Opinion: Ousainou Darboe and The Tax Commission and My Take

by Madi Jobarteh

I have seen on social media and many people also approached me asking why I did not comment on the Supreme Court ruling on the Tax Commission’s findings on the tax liabilities of Lawyer Ousainou Darboe. I have responded to many that this is not a matter for me simply because there was a commission which did its findings on an individual who decided to challenge the decision in the courts only for the Supreme Court to confirm that the Commission has the power to review his tax liabilities.
Therefore, I have nothing to speak to that because this is a personal issue of a citizen even though Ousainou Darboe was the former vice president and the leader of a major political party. What concerns me is that the rule of law has been applied which reached its conclusion. I have not heard Darboe say that he will not accept the Commission’s findings or will not respect the judgment of the Supreme Court.
Therefore, if I wish to further comment, I will be partisan, i.e. to support or oppose him, and I am not a partisan person. Yes, Ousainou Darboe is a brother-in-law and I can say I partly grew up in his house. However, I am not a member of the UDP nor a supporter Ousainou Darboe himself as a politician, nor am I a member or supporter of any party or politician in the Gambia. Like all other politicians I have and will continue to hold Ousainou accountable on issues that border on national affairs without being partisan or petty.
For example, when he said there was no definite time in the Constitution for Pres. Barrow to appoint a Vice President I disagreed with him that indeed the Constitution requires that the Vice President be appointed the very first day the President assumes office. When he said social media was being abused I commented to raise alarm that his comments could be grounds for government to restrict social media. When he said Barrow should serve five years I condemned him by commenting that rejecting the three years’ agreement would be a betrayal of the highest order. Therefore, I have never been kind to Ousainou Darboe politically and I have no plans to be kind to him politically but to hold him accountable as severely as I hold any other politician accountable. Aside of the politics he has my highest respect.
But to those folks who, for lack of ideas and honesty, seek to make me part of UDP or who, because of their disdain for Ousainou Darboe therefore wish me to join their camp to also vilify him, I say NEVER! I will not do your fights for you and in my struggle for human rights I do not see this issue as a matter for me. I have noticed intense politicization of issues in our society in which people like or dislike politicians on account of their parties. For your information I am not cut out for partisan fights. The only party I stand against is the APRC simply because it was the ruling party that caused untold suffering to our people.
Having said that let us not forget that while we celebrate this Tax Commission today we must bear in mind that this Commission was a tool created by the Dictator to seek selective justice to serve his purpose. This Commission was not set up as any genuine initiative to fight tax evasion, corruption or business malpractices in the country. At the time this Commission was set up in 2011 I had condemned it as a kangaroo commission intended to harm selected citizens in the interest of the Dictator.
This was why the Commission targeted only a selected set of individuals and companies in the economy and society for inquiry. This Commission never included Kanilai Family Farms, KGI or Kanilai Bakery among other companies that were in the name of Yaya Jammeh. Certainly Yaya Jammeh’s companies were not paying tax and Jammeh himself was the most corrupt Gambian ever produced but they never appeared before any commission. Therefore, I had always questioned the legitimacy of this Commission until today.
Just like me, many who caricature Darboe about this Commission were also disgusted with this Commission. Many had believed that this Commission was a witch-hunt and therefore illegitimate. It was one of the whips of the regime at the time to injure selected businesses or harm selected people’s political opportunities while at the same time an avenue to take money from certain citizens to hand over to the regime, which is to say to hand over to Yaya Jammeh.
Therefore, I have never been proud of this Commission and I do not consider its findings to be genuine and legal even though I recognize that the President has power to create a commission on any issue as per Section 200 of the Constitution. This Tax Commission was however not set up in good faith because it had mischievous political motives! That notwithstanding I expect Ousainou Darboe to comply with the Commission’s findings and the Supreme Court judgment.
It is rather unfortunate that our society is so polarized on party, tribal and personality lines such that many are ready to ignore or distort the truth and the national interest just to harm or praise this politician or that politician. I do not belong to that game. If I have my way this country should set up a proper tax commission that should look at taxation in terms of law, practice and enforcement across the board.
After all, despite citizens paying very high and many taxes we still end up paying even more for every public good or service yet the delivery of these services remain poor, erratic and expensive such as health, education or electricity and water supply.
For the Gambia Our Homeland

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