Relations between The Gambia and her former colonial master, Great Britain, were reaffirmed by the representatives of both governments during an evening reception held on Thursday to mark the Diamond Jubilee of Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II.
The event organised at the British High Commissioner's Admiralty House residence in Cape Point, Bakau, brought together the executive members of the government, members of the Diplomatic and Consular Corps, civil society organisations, and a cross-section of development partners.
While the day also celebrated the successes of Great Britain in hosting the 2012 Olympic and Paralympics Games, it was an opportunity for The Gambia and her former colonial master to assess the level of bilateral cooperation, the projects being implemented, as well as to renew commitments to enhancing the bond that binds the government and people of the two countries.
"This is an odd time of year to hold this party, but I wanted us to be able to look back over what has been a remarkable year for the UK.You may not realise it, but tonight we are all multi-tasking.We are here for three reasons; the first is to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee of HM Queen Elizabeth II - between 2-5 June this year; the second reason is to celebrate London 2012 - the Olympic and Paralympics Games; which were the greatest ever games; and the third reason for this party, last but definitely not least, is to celebrate the strength of the relationship between the Republic of The Gambia and the UK," the British High Commissioner, David Morley, who took to the podium to welcome the guests enthused.
"There are two themes I'd like to briefly highlight in the context of our relationship, both of which help to explain why, come political rain or shine, this relationship will endure. When HM Queen Elizabeth addressed the British Parliament, during the Jubilee celebrations earlier this year, she said the following - 'My own association with the Commonwealth has taught me that the most important contact between nations is usually contact between its peoples'. And that, for me, is the key to our enduring relationship.Politicians and bureaucrats come and go but our two peoples have long enjoyed a warm relationship," he reaffirmed.
High Commissioner Morley cited many thousands of British tourists that visit The Gambia as a manifestation of the warm ties between the two countries, also stressing that many Brits choose this country as the base for their retirement or their second homes. Whilst genuine friendships have grown up between families in both countries, according to the British chief diplomat to the country, many Gambians continue to study and work in the UK.
Further commenting on what defines the warm nature of Banjul-London ties, Morley said there are many more British non-governmental organisations, charities and volunteers, mostly unsung, who do great work here, helping Gambian communities up and down the country.
He continued: "And when I say "helping Gambian communities", I really mean helping the communities to help themselves.Without the enthusiastic buy- in and commitment of the Gambian people, none of it would work. And alongside this is the commitment and support shown by my Government. I referred earlier to political rain or shine.There is no doubt that this year we have seen what I like to call a few bumps in the road of our political relationship - it would be foolish to pretend otherwise.
But these haven't stopped the British Government donating £500,000 towards the food security emergency.This is on top of my Government's contribution of £43 million towards the whole sub-region. The UK continues to provide a great deal of financial support for the Medical Research Council here - everyone knows what a major part they play in life here. And Voluntary Service Overseas, with Department for International Development support, continues to do great things here.Substantial funding for European Union, United Nations and African Development Bank work here comes from the UK.And I've already mentioned the Royal Gibraltar Regiment."
The British High Commissioner was unequivocal that nor have any political differences interrupted the High Commission's own development projects from proceeding, citing their donation to an array of institutions in the country to address very important issues critical to the development of the nation.
High Commissioner Morley concluded by reaffirming that his Commission looks forward to continuing its efforts in the years ahead to maintain and improve the relations between the two countries. "After 400 years of colonial rule, the relationship between The Gambia and Britain has evolved into strategic partnership which is based on mutual respect and understanding," said the minister of Works, Construction and Infrastructure, Francis Liti Mboge, who represented the government at the celebrations.
While acknowledging the Queen's remarkable contributions to the world as one of the most visible and an iconic symbol of peace and stability, Minister Mboge said the bilateral relationship between the two countries have been fruitful. The relationship which dates back many decades through British councils, sponsorships, assistance through the Department for International Development (DfID) and the Commonwealth Secretariat, according to the Works minister, are vivid examples of the close ties and beneficial cooperation between.
"The footprints of Gambian migrants can still be found in London, Liverpool, Birmingham and Manchester where Gambian communities have grown and integrated into British society. Similarly, British missionaries and educationist have left indelible imprints in the Gambia and their contributions have led to the education and training of many Gambians who have in turn made significant contributions to the development of this country. It is therefore clear why The Gambia is the favourite destination of British tourists and I hope we can continue to work together to expand and enhance this thriving industry," Minister Mboge highlighted.
While noting that a review of the bilateral ties between the two will be incomplete without mentioning of the Medical Research Council, Mboge also acknowledged what he called the impressive work undertaken by British NGOs and volunteer organisations in the Gambia such as the Marlborough Brandt, amongst others. He also reaffirmed the Gambia's commitment to foster and consolidate the ties that bind the two countries and their peoples.