What people expect to happen during a major anniversary are developments which would inspire hope and confidence of greater liberty and prosperity. One would have expected an announcement of increase in salary, the pardoning of prisoners convicted for treason, repealing of sedition and criminal libel laws among others. General Amnesty should have been given to any Gambian abroad who has fear to return to their homeland. This should have been followed with an announcement of an end to all detention without trial.
A whole electoral reform package would have been prepared and announced and the National media opened to expression of divergent views, especially one proposing a term limit to the presidency and restoring the attainment of more than 50 percent of votes cast to win in the first round.
Unfortunately, the executive did not turn a new page. As the celebrations continued with gala dinners and musical jamborees, the headlines continued “Nyassi’s detention without trial clocks 57 days” , “Mamburey Njie is arrested again after acquittal”, it goes on.
Instead of calling the citizenry to debate on how to improve on governance to promote liberty and prosperity, the media became preoccupied with religious controversies which have no place in tolerant Gambia where people attend each other’s ceremonies and are attended to in hospitals by doctors and nurses having different origins.
This leaves people to wonder whether the celebration is designed to achieve national harmony irrespective of diversity or promote prejudices based on religious diversities. Should a state fan attempts to promote religious practice by compulsion instead of persuasion in this era of Boko Haram, Al Shabab and ISIS?
How does one explain the contradictory programmes of having Viviane Ndour playing Mbalax before state ministers and other dignitaries and Dr Naik explaining why Muslims must not go to the ceremonies of other religious groups? Is that the opinion of the Gambian state? Adventurism in politics always leads to controversy. One must stick to the directive principles of state policy as constitutionally provided to avoid controversy.
The way to put an end to any controversy is to stick to the secular state and leave each to practise their religion as it suits them. In that way, preachers could say what their conscience dictates and would be careful in not offending others for the sake of peace and public order and prevent mischief which non religious person would like to breed.