“State should allow criticism and promote freedom of speech” Says former Independent Candidate for Banjul Central

By Muhammed Sailu Bah
Madam Haddijatou Forbes, the former Independent candidate for the National Assembly seat for Banjul Central, has called on the ruling APRC government to be tolerant to criticism and allow freedom of speech in order to enhance the development of The Gambia.
She said this in an interview with this reporter at her residence during the weekend.“The government should create the environment for people to speak their minds through the use of the media,” said the former Independent candidate who contested the Banjul Central seat but narrowly lost to the APRC at the 2013 National Assembly elections.
Madam Forbes said she is also recommending for the government to allow the citizenry to be able to make peaceful demonstrations whenever they deem it necessary.
“Is it the APRC and its pro-government supporters who should only have the right without restrictions to demonstrate as and when they wish and not the other Gambians who may view things differently?” she asked.
She said the supporters of the APRC government always engage in demonstrations in short notice without any restriction unlike anyone who is not pro- APRC and wants to engage in a demonstration to express concern or register your dissatisfaction on something that is being done by the government. She cited the numerous demonstrations organised by supporters of the APRC with the full state apparatus, including the security.
“In the President speech during the 21st anniversary of the July 22nd celebrations, he mentioned that Gambia is the most tolerant country. If this is the case, then why is that people are afraid to speak up their minds for fear of abduction or arrest or by unknown security personnel?” she asked.
Madam Forbes expressed her disapproval of the staged managed show that mobilized the pardoned prisoners and their families to engage in a procession march to thank the president.
“Since the President is talking about tolerance, the public media which is maintained by the tax payers money, should be opened up to allow the opposition and divergent views to be expressed there,” said the former Independent candidate.
Madam Forbes said the APRC government should be taking note of criticisms and then to rectify its mistakes accordingly for the good of the country.
“The Gambia can only be called a tolerant country if people can express themselves freely without fear of any retribution from the state and her agents,” she concluded.