By Yankuba Jallow
Demba Dem, an ex-deputy for the APRC has given a detailed testimony with regard to the control the Yahya Jammeh led Executive used to have over the National Assembly.
He was an ex-member of the National Assembly for Niani Constituency under the APRC ticket. He said after obtaining his certificate from The Gambia College, he taught for seven years (1994 to 2001) at the Crab Island School in Banjul.
Dem indicated in his testimony that the APRC regime used to intimidate members of the National Assembly who oppose their bills. He said the intimidation was done by the National Intelligence Agency using threats.
Mr. Dem told the TRRC that there was a day when some of the members of the NA opposed a supplementary appropriation bill for the Office of the President, but Yahya Jammeh called them to the State House and threatened them that anyone who opposes the bill would lose his seat.
He said he was approached in 1996 by the APRC to contest for the National Assembly elections under their ticket, but he refused their offer. He added that in the 2002 NA elections, he went unopposed under the APRC ticket for the Niani Constituency.
Testifying before the TRRC on Monday, the former National Assembly Member for the Niani Constituency stated that the National Assembly (NA) was under the supervision of the Ministry of Justice and later under the Ministry of Works and Construction and then under the Ministry of Information and Communication. This means, a Ministry which forms part of the Executive arm would have the power to handle the affairs of the National Assembly.
According to the witness, this supervision undermines the role of the NA to oversee the Executive arm of the Government as well as scrutinize their activities. He said the former government under Yahya Jammeh used to call members of the National Assembly at the State House to discuss their intentions before tabling a bill before the NA; this according to the witness was to give the members the chance to know and for them not to oppose the bill when tabled before the lawmakers. He gave a narration about some of the bills that he opposed including the Media Commission Bill.
The 42 –year old former lawmaker put forward that he was an independent minded member of the National Assembly who looked at issues broadly and not what favoured his party. He indicated that because of this he was labelled as an opposition to the former government.
“I was called at the NIA several times for opposing some of their activities. At the NIA, I will be advised not to oppose the bills,” the witness said.
He said: “I find it so undemocratic and some of us at times used to abstain from voting in the National Assembly. I opposed the Indemnity Bill, Media Commission Bill and Supplementary Appropriation Bill for the State House.”
“I was not part of the 2006 coup plot,” he said.
He said he was a member of the National Assembly Select Committee on Agriculture. On the 28th March 2006, he was picked by four persons who identified themselves as officials from the State House and told him that he was needed at the NIA.
“I was arrested inside the National Assembly,” the witness detailed.
He said at the NIA, Captain Musa Jammeh who was heavily armed instructed the men to take him to Mile II.
“Musa Jammeh told me ‘you think we won’t get you,” the witness said.
He said he was taken to Mile II.
“At the Mile II reception, I was stripped naked, hand cuffed and escorted to the maximum-security wing number five (5). I was locked in the cell with my hands cuffed,” the witness said.
He said in the evening of the same day, soldiers came for him at Mile II prison and took him to the NIA.
“They were beating me in the vehicle and were insulting me while they taking me to the NIA,” the witness said.
He said at the NIA, he met Brigadier General Alagie Marin of The Gambia Armed Forces with his men drinking the locally made alcohol called ‘sum sum’.
“They (Martin and his men) were dancing, jubilating and beating people,” the witness said.
He said he was alleged to have been given money by the coup plotters to find marabouts for them. He said: “I told the panel of investigators at the NIA I don’t know about the coup. Alagie Martin slapped me until I fell down.” He said after the interrogation, he was returned to Mile II.
He said currently, he has problem on both of his kidneys and requires kidney transplant. He said his brother who is in The Gambia will be joining him in The Netherlands to donate his kidney. He said this is because of the tortures he was subjected to during his detention at Mile II and the NIA.
Dem was born on August 4, 1972 in Nyakoi in the Central River Region.