By Kebba Jeffang
Halifa Sallah, the Secretary General and the Presidential Candidate of the People’s Democratic Organisation for Independence and Socialism (PDOIS), is optimistic that the ongoing talks among the six opposition presidential candidates and the independent candidate will be finalised on Wednesday, 5th October, 2016 as part of their agreement at the last meeting held at Kairaba Hotel.
He said this to Foroyaa during an interview held at PDOIS office in Churchill Town on Saturday, October 1, 2016.
However, Sallah noted that since the discussion among the candidates is ongoing, he would not predict the outcome in order to avoid the result to be influenced in any direction.
“As far as I am concerned, clearly the meetings are on and we should wait to see the outcome. So I will not predict the outcome,” he said, when asked to share with the public his confidence on the outcome.
Mr. Sallah however believes that the negotiation process is correct, tactical and in line with the national interest and not personal or serving party interest as the idea is not contested by any member party.
Responding to the question as to how long the discussions will last considering that many people are eager to know the outcome, Sallah said there is no need for the prolongation of talks. He said “In fact at the last meeting some participants insisted that we should continue after it was demanded that we should reschedule it due to the absence of other presidential candidates. But in a process like this, we don’t adventure. We need unanimity and not just consensus because once you ignore a particular concern the participants will have a problem. It is prolonged but I believe at the next meeting everybody should come and state positions and we negotiate. If we don’t agree, we agree to disagree and will then go to Gambia Opposition for Electoral Reform (GOFER) and tell them this is what we’ve agreed and tell the Gambian people how far we have gone.”
On what will happen if there is no quorum at the next meeting on Wednesday, Mr. Sallah said they have all agreed that they will continue regardless of whether a presidential candidate or representative turns up. “That’s the agreement we had,” he emphasized, adding that there should be no blame game when talks are ongoing.
The former minority leader of the National Assembly commenting further on the necessity of the ongoing talks said, “all Gambians who are interested in change and even those who may not be interested should call all the political leaders to put the national interest ahead of their party or personal interest. What brought about the talks is because of the fact that the Gambia does not have a leadership which is committed to the absolute majority principle in election but simple majority principle.”
He said in any society where democracy is yet to be entrenched it is better to utilize two principles – to ensure that the expansion and consolidation of the absolute majority principle and the setting up of a term limit are realised. He said since the absolute majority principle has been removed and the opposition has been calling for its restoration and they know that it is not going to be restored before the 2016 election, it becomes necessary to recognise that the opposition will be disadvantaged. This, he said, is because many of them with absolute right to seek for mandate will face challenges and therefore should consider the national interest and put up tactics that will enable them to achieve the change they want.
“So, therefore to sit down and discuss how to avoid being disadvantaged is a rational decision. So this is for any opposition party or candidate who feels the need to sit down to discuss so as to address the issue of not being disadvantaged so that we can achieve the goal and that’s why we’ve engaged in a very proper and rational action. So, to PDOIS, we commend all those who came to discuss the disadvantages and brainstorm the tactics in order to overcome those disadvantages,” said Sallah.
He said it is also important to sit down to start the discussion after addressing a letter to all the parties and the candidates to request for them to consider two approaches to the talks. He said the first is to have the conference of the Presidential Candidates as they have already been selected by their parties. He noted that it is logical for those who have considered themselves as presidential candidates to be brought together to sit down and look at the disadvantages so that the opposition will win the presidential election.
“To us these are the people with the highest stake and consequently they are the people who should be interested than anybody to sit down to look at the demerit of the simple minority principle and put up strategies to overcome them,” said Mr. Sallah.
He added that the second phase after the discussion of the candidates is the expansion of Gambia Opposition for Electoral Reform (GOFER) to include the new parties such as GDC and NCP and independent candidate Dr. Isatou Touray in order to review together the outcome of the conference of presidential candidates. He said this is what is proposed to all the parties and the candidates.
“All the parties are also allowed to send observers at the meeting so that they can be well informed among their camps as political parties and independent candidate. As far as we are concerned, these are logical steps because they are not contested by anybody at the meeting. During the second meeting everybody attended and those who did not attend sent representatives,” he said.
In conclusion, he recommends to the whole Gambian people to engage all the political leaders about what they hold for the interest of the country and not party or personal interest and take charge of their responsibility to throw any party in the ocean whose view is not seen in the country’s interest. He also advised people to avoid collective blame and find out and blame who is responsible, adding that each and every Gambian should find out from all the parties and expose whoever is found wanting in terms of serving the national interest and which, he describes, as fair play. He said once people do this, the nation will then decide and the political figure must follow.