By Awa B. Bah
The Press Secretary at the Office of the President Amie Bojang Sisoho, on Wednesday August 29 2018, updated journalists on the president’s engagements in a press briefing. The briefing was meant to share the engagements of the president and to highlight issues of concern to the general public.
Among the engagement of the president, Press Officer Sisoho said the president had a meeting with potential investors.
‘‘His Excellency and officials of the Gambia Ports Authorities, Ministry of works, and OP officials met with members of the Sifax Group, an investment group interested in inland container terminal business. He was comprehensively briefed about the advantages of having such a project as well as the logistics involved. In the areas of Agriculture, the President also met with members of International Tractors Limited – investors interested in agricultural implements such as tractors to promote mechanised farming and agriculture as a business venture. Meanwhile, following his nation-wide Meet the People tour, President Barrow has tasked the Ministry of Agriculture to review existing projects to identify the implementation gap of ongoing projects under the ministry.
In another engagement, the Gambian leader received the Chairman of International Association of Ahmadi Architects, Engineers & Technologists, Mr. Akram Ahmedi. The delegation was led to State House by the Amir of the Ahmadiya Jamaat in The Gambia, Mr Baba Trawally. They were joined by the Ministers of Basic Education and MOICI to discuss the Association’s plans to invest in providing water and affordable alternative energy in schools, health facilities and to build a model village in the country. He was also informed about the plan to build a school for skill training to create middle-level artisans among young people. President Barrow assured them of a free and fair environment for creative and innovative investments to compliment his government’s national development agenda. He re-echoed that his government is building institutions such as an independent judiciary to encourage investment in the country.’’
Press Secretary Sisoho continued that the President has expressed concern about the performance of students in the WAEC exams and tasked the Secretary General to work with MOBSE on the issues.
On International relations, the Press Secretary said the UNDP Country Representative, Ade Mamonyane Lekoetje, bade farewell to the President as she comes to the end of her 5-year tour of duty in The Gambia; that she assured the President that her successor and the team, would continue to partner with Government towards achieving its NDP goals.
On the OIC Summit in 2019, the Press Secretary disclosed that preparations are at an advance stage for the hosting of the second largest global summit, and that the President received a Saudi envoy and had a briefing on the progress of preparation to host the summit. The preparations she said, include the road infrastructue, airport, and hotels, etc.
On the Envoy to Equatorial Guinea, Sisoho said the President sent Foreign Minister Tangara as special envoy to strengthen bilateral relations between the two countries; that President Obiang had earlier sent his daughter as special envoy to the Gambian leader.
On Justice, the Press Secretary said in accordance with section 82 of the Constitution of the Gambia, the president pardoned prisoners serving various jail terms, in honour of the Muslim feast of Eid-ul- Adha, locally called Tobaski; that it has become best practice that on such occasions, the Ministry of Justice, working with a specialized Committee that includes the Ministry of Interior, would provide a list of prisoners deem fit to be pardoned by the President; but that unfortunately, the last list submitted to the President during this year’s Eid celebrations, included a Norwegian national who was sentenced for molestation; that his case attracted public concern; but that however, President Barrow has been updated on the issue and was informed that the prisoner was still under custody; that the Ministries of Interior and Justice are working on the issue, and that the public is assured that the President will use the Constitutional provision of the prerogative of mercy, to free deserving prisoners only.
On Social Security and Housing Finance Corporation, she said an independent 6-member panel, led by Lamin Samateh, has been set up to investigate the crises at that institution; that the team has been provided with a TOR and is to report in one month.
On Support to Gambian Pilgrims in Saudi Arabia, the Press Secretary said during the President’s visit to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in June 2018, he was informed that an individual through the Government of Saudi Arabia, pledged to provide support to Gambian pilgrims this year, through the Government of The Gambia; that fast forward to this years Hajj period, when President Barrow was informed that the fund was available as promised for the pilgrims, he immediately instructed that it should be given directly to them while they were still in Saudi Arabia, because they might need it for personal use; that thus, each Gambian pilgrim was given 500 Riyals amounting to Eleven Million, two Hundred and Fifty thousand Dalasi (D11, 250,000); that unfortunately, the news was wrongly reported from Saudi Arabia on GRTS News, as a personal donation from the President.
Sisoho said it should be made known that the individual who provided the fund through the Saudi Government, did not want to be named; thus, the “anonymous philanthropist” indicated in the Press Release from the Government Spokesperson on the 19th August 2018; that the president assures Gambians that notwithstanding the miscommunication about some of the issues, he would continue to serve the best interest of The Gambia and Gambians, in all his engagements and urges all Gambians to work together for the betterment of the country.
On the Faraba incident victims, Press Secretary Sisoho said the President has been informed that the only person who was referred to Senegal has recovered and has since returned home; that he was provided medical care and cash to facilitate his stay in that country.
She said the president, cabinet members and senior government officials signed the UN condolence book on the demise of the Former UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan.
Press Secretary Sisoho also updated journalists on upcoming events and engagements of the President. She disclosed that the president will attend the 2018 summit in Beijing next week, where he will hold bilateral meetings with Chinese Government officials and potential investors; that alongside the summit, spouses of heads of States will attend a conference on HIV/AIDS.