Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Attorney General Tambadou embellished the facts during his radio interview with Esau Williams

Ba Tambadou, Gambia's Justice Minister 
In a wide-ranging radio interview conducted by Esau Williams for Hot FM, the Gambian Attorney General and Minister of Justice subjected himself to a series of questions relating to recent scandals plaguing the Barrow administration. 

Among these was the pardoning of Svein Aage Sandaker, a convicted Norwegian pedophile, serving a second three-year sentence after he failed to pay a concurrent fine of D600,000 as part of his initial 3-year sentence in 2012. 

Mr. Sandaker was the subject of a recent blog post which readers can find here where we demanded his voluntary resignation, failing which he should be dismissed by his boss.  We based our position on the cumulative performance of the Attorney General, reflected in a series of issues - namely his handling of the Semlex case - including conflict of interest scenarios involving a member of his immediate family.  These issues, in our view, brought, and continue to bring, into sharper focus the AG's management style and bona fides, reflecting, in our view, the quality of legal advice he brings to bear on the job during a critical period in the country's history. 

Attorney General Tambadou's primary contention with the blog post calling for him to resign or be fired was that we did not only blame him for the committee's recommendation that led to the pardoning of the Norwegian pedophile - a decision immediately rescinded after public uproar - but he claimed that we attributed the recommendation to him "under his hand" while he was away on the Hajj. 

Of course, we knew he was away and we said so in the piece because his absence, in the scheme of things, was immaterial and thus should not prevent us from addressing the issue when we did.  Being Chairman of the Committee on the Prerogative of Mercy is a constitutionally prescribed function, and as such, becomes an integral part of the Attorney General's TOR.  Therefore, even in his absence, that responsibility falls on the lap of the most senior official in the Justice Ministry which explains why it was the Justice and not the Interior Ministry that responded to the public outcry following the news that a pedophile was among the pardoned prisoners. 

At the time, we wrote "...As we said then "...on Monday 20th August, 2018, the Ministry of Justice, under the hand of the Attorney General and Minister of Justice, issued a public notice informing Gambians that President Barrow...has decided to grant pardon to seven convicted prisoners." 

The phrase was clearly in reference to the public notice issued by the Solicitor General and not about the decision of the Committee to recommend the seven prisoners.  This brings us to the crucial question of who represented the AG at the critical meeting in question and what were his instructions to his representative.  It is unimaginable to (i) not send a representative to the meeting and (ii) not issue clear instructions the AG Chambers preferences and how to vote, preferably in writing.

Should we expect a straightforward and honest response to our questions?  We doubt it.  The pattern established by senior government officials is when there's a public outcry, promise them an investigation but allow sufficient time for the noise to die down or be drowned by another scandal.  The cycle continues.

When we demanded his resignation, the Attorney General issued a statement from Saudi Arabia promising to conduct a thorough investigation upon his return from Mecca.  True to form, immediately upon his return, he concluded that the Mr. Sandaker affair was "water under the bridge." No, Mr. Attorney General, the water is not under the bridge until you provide us with the results of your investigations.