BY Kebba AF Touray
“I want to know what the position of government is regarding the situation of the former victims of wrongly termination who have confirmed their reinstatement in the civil service,” said Hon. Ousman Sillah,the National Assembly Member for Banjul North Constituency, in his contribution to the adjournment debate at the National Assembly on Monday, 31 July 2017.
Hon. Sillah said he has been approached by these reinstated civil servants who want to know their situation since, according to them, their service is said to be connected.
“This connection of their service means that there was no dismissal and as such there should be entitlements which I would enquire about in the form of a parliamentary question at the next session,” said the Banjul North NAM.
The Banjul North law maker applauded the presence of cabinet ministers during the adjournment debate to enable them to hear the concerns of the people through their representatives. He said even if it is not made a requirement it should at least be a norm from now on for cabinet ministers to spare a maximum of 2 days every quarter to attend adjournment debates to know what the people are complaining about and what to address.
Hon. Sillah said the president was at the assembly a few days ago to deliver his maiden address on the state of the nation before the law makers. “He highlighted some of the achievements registered by the government during the past six months which are commendable. However, it was also highlighted here in this assembly that some key elements were missing and which include a plan on governance,” he said.
He added he was expecting the president to unveil a roadmap on governance and the attendant constitutional reforms to be instituted.
The Banjul North NAM emphasised the need to revisit the Local Government Act as the country is gearing up to the third leg of the electoral cycle with the Local Government elections in the first part of next year (2018). He noted that it is important for the necessary reforms to be made to ensure that the Local Government Act addresses the needs of the time by being more democratic and holding local authorities more accountable and responsive to the needs of the localities.
He called for the introduction or reintroduction of elections to the offices of chairpersons and district chiefs. He said they should ensure that the new laws empower the people and make representation at the local level transparent and accountable.
“I am lonely in my call for section 91 (d) of the Second Republic Constitution to be expunged from the statutes as stated by some honourable colleagues here. But I would also go further to urge my colleagues to also give effect to section 92 (b) which allows the electorate to recall representative who fail to serve them even before the end of the term,” added Hon. Sillah.
He noted although the NAMs can come up with private member’s bills, but he said he is urging the executive to come up with such bills so that they will be working together to empower and address the concerns of the Gambian people.
Hon. Sillah acknowledged the efforts of the Information Minister in engaging the stakeholders such as the Gambia Press Union (GPU) and others in trying to ensure the obnoxious laws such as the false information and other restrictions on freedom of expression are removed from the law books.
He, however, called on the ministry to work towards the enactment of Freedom of Information Act to guarantee access to public information without restriction and which will also help to kill rumour mongering. “I would also suggest for the ministry to include in this FOIA the creation of spokespersons in all government ministries, departments and agencies to be giving the media and members of the public relevant and accurate information,” he added.
On fertilizer, he confirmed that farmers are not only finding it difficult to access fertiliser but that the price per bag is more than what the government had announced. “I was told by farmers, especially from Jokadu, that a bag of fertiliser is being sold to them at D1100 and not the D700 announced by the minister of agriculture when he came to the assembly,” he said.
The Banjul North NAM appealed for the issue to be urgently addressed to ensure that farmers have access to timely and cheap fertiliser.
Hon. Sillah urged the government to formalise the process of reconciliation which is urgently needed in the country. He said the president was personally supporting the efforts of reconciliation which he was involved in by providing resources, adding that the committee he was coordinating immediately after the impasse had made 13 successful interventions to reconcile communities that were involved in partisan acrimony in the Kombos, Fonis and even Tallinding.
He added that there is need for the government to formalise this process by bringing everybody on board to work towards uniting the people.
He concluded that the Minister of Works and Infrastructure has informed the assembly that they will include all the BANJUL names in the Task Force set up for the rehabilitation of Banjul and said they are looking forward to working with the other stakeholders on this project.