EDITORIAL: Barrow’s blueprint
EVENTS UNFOLDING DURING the last week, here and abroad, should cause us to reflect on the quality of the democracy which we have inherited even if we have tried, from time to time, to shape it to suit our national needs. It is indeed a most precious asset.
One of the clearest marks of the success of the transplanted system of government to the former colonies is how the first transfer of power after Independence was handled. Numerous examples abound of riots, and dislocation caused by the stiff-necked refusal of some of the leaders at Independence time to cede power when they were defeated at the polls.
All our leaders following Mr Barrow’s example in 1976 have accepted smooth changes in power, but the picture in some former colonies has often been disorderly, sometimes with states of emergency being declared. The national well being is inevitably injured.
When we consider the turmoil presently working itself out in The Gambia about the transfer of power after elections on December 1 last year, we ought to commend the commitment of Prime Minister Barrow (as he then was) in 1976 when, with consummate dignity, he set a responsible example which has been followed ever since by successive leaders of this country. He graciously accepted defeat at the elections and ceded power to Opposition Leader
Presently, the new Gambian leader, Adama Barrow has had to be sworn into office as president of Gambia in the Gambian Embassy in neighbouring Senegal, whose army had entered The Gambia prepared to oust the defeated Gambian president who lost the elections.
It is difficult to see how peace, order and good governance can flourish in such conditions; and when this country is praised for punching above its weight it is because our leaders and our people have, generally speaking, respected the norms and conventions of our governance system and accept the view that the voice of the people is as the voice of God.
This weekend, as we honour the life and work of our first Prime Minister, the
Rt Excellent Errol Barrow, a National Hero, we should remember his wisdom
of setting a moderating tone in his public utterances, and of strictly observing the conventions relating to political parties, as his “dismissal” of two Senators at a political meeting showed.
The “critical” statements late last year by Minister Donville Inniss concerning Prime Minister Stuart would have instantly qualified that minister for departure from Mr Barrow’s Cabinet because of the doctrine of collective responsibility, and the latter’s clear knowledge that dissent outside Cabinet by a Cabinet minister weakens the chain of governance and is adverse to the public interest.
The recent transfer of power in the United States has been accompanied on this occasion by noisy but generally peaceful demonstrations with the occasional incident of small scale violence. The quality and tone of some of the President-elect Trump’s public declarations may well be the fuel that fanned these undesirable flames.
Our father of Independence understood that it is always better to avoid such situations although responsible dissent in any democracy should be encouraged and indeed protected.
There is obviously more than one way to run a country, but we are satisfied that we have avoided some of the more grievous problems of other developing nations because Mr Barrow’s legacy has left us a blueprint of proper governance principles which we have usually followed, but we ignore them at our peril.