Ousman Sillah, the National Assembly Member (NAM) for Banjul North, as part of his usual familiarisation tour of public and private institutions and facilities within his Constituency, recently concluded official visits to the Police Barracks, Sub-Police Station at London Corner and the Mile Two Central Prison.
Talking to this medium, the Banjul North Lawmaker disclosed that the main objective of the visit is to familiarise himself with the conditions and issues of institutions operating within his Constituency in terms of challenges, constraints and needs, so as to have adequate and relevant information for the purposes of pursuing advocacy and support.
“It is incumbent on me as the sitting elected representative, to be interested in the concerns and welfare of not only my constituents, but also the institutions that are operating within the Constituency, in order to articulate their issues effectively and which I can only do through consultations and visits,” Sillah said; that this leg is a continuation of the formal visits he started last year, which took him to Schools, Hospitals, Offices and businesses within Banjul North, in particular, and Banjul City in general.
The Banjul North NAM started his familiarisation tour on Thursday 27 September 2018, with a brief meeting with the Inspector General of Police (IGP) Mamud Jobe, at his office in Banjul, to commence the formal process.
His first port of call on the tour was the visit to the Police Barracks, called ‘Old Lines’, which serves as residence for some Police Officers stationed in Banjul. He was received by the Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) Sohna Jawara, the Officer Commanding the PIU in Banjul, and Inspector Abdoulie Bojang.
In the ensuing discussion, challenges and issues relating to their work and condition of the barracks were identified, and suggestions made as to how to address them.
“I don’t know how you are relating with the surrounding community, but I would encourage the residents of the barracks not to isolate themselves but to fraternise. This is your own community. So please relate and socialise,” Sillah advised them.
He was later taken around the facility by a PIU officer Jammeh Sarr, who also doubles as the Alkalo of the Barracks.
From the Barracks Sillah proceeded to the sub-police station situated at London Corner and within the perimetre of the former Crab Island School, where he was received by the Station Officer (SO) Inspector Musa Bah, in the presence of Sub-Inspector Samba Kah. The SO briefed the Lawmaker on general operational issues and the initiatives being undertaken by the police in curbing crime. He was informed that the cases that are handled at the station are mainly domestic or family disputes.
“We do not end up in Court but instead resort to amicable resolution of these family disputes,” said Inspector Sowe.
The SO invites the Banjul North NAM to support them in their community policing efforts challenges and needs such as mobility, resources, etc., that were also identified.
“I really applaud your out-of-court dispute resolution initiatives and would be giving you support through advocacy for the police to be fully resourced and motivated, to serve the communities in accordance with the Law and respect for human rights,” he promised,
On Friday, 28 September, Sillah accompanied by Alhagie Manserry Njie and Birahim Jagne, continued with his familiarisation tour by visiting the Central Prisons at Mile Two.
“One of my first interventions in the National Assembly immediately after my election in 2017, was to advocate for prison reforms and the relocation of the Mile Two Central Prisons, to a more environmentally conducive area which does not pose any health hazard to both the inmates and prison officers. The present location of the prisons is not fit for human dwelling, more so for people under incarceration,” Sillah said; that although the executive has made a promise that the prison will be relocated to a better place, this is an urgent matter.
He assured the administration that he will continue advocating for prison reforms and better living and working conditions for inmates at the main prisons and remand wing, as well as the officers.
Ansumana Manneh, Director General of Prisons, in welcoming the Banjul North Lawmaker, expressed profound appreciation for the visit which he described as the first of its kind for a NAM of the Constituency. “We have made significant improvements in relation to the condition and operation of the prisons, but we are still faced with some challenges and need urgent support in these areas,” said Manneh.
He elaborated on the issues, achievements, challenges and constraints and the efforts being made to address some of them.
Sillah was taken on a conducted tour of the central prisons which took him and his delegation to the training centre, clinic, main yard, library, infirmary, kitchen, bakery, carpentry and metal workshops, remand wing, old and new living quarters of prison staff in residence, and the auto mechanic unit.
At the main yard and remand wing, Sillah counselled inmates that imprisonment does not signify the end of the world or renders the person as a worthless human being. “I have been to prison as a political detainee on the remote Janjangbureh prisons for fifteen months incommunicado. But here I am now trying to render service to the people,” Sillah said.
“Prison is meant to serve as a place of correction and not condemnation and from where the person should emerge as more resolved, to be a humble, dignified and worthy human being.”
He told the inmates that the only thing they are deprived of, is the right to freedom of movement; but that otherwise all the others rights should be guaranteed such as access to nutritious food, medical care, visits, books, among others.
During his discussions with the inmates and the officers at both the main prison yard and remand wing, many issues were raised regarding overcrowding, inadequate medical supplies and facilities, upgrading of offices, cells and reception centres for the public, welfare and training needs, etc.
“I have observed that the buildings used as cells and offices, are very old and small making it more urgent and necessary, to have a modern prisons fit for the purpose, to be built elsewhere,” he said.
He noted the poor housing conditions of the officers, when he visited their living quarters in the prisons perimeters, which needs to be addressed.
The Banjul North Lawmaker told both officers and inmates at Mile Two, that he is not claiming to have the solutions to all their problems, but promises that he will continue to be a strong advocate for the prisons, both in and out of the National Assembly in terms of promoting reforms, to make the facility operate on standards of best practice that ensures the protection of the rights of the inmates, improve the working and living conditions and training and motivation of staff, among other issues.
He informed prison authorities that he will be writing and submitting a report to the National Assembly Select Committee on Security and Defence, which is assigned the oversight responsibility of the prisons and copy to the appropriate authorities in the executive.
He thanked the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Interior, Assan Tangara, the IGP and DG of Prisons, for facilitating the familiarisation visits.