Transcribed by Yankuba Jallow
The National Assembly member for Serrekunda, Halifa Sallah, made critical remarks during the adjournment debate last week on provision of services by the state and local government authorities, adherence to good governance and the rule of law, the economy, among other issues. Read the full text below.
We have the two arms of the State here present; the executive and the legislature. Both derive their authority from the people and are supposed to exercise that authority to promote the general welfare of the people. The Executive is empowered to appoint ministers who are supposed to have the competence and experience to exercise direction and control over the ministries and other government business. We are to exercise oversight over them. I am from an urban constituency. What is important is to bear in mind that there is need for institutional building. Governance is about institution and policy and their implementation.
We need a Ministry of Urban and Regional Planning and Development. We must put an end to this fire brigade measure of simply saying Banjul is sinking and we must do something about it. Another place will be sinking then you go and do something about it. What we need is comprehensive planning to know what we really need in order to facilitate the development of regions and municipalities. Let me give you an example: The rainy season is coming; take the road, drainage and waste management systems. If there is no proper waste management system; they would dump all the waste in the drainage. There would be flooding and disaster in the urban areas. This is precisely what has been happening and will continue to happen. So, you need responsibilities to be demarcated. They would tell you right away that the municipality is responsible for the secondary roads and the National Road Authority and the ministry are responsible for the major roads. Where is the linking of the two? Which means at this very moment we need a relationship between the ministry and the municipalities, and not based on mere words, but since they must be seen as institutions, they must have a relationship that is visible. It means that the ministry and municipality should sign a memorandum of understanding to agree on an agenda; and agree which institution is responsible for what and establish a work plan that is time bound. Then we won’t say the rainy season is coming, what is going to happen? This is how we must work.
About Fire Incidents
Fire is a menace in the Municipality. People lose everything and they have nowhere to turn to. What is the purpose of a government? What is the purpose of a municipality? You collect rates, why can’t you have an inbuilt system from that rate for fire insurance? If 30,000 people pay 100 dalasis that will be 3 million dalasis. This can provide fire facilities and also being able to reconstruct certain buildings and offer disaster relief. Things will never fall from the sky and that is the purpose of our brains to be able to manufacture the type of policy that would address the needs and aspirations of our people. That is the purpose of the government both local and national.
National Identity Card
What is the purpose of planning? We had a problem with the company before, then eventually the government took a decision which was to provide service. Why should you give any chance to a company that put menace on our people when it does not have the competence to provide that service to our people? What is the purpose of that company? The government is to ensure that the company delivers services with efficiency and effectiveness. If you are incapable of doing that, then you are not fit for purpose. We should continue to demand for what we have a right to get. That is why we said taxation without representation was unacceptable; that is why we put an end to colonialism; taxation would be linked to representation so that we get what we want.
The Faraba Banta Commission of Inquiry recommended that the community structures that will enforce stability and peace must be consulted at all times before government makes decision. That the lack of cooperation and understanding between the youth, the VDC and the alkalo is precisely what gave rise to the crisis and therefore, the government must ensure that there is a consultative process in all decisions making before any decision is made concerning the villages.
You go and remove the Chief of Ngayen Sanjal. There are VDCs, youth organisations and Alkalos, who did you consult? I have this letter that the Chief was written to that he was retired because of old age. Where did it state in the Constitution or the Local Government Act that there is an age limit to occupying the position of Chief? It is indicated that it was an executive directive; an executive directive without legal foundation is the basis of impunity and dictatorship. It is important that whoever administers the State must respect his ministers. If you do not empower ministers to exercise their powers on the basis of law, then you don’t have rule of law but a State with a rule of might. It is important for the executive to understand that rule of law means relying on the ministers and giving them free responsibility so that you can hold them accountable because they can be accountable under section 75; they can be removed for misconduct. I am telling the executive to look into that because this matter will not put to rest; it (the executive) must be engaged in consultation otherwise it will be seen to have other motives other than to promote good governance.
It is important for us to see the proper functioning of our institutions. I went to a school in the United States that has farms and industries. Everything was produced by the students. I went to a college, the same. It has an airport, hotel and I know a Gambian who did aeronautics at that school working at the airport.
You have learnt that the Gambia College has 98 hectares of land. What is being done to make that productive and it can even create earning capacity for agriculture. All these universities in this world invest and earn income. This is not about public private partners but it is about public responsibility, all those institutions should be productive so that they can earn and upkeep themselves. That is possible.
We must have humanistic architecture and planning. Everybody should be involved; all of us are sovereign citizens and no one should be left out. Therefore, in planning of colleges, you must have all these ascetic values in place; create recreational centres. It is not just creating jungles; persons with disabilities should be taken into consideration. The whole school system in the Gambia should be reinvented.
We are talking about over 400,000 students in our school system. We are talking about quality education based on school results. Is that what quality education is all about? Learning is necessary at the basic level but as we go to upper basic you must link academics with vocational/technical learning to prepare the person for the school of work. The curriculum must be built on that foundation. We are yet to know what we want. We need a National Conference to look at what we want; what type of educational system can bring about a self-determined Gambian and self-determined development. What is self-determination? What type of development are we asking for? What type of division of labour should exist in our society? That is what we must look at if we don’t want to misguide ourselves. If we are not to mislead, if we don’t want to misinform, we must have clarity first in order to lead, inform and guide.
Look at the economy, it is very important for the Minister that is accompanying us to bear in mind the state of our economy. We were given the facts in his budget speech that in terms of our foreign reserve there were D 2.8 billion in 2017 and 3 months in 2018. What would it be in 2019? One thing that is remarkable is that, in terms of what is been sent from the workers’ income amount to 136.6 million dollars; so we are beginning to see what the people abroad are contributing in our economy when in terms of foreign reserve it was 156 million; just look at the small margin. It is important for us to look at our economy again. Are we exporting enough to earn foreign exchange to be able to build the productive base of our economy? That is the starting point? Telling us that 2.4 billion that is earmarked for the National Development Plan and 57% will be going to infrastructure is good. This building is good, that bridge is good is all ok but part of it is to pay loans. What would build the productive base of our economy to ensure that we live in prosperity? We need to look at all these plans and put production at the base so that ultimately we have an economy which will generate the employment that our people need and the goods and services that will make us prosperous, otherwise it is the same model of development in most of our least developed countries, infrastructural development for the few and poverty for the absolute majority. That is not meant for a country that says sovereignty resides in the people.
It is important to look into the issue of agriculture. People cultivate the land and what happens at the end of the day, they find it difficult to sell their produce. We need a cooperative banking system where resources will be injected so that farming communities will build their family farms and get fertilisers, seeds and farm implement. There should also be a structure that will actually do the marketing; buy the crops so that ultimately the farming communities will not have any difficulty in marketing what they produce. Without putting this in place, we will never address the suffering of our people.
This is a collective responsibility and we are here to do oversight, give ideas and assist the other arm of the State so that they come up with policies, implement them and so that collectively we will all build a country that we would be proud to bequest our children and children’s children that is worth mentioning and retaining.
Thank you very much.