The Wuli East member of the National Assembly, Hon. Suwaibou Touray, said they were told by a Minister to temper or calm down and to take note that things are going on smoothly at the level of the government.
He made this statement at the adjournment debate at the National Assembly complex in Banjul. Touray said the Minister told them that Parliamentarians should make it their points of duty to not only enlighten their constituents, but to also make them understand the present difficult situation this new government found itself in.
Hon. Touray said he went home and decided to temper down and lower his expectations. He said he has decided to limit himself to only the areas he considered as funding and implementation gaps.
Touray however said he would find it difficult to enlighten and temper desperate farmers who are thirsty and hungry to understand why they are not provided water.
This evoked laughter!
The Wuli NAM said the history is that ministers were not called to come to parliament in the first republic because in those days ministers were also members of parliament, so there was no need to call on them to come. He said when we changed to a Presidential system there was this disconnect between the two.
Touray opined that there must be continuous dialogue to bridge the disconnect because the two arms of government need continuous dialogue if they are to register progress.
On the Funding Gaps, Hon. Touray said it is his view that if he raised a Parliamentary question to a minister in Parliament requesting for something and a minister stood there and in his/her answer promised to do it then that decision should be implemented or adhered to. He said if it is not implemented then he considers that to be a funding gap or an implementation gap.
Hon. Suwaibou Touray, in concluding his intervention urged the minister of Information to call on the public media to effectively communicate to the public. He suggested that press releases and important announcements should be repeated several times to make sure the vast majority of the people access it. He said during the Budget speech, the media flashed the information regarding the increment of the transport allowances for the low income earners but that information has not filtered down well to everyone. He said it was misconstrued by commercial drivers to mean that transport fares had been increased which motivated them to increase fares when the information was actually wrong and thus caused a lot of confusion and arguments between drivers and commuters. He opined that repeating the information several times during the day would help greatly to filter the information down to the vast majority of people.
On the issue of a parliamentary question raised by him to clarify a provision in the Public Order Act, Hon. Touray said he is still not satisfied with the Minister’s response where he said the permit issued by the IGP was meant for the holding of meetings. Hon. Touray argued that the permit issued by the police is meant for processions and the utilisation of the instrument for the amplification of sound but not for public meetings. He cited section 25 (4) of the constitution which states that “the freedoms referred to in subsections (1) and (2) shall be exercised subject to the law of the Gambia in so far as that law imposes restrictions on the exercise of the rights and freedoms thereby conferred, which are necessary in a democratic society and are required in the interests of the sovereignty and integrity of the Gambia, national security, public order, decency or morality, or in relation to contempt of court.”
Hon. Touray expressed the view that if the Attorney General is right that the permit issued to people by the police is also meant for holding meetings, then he is suggesting for a review of that provision of the Public Order Act because according to him, it is practically impossible to implement that provision.
”The Gambian people are holding meetings every day and every second across the country and to ask them to seek for permission from the Police to hold such meetings is not reasonable restriction and not complying with section 25 (4) of the Constitution,” argued Hon. Touray. He finally called on the minister to look into that as well.
Hon.Touray said he asked the former minister of the Interior to provide a vehicle to the Basse police station because the Police in Basse do not have a vehicle and they are the administrative headquarters of the URR who should monitor and supervise all other stations in the region. He asked how they could do their job without a vehicle beats his imagination.
Hon. Touray said he is aware that the following stations in URR are either without a vehicle or that their vehicles are derelict, ie. Basse, Sare Ngai, Fatoto, Diabugu and Macca Masire.
He added that he would further go to repeat the issue of the Macca Masire paramilitary unit since the new minister has just taken over the position. He said there was an armed attack at a shop in Macca Masire which is right at the border in Wuli East and one person died. He said because of that, the former government deployed a paramilitary unit to the border village. He said one poor villager decided to temporally accommodate the unit. He however said the accommodation is not adequate for the unit and the landlord really wants his houses back since it has taken 2 years already. He said the former government promised to build a residence for the unit but that has still not materialised. He called on the government to look into the matter with urgency with a view to solving it.
On Agriculture, Hon. Touray said the farmers need increased help geared to addressing food security. He said to do so, “We must engage our farmers to get back to work and to be engaged 12 months round the year and not 5 months only”. He informed the Agriculture minister that the people of Sutukoba are extremely happy with the provision of a power tiller which they are looking forward to. He however reminded that the biggest hurdle is the access to their rice field; that there is a hill before reaching the rice field and carts and Lorries could not reach the rice field. He informed the Speaker that as they speak, the whole village was on the rice field ploughing. He said this came about because of the success of the initiative in 2017 when the village produced over 1000 bags of processed rice. He said they intend to double the amount this season and the next so as to eradicate hunger and even generate income for families.
Hon. Touray argued that contrary to what some elites say, people are not lazy; that they want to work and feed their families but that all they need is encouragement and empowerment.
He added that farmers in Wuli need water which he said is crucial in the production of animals. He said both humans and animals lack water to drink. He said people are crossing the border to seek for water in neighbouring Senegal. He said animals also need water which is a big challenge compelling farmers to migrate with their cattle to other regions and that causes them to lose manure and milk.
Hon. Touray said the same goes for the Minister of Water Resources and the Environment. He said he was told in an answer to his Parliamentary question that Passamas would be provided with a borehole to be jointly owned by Tabanding and Passamas Fula. He however said up to now the borehole is not dug. He asked whether that is due to lack of funding or late implementation.
He said he is equally informed that Wellingara Yareh, Madina Nyantamba and Koli Kunda would jointly own a water system and that Gunjur Koto would have their borehole tank extended to provide sufficient water to the whole community. He asked about the cause of the delay. Hon. Touray said he would skip the water issue of Nema Kunku for now.
On the lack of the necessary technical equipment or laboratory for testing at the EFST hospital which he said is a big concern to him. He said he would continue to remind the authorities of this challenge until it’s solved because according to him it’s abnormal to transfer so many patients to Dakar for medical treatment.
Hon. Tou ray said it’s disheartening to transfer poor patients all the way from EFSTH to Dakar. He said many of such patients simply return to their villages to wait for their death. He said the Gambia has only one main referral hospital, EFST Hospital which he said should have all the necessary equipment like Dakar so that no one is referred to Dakar and having to incur more expenses.
On food safety, the Wuli East member elaborated on the health issues and added that the lack of a central laboratory to test all the food items coming into the Gambia is a big concern. He said it is dangerous for Gambians to be eating all kinds of imported foods without testing them to verify whether they are safe or not. He said he had watched a documentary where India had banned the Chinese brand of ‘Jumbo’ cube which they said is unfit for human consumption. Touray said: “Here we are eating and consuming everything that come and we see people every day falling and paralyzing and dying without knowing the possible cause of it. Touray also said the experts at the Food Safety Unit informed them that what is needed urgently is a central lab for the testing of all foods imported to The Gambia but this does not seem to be a priority for the government. He urged the Health Ministry to urgently look into the issue.