She complained that the coalition convention was deliberately engineered to “leave me out”.
Dr Isatou Touray, the country’s first female presidential candidate, has remained undecided as to whether she will support the opposition coalition of seven parties or contest on her own, according to the information she revealed to journalists at her office today.
Dr Touray said her involvement in the coalition will be decided by her supporters.
“…I cannot make any decision at the moment… I am open to all options. I will take it to the people and listen to what they say…,” she told journalists at her first press conference after the opposition convention.
On Sunday, Gambian opposition parties have come together and selected United Democratic Party’s Adama Barrow as flag bearer but Dr Touray didn’t show up.
It was reported online that she “pulled out” because of her disagreement with certain procedural issues in the coalition convention.
Her team later issued a brief press statement explaining that they would be part of whatever decision the coalition takes, though there were no further explanation.
At the press conference today, Dr Touray said that the chairwoman of the opposition convention, Fatoumata Tambajang Jallow, has “deliberately” refused her the opportunity to sign the convention document by not giving it to her on time.
She said the process of leadership selection was engineered to leave her out, adding that Fatoumata send her the document that was to be signed by leader after the convention.
“We only received the coalition convention document after it was held. Bringing us the document that we should have signed after the convention was held is in itself telling…,” she said.
“I was an unwelcome guess at the coalition convention because I was not being recognized…I was kept in the dark and Fatoumata Tambajang for some reason was not forthcoming…There was a deliberate effort for me to be excluded from the coalition convention…”
One of Dr Touray’s campaign team who was representing her in the talks, Ramzia Diab, told journalists she has made several efforts to call Fatoumata Tambajang informing her to surrender the document for her boss’ signature but to no avail.
Diab said Fatoumata told her in many occasion that she will give Dr Touray the document to sign but never did.
She also said she could not sign the document as Dr Touray’s representative because it was only meant for the leaders of various parties.
She questioned why it was not given to Dr Touray after other party leaders have received it.
“All of us want positive changes and reforms to strengthen our democracy… But the fact that the premise of this coalition is wrong is itself telling…,” Dr Touray argued.
While giving her statement at the press conference, Diab explained that the coalition convention had three options to consider: a party-led where the majority party will lead, selecting a political party leader who will stand as an independent or selecting an independent candidate from the civil society.
However, based on that explanation by Diab, an observer might notice that Dr Touray is only qualified for the last option which is selecting an independent candidate from the civil society since she is not representing a political party.
It would appear that even though Dr Touray’s picture was on the ballot box, she was technically not qualified for the position if it were based on selecting a political party member who will stand as an independent.
Though The Torch cannot corroborate Diab’s view but there is a reasonable degree of suspicion that the opposition’s agreement was in fact the second option which is selecting an independent candidate who belongs to a political party.
According to the coalition agreement, the winner of the convention will resign from his party and stand as an independent candidate, thus becoming the president of the unity government should they win.
Meanwhile, Dr Touray was also questioned why she did not sent for the document when it was becoming apparent that Tambajang was not taking it to her, she said they have made enough efforts which were calls from Diab.
Dr Touray argued that she is still committed to the course of ending President Jammeh’s 22-year rule through the ballot box, though not joining the coalition despite its questionable procedures might put a question mark over that.
The Torch has made many attempts to reach Fatoumata Tambajang and other opposition leaders but it has come to our understanding that they were in a meeting to the time of this publication.
Dr Touray is a seasoned gender activist who has taken leave of her activism work to join the country’s presidential race as an independent candidate couple of months ago.