The final week of the year 2018, saw a spate of party political congresses this is unprecedented in the history of the Gambia. Four political parties held their congresses in various venues within the country. The Gambia Democratic Congress (GDC), held their congress at the Basse Youth Center, the National Reconciliation Party (NRP), held their congress at the Soma Primary School, the People’s Progressive Party (PPP), held their congress at the YMCA premises, the People’s Democratic Organisation For Independence And Socialism (PDOIS), held their congress in Ngayen Sanjal and last but not the least, the National Convention Party (NCP), held theirs at the Friendship Hostel in Bakau. Most of the party congresses took place on Saturday December 29th 2018. Foroyaa sent reporters to all these venues and will give a comprehensive report on these congresses in subsequent Issues. Meanwhile for the benefit of the readership, we will publish what transpired from these congresses from the information received from our various reporters in these venues, beginning with the PDOIS congress in Ngayen Sanjal, as reported by Yankuba Jallow.
After the usual introduction by a member of the Central Committee Amie Sillah Sarr in front of delegates of over 2,000 people in Ngayen Sanjal, Sidia S. Jatta, the National Assembly Member for Wuli West and Chairperson of PDOIS, said begging is a fundamental contributor to poverty. “Begging will never change any body’s poverty. In fact begging is a fundamental contributor of poverty. It is neither good for the giver nor the receiver,” Jatta said. Sidia said the only way to transform the Gambia, is to transform the agricultural system of the country.
‘‘When we started this party, the task to which we committed ourselves is to lay a lasting foundation for a party that will become a fundamental instrument for transforming this country. The congress is in essence, the congress for the young people. The congress is a beginning of a new beginning because it is here that we will discuss the destiny of the Gambia.’’
Sidia said the message of PDOIS since the establishment of the party to date, has been consistent. He tasked delegates and invited representatives to disseminate the message of the congress with efficiency and consistency, to the people.
Jatta harped on unemployment and poverty; that this remains and is still amplifying; that farmers still cry for a better life; that the price for farm produce declared by Government, cannot reduce the poverty of farmers in this country.
On her part, Amie Sillah-Sarr, the head of PDOIS Bureau for Women and Child Affairs, said young people should ensure that they stand by the principles of PDOIS. In explaining the PDOIS struggle Amie Sillah said they have been discriminated and imprisoned among many other things, since the establishment of the party, just to frustrate them. “It is our belief that if you cut our hands, we will still hold on. If you cut our legs, we will still march on and if you cut our lips, we will still speak out. No turning back,” she asserted. The gender and women’s right activist said the country has everything that it needs to develop, including natural and human resources. “Gambia has everything and no one should come and fool us that the country is poor,” she said. Amie Sillah said the party has told Gambians countless time that the country is not poor country, and that this has been revealed at the ongoing Commissions. “Gambia has the resources. What we lack is good governance. Gambians should know that we are sovereign and we should know ourselves and know the world, then we shall be the architects of our own destiny,” she said.
She said PDOIS is the truth and the light, and argued that socialism is giving back to the people, what belongs to them.
On his part, Halifa Sallah, the Secretary General of PDOIS told the delegates that economy of the country is sinking. Saĺlah who is also the National Assembly Member for Serrekunda, said the budget of the country has exceeded 25 billion dalasi, and only 11 billion dalasi is what Government can get from tax revenue and the rest must come from support outside.
“In 2016, we imported 16 billion dalasi and exported only 814 million dalasi. So we had a trade deficit of over 12 billion dalasi. In 2017, our import was 25 billion dalasi and our export was 613 million dalasi. We experienced a deficit of 24.4 billion. What PDOIS told you is that the economy of the country is sinking. That is why the debt of the country is over 56 billion dalasi today. How are we going to rescue our homeland when taxes constitute the basis of our economy?” he asked.
