By Saikou Suwareh Jabai
In what could be described as the first time in the history of Gambian politics, the PDOIS party held a dialogue with stakeholders on Saturday 23th April, 2016 at the Kairaba Beach Hotel. The programme, attended by party militants, PDOIS officials, stakeholders and the media, is aimed at creating a platform where the PDOIS presidential candidate will listen to the challenges faced by stakeholders and indicate what plans he has to address those challenges.
Speaking at the meeting, Mrs. Amie Sillah welcomed the stakeholders to the dialogue, saying such a forum is very important in a democracy. She said, “One should know what the concerns of the people are and how you are going to solve their problems when you are elected. Democracy is about solving people’s problems and that’s what PDOIS stands for.” Mrs. Sillah urged participants to speak out and let their challenges be known as there is a solution to every problem. She concluded that Mr. Halifa Sallah is the PDOIS Presidential Candidate and that he is nominated to serve the people of the Gambia.
The Chairperson of PDOIS, Mr. Sidia Jatta, described the day as a milestone in the life of the party. “Recognizing that an opposition party of our standing is really a government in waiting, considering the fact that our presidential candidate has been elected through a process of a primary, we deemed it necessary to conduct this dialogue with a view to hearing the challenges you have in your different sectors and eventually our presidential candidate will react to those challenges, he will indicate his plans of addressing those challenges,” he outlined.
He said the event is pivotally important as it has never happened in the history of any political party in The Gambia. He hoped that the dialogue is going to yield fruits as one has to know what problems his people are facing before one can address their challenges.
At this juncture, the convergence observed a one minute silence in remembrance of those who lost their lives in the struggle for democracy and good governance in The Gambia.
The Presidential Candidate of PDOIS, Mr. Halifa Sallah, said the day is ‘not’ an ordinary day as it marks the eve of the birth of the Republic. He said the 24th of April signifies the independence of the Republic of The Gambia and therefore they have chosen its eve to give importance to the day.
He said The Gambia became a Sovereign Republic on the 24th of April, 1970 and that when it became a Sovereign Republic, it meant that the nation has a right to political independence, territorial integrity, sovereignty and national unity. “When a nation becomes a republic, you do not have monarchies anymore. Leaders cease to be rulers and become leaders and servants,” he said, adding that what should have been done after the country became a republic, was to tell every Gambian that the power of the nation resides in each Gambian.
If elected into office, he noted that he will transform the local government sector by eliminating the office of governors and replace those offices with village councils, district councils, and regional councils where elected representatives of the people will collect direct funds from their people and ensure that the resources that are harnessed will also pay dividend to those districts and villages.
He cited an example of Kartong, Sanyang and Batokunku, where mining is taking place. He said under his administration, dividend must be paid by those people who are actually mining there and that mining will take place under the control of the government. The resources derived from there, he added, will be utilized as a sovereign national wealth fund for development. He added that the councils will take part of the resources of the rates paid by the people in order to facilitate development in those villages.
“Today, you go to many villages; you don’t find any form of infrastructure in terms of health, education and roads. In that sense, we are saying that the type of administration we are going to bring to the people will be an administration where whatever is derived from the people will go back to the people for their development,” he said.
Sallah said we are dealing in a reality where we need to articulate new ways of changing our faiths and cultivating a new destiny. “It is my conviction that we need a representative, consultative, responsive, transparent and accountable government anchored on the principles of social justice in order to create a destiny of liberty, dignity and prosperity. This is what we have for you,” he noted.
During the dialogue, participants raised concerns of unemployment, low salary of civil servants, the issue of the Gambia’s so-called Islamic State, electoral reform, opposition coalition, quality education, irregular migration, shortage of health workers in public hospitals, amongst others. The responses of PDOIS Presidential Candidate to some of these issues will be published in our subsequent editions.