the United Democratic Party, I wish you all a prosperous new year and good health in 2010.

May God bless you all and The Gambia.

UDP Secretariat
Banjul, The Gambia
31st December, 2009

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