Sallah said unless and until Governments invests in the productive base of the economy, it will continue to sink. He challenged the Government of the day to invest in the productive base of the economy, if they truly meant ‘economic reform’; that any partnership that the country is going to enter into, must ensure that Gambians benefit fully.
‘‘We must be innovative. We cannot continue to be imitators. We have to chart our own destiny. For over three decades, PDOIS’ message is to break the shackles of economic and all forms of enslavement. Being the citizen of a country, means ownership of power and being equal to your fellow citizen,” Sallah said.
Halifa told delegates that leaders are not elected to be Gods, but rather servants of the people; that PDOIS is now 33 years and that those who met to establish the party, were professionals in the fields of Education and Public Health or graduates in the fields of medicine, mathematics, physics, linguistics, sociology and philosophy at bachelors, post graduate, masters and PhD levels; that they used to contribute one-third of their salaries to build the party.
Sallah said to work to salvage the sovereign people of the country is a necessity and ‘we must do it’.
On the reason why PDOIS was established, Sallah said in the year 1984, ex-president Jawara told the people that the Gambian economy was sinking; that in 1985, Jawara introduced the Economy Reform Program (ERP); that Jawara told the people his Government cannot get enough revenue from taxation to pay for the services of the Government. He said our exports earnings cannot pay for our imports and that the country was becoming more and more indebted; that at the time, the country’s debt was just 2 million dalasi and former president Jawara said his Government cannot pay it.
“They started retrenching workers, close down the PWD and thousands of workers were thrown in the streets calling them excess baggage. They sold public enterprises such as the NTC, to pay their debts. The Senegambia Confederation was on. He negotiated with Senegal to come back after the 1981 coup, and was under their control. The president of Senegal was the president of the Gambia and Gambia contributed 26 million whilst Senegal contributed 52 million. That money was used to maintain a Confederate Force. They did not use the money to build roads, and other infracture to benefit the people, but instead used the money to pay Confederate Ministers double salaries. They received their Confederate and national salaries at the same time. This party started to educate the people that the Confederation was a waste of resources. We told the people that the Gambia was rich and we can salvage the country,” he told delegates.
Halifa said after the overthrow of the PPP Government by the military junta, PDOIS members were offered Ministerial positions which they refused because they believe that power belongs to the people; that they adviced the coup makers that power belongs to the people and they should call on a national conference to discuss the way forward, and fresh elections were people will select their representatives.
“Where were your political leaders then? Where were your leaders today? It was only the PDOIS that was speaking. It was only PDOIS that was ready to take a stand,” he told delegates.
Halifa said PDOIS came into being in 1986, to address six sectors of our society which comprise the very fundamentals of our country; that these are:
(a) The economic sector. Halifa said they are convinced that taxation will not lead the country to prosperity and they must ensure that they invest in production, that they are convinced that if farmers are empowered by giving them fertiliser and farm implement, then they will eradicate the poverty in the farming community; that they are convinced that we have to establish a cooperative Bank to ensure that farmers have access to funds. ‘‘We have to ensure that Gambia attains food self-sufficiency and economic growth.
(2) The Political dimension where power belongs to the people and it is from them that Government derives their authority and on whose behalf that power should be exercised, to improve their welfare. “No government is fit to exist that does not derive its authority from the people.”
(3) The Civil dimension. The right to worship, to religion, secularism, justice, the Courts and others.
(4) The Social dimension. To revive the School system, to bring social development, create employment and eradicate unemployment, improve the health system which is the fifth one, and others.
(6) The Cultural dimension: To convert information into knowledge, and to use that knowledge to invent, provide social amenities, utilise and protect our land, water and air, and to protect and preserve the ecology.
Meanwhile in Basse, this reporter Kebba AF Touray, quoted the GDC Leader that he has come to eradicate tribalism.
The Secretary General and Leader of the GDC Mama Kandeh, said his party has come to trample down upon tribalism and champion the course of peace in the country; that he envisaged to have a nation that will enjoy a high standards of effective governance.
