Residents of The Gambia,
Today marks the end of the holy month of Ramadan and the beginning of a period of thanksgiving for Muslims globally, following the fulfillment of an important pillar of their religion, which is fasting during Ramadan.
As we are in the mood to celebrate the feast of Eid-ul-Fitr, I thank and praise Allah, the Almighty for granting us the gift of life and, once again, for the delight of witnessing this splendid occasion.
Indeed, fasting is a significant exercise of faith that inculcates discipline in us, and reminds us of how it feels to be deprived of food, water and other essentials of life.
It also teaches the values of generosity, humility, sharing with the less privileged and strengthening bonds of family, friendship and good neighbourliness.
Unfortunately, the coincidence of Ramadan with the coronavirus pandemic, which continues to disrupt and devastate lives and livelihoods, altered religious practice this year. It is regrettable that millions of people have contracted the virus, and hundreds of thousands of lives have been lost already.
This is one of the saddest periods in our history, as Muslims had to observe the holy month with restrictions that deprived them of the freedom to move freely or congregate in their places of worship, including the holy sites in Mecca and Medina.
In this light, I register and re-echo special appreciation and recognition to our religious scholars and leaders for adhering to the regulations of the State of Emergency and the measures adopted to protect all of us from the pandemic. It is obvious that protecting and saving lives is one of the key teachings of Islam. With mixed feelings, therefore, I congratulate all Muslims on the solemn occasion of Eid-ul-Fitr.
Although the number of confirmed coronavirus cases is rising minimally in the country, we must continue to be vigilant. I am confident that our faith has strengthened us adequately to face the harsh realities of life and that our inner strength has been fortified sufficiently for us to pursue our socio-economic development aspirations as a united people.
I admit that the health challenges confronting us are enormous, but be rest assured that our health sector is on full alert to deal with any mass outbreak of COVID-19. It is evident that no matter what the scale of the pandemic turns out to be, it will adversely affect our lives and livelihoods.
Taking cue from other countries, it is vital that we take the coronavirus seriously, comply with all necessary measures in our homes, workplaces and public places to prevent and contain its spread.
It is most encouraging that despite the disruption in our daily routines, and in spite of our political and ideological differences, Gambians have demonstrated impressive resilience, benevolence and compassion. This notwithstanding, my government takes full responsibility to address the COVID-19 pandemic. We will continuously review our policies to accommodate the realities of the times, while ensuring due accountability and transparency.
At the regional level, we are working through ECOWAS to strengthen regional strategies to combat the virus. At the unprecedented Virtual Heads of State and Government Summit held in April 2020, my brother and colleague, President Muhammadu Buhari of the Federal Republic of Nigeria was selected as Champion for the ECOWAS fight against COVID-19. This highlights the seriousness that the region attaches to protecting our people.
Residents of The Gambia,
We cannot determine how long it will take to restore normalcy and carry on with our usual socio-economic and political engagements. Yet, we need to plan and prepare for life after COVID-19.
This requires pulling together as a nation, staying focussed and recommitting ourselves to the principles of selfless service and good citizenship. We must be proactive, but realistic enough to squarely redefine our goals and devise appropriate strategies.
Each country has now learnt the lesson that, in situations of global pandemics or calamities, attention must be focussed on continual policy review, flexibility and fiscal discipline. Most importantly, for both social and economic reasons, innovation and adaptation must be linked for the survival of the people. This is where creativity and positive use of our energy come into play. We have to search for alternatives to feed ourselves, vary the way we work and own our development.
In this regard, I call on the youth to realise that a nation can prosper only if they are able to feed themselves, create livelihood skills and optimise the use of technology.
By the same breath, I advise all public institutions to piously pursue the realisation of our NDP goals. We have to re-prioritise our development agenda by enhancing good governance and be held accountable for our institutional responsibilities.
If there is anything to take from the holy month of Ramadan, it is for us to remember that everyone will be held accountable for their deeds. Therefore, let us re-commit ourselves to nation building and work together with sincerity in the service of our dear nation.
I pray that all those infected with COVID-19 regain their health wherever they may be and that the departed souls rest in eternal peace. May Allah also comfort their families, and save us from such calamities.
As we look forward to the rainy season, let us use the opportunity to actively engage in agriculture. This year, my government has ensured that fertilizer is available on time. As a result, I encourage all farmers to consult with the personnel of the Ministry of Agriculture for advice.
Eid Mubarak to all of you, and thank you for your attention.