Commonwealth Secretary General Kamalesh Sharma
The Gambia government has accepted to establish a long yearn media commission and to provide training and advice in order to strengthen the professional capacity and responsibilities of journalists, and to widen the field for private media, Commonwealth Secretary General, Kamalesh Sharma has said. Saikou Ceesay reports.
Addressing journalists at the end of his two-day official visit at Kairaba beach hotel, Mr Sharma announced: "We have agreed to help establish a Human Rights Commission. A Commonwealth Secretariat team will be in Banjul next month to take this forward. And will continue to collaborate in the establishment of an Anti-Corruption Commission."
He said that his visit is part of efforts to follow up on two Commonwealth observer missions, following the crucial Presidential poll in November 2011and the Parliamentary poll in March 2012.Sharma, whose trip is first in eight years by Commonwealth Secretary General, noted that 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 encouraged.
"We agreed to help further in the judiciary, including the establishment of a Human Rights Division and institutional support for the Judicial Services Commission and the Judicial Education Institute as well as to develop a new program of human rights training for the police."
He emphasized Commonwealth's readiness to assist in implementing recommendations made by their election observers, and welcome the commitment of the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) to participate actively in the meeting of the Commonwealth Elections Network.
The last Commonwealth Heads of government meeting was held in Australia in October 2011-The Gambia was represented by the Vice President Isatou Njie Saidy. The leaders agreed that 95 recommendations for reform should be advanced.He said 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 said: "The essence of these reforms is two-fold: First, to sharpen the impact, strengthen the networks, and raise the profile of the Commonwealth, secondly, to work more positively and intensively with all member 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."
Sharma said his discussion with Vice President Njie Saidy covered many areas of the Commonwealth as a trusted and collaborative partner and the contribution it can make to both value creation, wealth creation and fundamental issues that are fundamental to Gambia's development and prosperity. This he said included: Commonwealth support for trade, a stronger, better trained, and more effective public service, opportunities for youth enterprise, and, ensuring that women have every possible opportunity to participate as leaders of change, growth and opportunity in society.
He remarked that the reformed and renewed Commonwealth is reflected in the stronger mandate given to the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG), which is the guardian of 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 to the media, all political actors and civil society to express themselves freely and responsibly," Sharma noted.