According to our reporter, Kandeh said this on Sunday December 29th 2018, at the Basse Youth Center grounds, on the occasion of his party’s first congress.
Kandeh said GDC was registered on May 11th 2016, through the existing Independent Electoral Commission.
He said the party was built to foster the culture of respect, fundamental human rights and freedoms with a highly skilled and motivated workforce; that the party focuses on strong democratic foundations in a robust, popular and multiparty contest for power, to enable the people make a better choice of leadership, by comparing policies and programs, and creating a situation where generations of Gambians can be able to see multiple successions of heads of Governments through democratic elections.
Kandeh in his speech to delegates, harped on the amendment of the Electoral Law which he said was to discourage new parties like the GDC, from registering; that the registration fee for parties was increased from D10,000 to D1million and the number of registered voter signatories was also increased from 5,000 to 10,000. He said the GDC is a social democratic party that believes in the humanitarian treatment of all person regardless of their backgrounds.
He informed the delegates that the President is a servant of the people, but not a Leader. And thus called on those handling the position of the presidency, to be truthful and desist from fiction.
“Our vision as a party is to train and educate generations of Gambians in the cultivation of genuine democracy with presidential term limits, as well as provide the means for the achievement of our aspirations for better living conditions that can be favorably compared to global standards,” he told delegates of the GDC.
Speaking earlier, Alagie Sowe the Member for Jimara Constituency, said GDC has registered progress in the promotion and development of the country and her people.
Meanwhile at the Soma Soma Lower Basic School grounds, our reporter Momodou Jarju, said the leader of the National Reconciliation Party (NRP), warned anybody who wants to undermine the leadership of President Adama Barrow, saying the person would perish in the process.
Hamat Ngai Kumba Bah, who is the current Minister of Tourism and Culture, said President Adama Barrow is here to stay for the time being, whether people like it or not.
Hamat disclosed this statement while delivering his welcome remarks to his party delegates at their congress at Jarra Soma Lower Basic School grounds, in the Lower River Region on Saturday December 29th 2018.
“I do not make mere speeches or mere talks. When I tell you something, do not throw it away. Even if you do not believe it, keep it. Do not throw it away. I can assure anybody underrating the man thinking that he is easy to be carried away, you will end up perishing in the process yourself,” he told delegates. Bah who has been the leader of the NRP since its establishment in 1996, said he has been on the opposing side for two decades, before overtaking former Dictator Yahya Jammeh.
Sounding like a poet, Bah described President Barrow as a man with a “heart that is full of love and no space for hatred.’’
He said deputies at the National Assembly have no choice than to support the President, as the only way move the country forward; that they cannot afford to be divided at this time but must stick together as a family, just like the beginning of the formation of the coalition. He said The Gambia cannot afford to be a failed state. He urged all to preach peace and reconcile with God and nature, in order to forge ahead as a country.
“We need to stabilize the Gambia. We need to revitalize the economy, to set the pace moving, to be united, to speak with one voice and to move forward and move this country forward. We can only afford to be united and move this country forward and want every Gambian to pray for this,” he said.
He said it is pertinent for supporters of parties to keep peace among themselves and their leaders and talk about unity which will make a difference. He applauded the press for their efforts that culminated in the change to the new dispensation.
Bah advised Gambians to abstain from tribalism while assuring that his party will continue to advocate for unity and reconciliation which has been its mantra since inception. The congress could not hold on Saturday as planned due to a late start which was pushed to the following day, Sunday.
Bah is one of the coalition members who insisted that President Barrow should rule for five years, as opposed to their said agreement in 2016.
By the time of going to Press, some of the parties were still discussing on the ways of sorting out the selection their final executive members, who will oversee their parties for the next two years to come.
As this was the Week of party political congresses, the PPP and the NCP also held theirs and Foroyaa will continue with to report on these parties, and will also publish the names of all the elected members at the helm of these parties, in subsequent Issues.