By: Kebba AF Touray
At the adjournment debate of the 2018 Legislative year on Tuesday July 3rd, members gave their contributions, touching on different aspects of the lives of the people. We bring the contribution of the Member of Serre Kunda verbatim below:
‘‘The Second Ordinary Session of the 2018 Legislative year was conceived by many, to the defining moment for the country. I had anticipated that after the donor conference, where a billion Euro and above was pledged, that we will be having the president here, to address parliament on policies of the Government and the administration of the State.
I had anticipated that this would have injected hope. For hope is what we need in a country that is in transition. In a country that is in transition, you do not only need re-constitution of institutions and instruments, but you also need inclusiveness, where people will know that despite the difficulties, there is light at the end of the tunnel. I am surprised that this did not happen and I still demand that the Executive consider the move. I hope that those here representing the Executive, will give us explanation as to why this did not happen.
Honourable Speaker, it is important for us to look at the security issues after what happened in Faraba Banta and many other places. We have been promised a Coroners’ inquest and a Commission of Inquiry, but it will be necessary for the Intelligence, as well as the Ministry of the Interior, to meet as quickly as possible, in order to prepare a framework for community risk assessment and then meet the Standing Committee on Defense and Security, so that we can look at the architecture of the sources of risks in terms of security and what to do to inject a preventive strategy to address this problem. It is urgent. We know the issue of land, the dumpsite and citizenship. All these are issues developing and all these remarks being made, tell us where the country is heading, unless we develop a preventive strategy.
Honourable Speaker, we have been told of a 28 billion dalasi domestic debt and a 28 billion dalasi external debt, a total of over 52 billion. If you really want to have per capital, it is like every Gambian will be shouldering over 26,000 dalasi as debt on their heads. We know that this is not sustainable but how do we address it? Yes, donor conference pledges and we may succeed even getting this debt to be offset. But what are we doing concretely to address the problems, because it is not possible for people to live on less than D1,000 a month? It is not possible. Salaries must be increased and therefore we must demand that Government establishes a Pensions Commission to look into the issue. We must not accept that this is the situation of the economy, then it is not possible. We must see the state of the economy as a challenge and how to address it, because that is the fundamental question.
How we generate income should be the task of our economists and parliament. We must look into the issue together and find solutions.
We have been told that mining was taking place in Sanyang, Batokunku and Kartong. Zinc and Elminite were being produce. But what has happened? We must be told the truth and we must not be silent about this. We have talked about Tumana. Something was happening there. What was happening there? If the resources are available, we must be told what type of resources; what was being done in the past; whether that wealth has come and whether we will be able to recover and produce it now. For one and half years going to two years, and we are told that we have mineral resources. Where is it? So it is important that we identify where those resources are. We have been told about airplanes, etc. Where are they because they should come back?
Honourable Speaker, inventory is the starting point of a transition; to do an inventory of everything as a start, and we move towards programing, investment and sustainable development. So we need to go back, learn from our challenges and mistakes and make a new start.
Honourable Speaker, look at the ocean, our fish can solve our basic problems, but we are not investing in anything, under the current circumstances. So it is important for us to move in that direction. In Serrekunda and the rest of the Urban areas, clearly the roads are terrible, but if you follow the budget speech of the Minister, we are told that they are going to upgrade 500km of roads in the Greater Banjul Area and the Abuko Bypass. So we need that to be identified and essentially handled, otherwise we are going to have lot of suffering in those areas. We must deal with drainage system, electricity, water and sewerage. So it means that the Ministries responsible for these need to come together and map out a municipality plan to address these and various problems, locate the challenges and come up with a grand plan. This should be done within one year and planning starts now, because planning gives you the direction. In Serrekunda and the Kanifing Municipality in general, people are still drawing water from uncovered wells. Many people will not believe this. We will take the Ministry of Energy to these locations, to see exactly the concrete realities. We need to identify these problems and address them as quickly as possible.
In terms of electricity generation, we were told by the Minister in his budget speech, that it falls below the 70 kilowatts capacity and there is also a technical loss of 26 percent. There should be a plan to be able to address all these problems. We need to be updated at all times. There is a power purchase agreement with Senegal. How long will that be? What are the cost benefit of generation and the purchasing of power? How do we handle this issue? In the long run, it is of course foreign exchange that will be spent for heavy fuel and power and in one instance, you may be accumulating to invest and in the other instance, you may be spending. So we need to be updated with these arrangements that have been made.
Honourable Speaker, it is also significant for us to look at the youth population and the young people who are brought here voluntarily and those who are brought involuntarily. We are not only talking about centres for welcoming them, but where do they go? I have a letter from a young man whose parents have suffered from stroke and has no means to assist them and he is brought back here. He has a poultry project and nothing is coming from it. So it is important to establish a permanent centre where any of us can refer these people. You cannot have a project without continuous monitoring, assessment and evaluation. That cannot be. They keep on telling us that something is being done, but young people are continuing to come to our offices. We refer them to those places and then you do not see any result. So we need a concrete place where their problems will be handled, to be able to send them there and come back with the results.
It is also very significant to look at the land issue and how to address it. We have a Land Commission Act. Why is it that this Commission is yet to be established? I am saying that there should be no demolition anywhere until the Commission is setup, because if we continue doing that, we are injecting a real crisis in the country, as has happened in many places. You do not inherit a system and act the same way. You inherit a system and then evaluate what you have identified as a challenge, then develop your plans, programmes and strategies, to be able to address the problems you have inherited. Our basic problem why we are having most of the crisis we have inherited, is because we have not sat down to evaluate what we have inherited and what is to be done.
Look at the security situation. People are saying reduce the security forces and you are saying we don’t have security coverage in some parts of the country. Is that rational? So what is the problem? You cannot come to solution without evaluation. You must do research, investigation and find out what you have and then strategically come up with solutions. We as a nation that has emerged from crisis, was moving towards the new Gambia where our security forces, if properly oriented, could have gone into peace keeping forces all over the world.
Our security forces by virtue of the democratic dispensation of the country, could have been the darling of the world. So in essence, let us sit down again and reflect on our challenges and on the way forward and the starting point is for the Executive to sit down; and prepare a report to tell us out of all the development, what is the way forward. Then this parliament will also inject its thinking and probably we will be able to have the new Gambia that we want.’’