Commonwealth SG speaks on Gambia visit
Wednesday, April 25, 2012
The secretary general of the Commonwealth has described his Banjul visit as important as its heralds a new chapter in his institution’s history of reforms and renewal.
Kamalesh Sharma who was speaking Tuesday afternoon at a press conference at the Kairaba Beach Hotel said The Gambia is a highly valued member with much to contribute and much to benefit in this new area.
It would be recalled that the top commonwealth official had earlier met with the vice president and minister of Women’s Affairs Aja Dr Isatou Njie-Saidy, as well as the ministers of Foreign Affairs; Youth and Sports; Fisheries,WaterResources&National Assembly Matters; and Justice respectively, as well as senior government officials, with whom he discussed an array of issues with regard to means of boosting and strengthening institutional cooperation between The Gambia and the Commonwealth Secretariat.
Sharma also noted that his visit to The Gambia is the first by a Commonwealth secretary general in eight years. He further recalled that at the last Commonwealth heads of Government Meetings held in Australia in October in 2011, the Gambia being represented by the vice president together with other leaders agreed 95 recommendations for reform.
“Half of those recommendations are already on track to being implemented and the other half are to be considered by a special Ministerial Task Force in June before decisions are taken by all member governments in September,” he revealed.
The Commonwealth SG explained that the essence of these reforms are in two folds, one of which is to sharpen the impact, strength the networks as well as raise the profile of the Commonwealth.
He said the other one is to work positively and intensively with all the member of governments to achieve greater practical commitment to our shared 2009 Affirmation of Commonwealth Values and Principles, which builds on the Harare Principles and other earlier Commonwealth declarations.
He said that the affirmation includes a strong commitment to these shared values and democracy, development and respects for diversity as well as to these principles including inclusiveness and transparency.
He continued: “The commonwealth’s history is rooted in its opposition to discrimination on any grounds as well as the importance it attaches to equality, and these are undertakings by us all collectively and for us all individually.
The commonwealth is also an association of both government of state and peoples, Democracy therefore is not only a matter of well functioning institutions of state and balanced separation of powers, but also a people based culture in which all strands of opinion can be heard. Every one of the commonwealth’s 54 member countries is on its own national path of progress towards a stronger practical commitment to our values and principles.
The reformed and renewed Commonwealth is reflected in the stronger mandate given to the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG), which is the guardian of our fundamental political values including democracy, the rule of law and human rights.
The CMAG is now expected by heads of government collectively to take a positive interest in democratic constitutional government as well as such matters as the independence of the judiciary, and the ability of the media, all political actors and the civil society to express themselves freely and responsibly.”
Sharma further explained that his discussion with the government officials covered many areas of the commonwealth as a trusted and collaborative partner and the contribution it can make to both value creation and wealth creation.
In that regard, he said they also had very productive discussions about issues that are fundamental to the future development and prosperity of The Gambia stressing that the Commonwealth supports trade,a stronger, better trained, and more effective public service, as well as opportunities for youth enterprise. He further stated that they want to ensure that women have every possible opportunity as leaders of change, growth and opportunity in society.
His words: “An important part of my visit has been to follow up on two commonwealth observer missions following the presidential election in 2011 and the parliamentary election earlier this year. Both reports indicated room for improvement, and it has been encouraging to see that progress has been achieved for which The Gambia is to be congratulated.
The commonwealth stands ready to assist in implementing recommendations made by our election observers. We welcome the commitment of the IEC to participate actively in the meetings of the Commonwealth Election Network.
A highlight of my visit has been the new element in the Commonwealth’s engagement with the Gambia. The Commonwealth is committed to making practical difference for all Gambians in partnership with the Government of The Gambia. Five noteworthy new initiatives are, we have agreed to help establish a human rights commission, we have also agreed to continue collaboration in the establishment of an anti-corruption Commission.”
Sharma added that they have also agreed to renew efforts to help a Media Commission and to provide training and advice in order to strengthen the professional capacity and responsibilities of journalists thus widening the field for private media.
Author: Sheriff Janko