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Raising the Moral Question

Since three of the United Democratic Party (UDP) principals have been fired from their executive positions, they have appeared on various media platforms granting interviews from their varied terms as cabinet ministers in various portfolios including the Vice Presidency. What we have heard so far relates to their personal relations with the President surrounding several issues and also to clear the air about certain rumors circulating around various topics that they were connected to in their capacities as ministers and Vice President.

With regards to cabinet decisions or what transpired during cabinet meetings, they have spared those details and will not comment on them as those are official government matters.

Before their various cabinet portfolios, we know that the President was a member of the UDP with close personal relationships with the three fired officials; in that capacity much was expected of them in an advisory role to the President outside of cabinet circles and in line with expectations, they did serve in advisory roles on a one-on-one basis with the President. Some of those encounters are now filtering through to the public.

But as usual, a lot of our social media commentators/political pundits never fail to make arguments based on holding people to their own moral standards. The trio is being called hypocrites for keeping quiet during their tenure and true to form; the claim is that they are relaying those facts because they are bitter from being fired. Either we don’t understand how government works or we are being insincere.

The thing with us is that we expect everything that happened behind closed doors to be revealed in public. “Why are they coming out now to tell us these things but stayed quite when they were enjoying.” That is the definition of not undermining the system you serve.

Lest we forget, civil and public servants swear an oath of secrecy and allegiance to the REPUBLIC OF THE GAMBIA. That includes keeping in confidence those issues addressed in one’s capacity as an official adviser. In case one is unfamiliar, ministers are advisers to the President. A prominent example of that can be seen in the relationship with the Attorney General, each time the President does something we think is a legal blunder the Attorney General gets a share. So ministers are advisers in addition to other functions.

We complain that their political activities are acts of disloyalty and because of it are undermining the government, but then turn around and say sitting ministers should come out in public and say something to the effect; “listen people, the President wanted to do such and such a thing, but just for the record I want you all to know that I advised him against it and if he goes on with it, let the whole world know I had no part in it. Wasalam!”

How will we react to such a stance? How realistic is such a proposition? Because essentially that is what a minister will be saying if they came out to “reveal” to the public every disagreement they had with the President or other cabinet members.

The next line of argument is to say “in that case then they should resign.” What kind of government will we have if every adviser agrees with the president all the time? Forget accountability then. But on the other hand, as far as we know cabinet meetings are conducted with professionalism and everyone has an opportunity to present their views in their capacity as advisers to the president. At least that is what is expected in a democratic state. If the majority agrees to a certain view that is contrary to the views of one or two other ministers, walking out/resigning will be taking things personally unless it is on a very fundamental issue of governance in which case the entire government will be complicit, or if it conflicts with one’s principles and conscience gravely.

But our disposition for wanting to be the breaker of some “juicy” bit of news; our desire to be the one with inside knowledge and access to those with connections to privileged information, coupled with our relentless desire to snoop into issues that others are trying so hard to keep away from prying eyes is what drives our passion for such lines of argument.

No state is perfect, no state agrees on all issues all the time and what is expected in a civil society is for differences to be ironed out away from public view until such time that it is impossible to do so.

Moral arguments are good in every society and they need to be had, but we need to recognize the fact that beyond appealing to the conscience of the subject concerned and the ultimate decision makers, their application in law is limited. In addition to that, they are almost entirely personal views we hold, which necessarily may not be shared by others.

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