By Yankuba Jallow
Honourable Sidia S. Jatta, the member for Wuli West has on Monday urged his fellow Parliamentarians to refrain from insulting each other and instead talk about issues affecting the population.
He said the parliament should be a place to promote enlightenment.
Jatta made the statement after Parliamentarians debated the issue surrounding President Barrow’s mandate which is a subject of controversy.
“If there is confusion out there, they have to look up to the parliament, but if we can’t do that, then, we are failing our people. Party politics have no space in the parliament,” he said.
He added: “the debate is not about 3 or 4 years. Who cares about it?”
He said the Vice President and the cabinet ministers that were present at the National Assembly came to listen to criticism about their policies and additions by the deputies to improve on those policies.
“You talked about agriculture, what do you have to offer? You talked about fisheries, what do you have to offer? You know what they have been giving is pittances and it cannot develop agriculture – it cannot develop fisheries and yet you want agriculture to grow. I think we have to start thinking more seriously about this country,” he said.
He said for 57 years, people don’t have water and electricity supply.
“The debate should be about development. That is the debate and it should not be 3 years or 5 years. Let us not be hypocritical about things. That was dead since 2017, nobody talked about it. When was it killed – when it was being assassinated, they were clapping and when things went another way round they are crying. What is your problem? You have to stop being hypocritical about matters. Development is not about hypocrisy. Development is thinking strategically and is to be ready to sacrifice, but you are not ready to make a sacrifice,” Jatta said.
He said those talking about 3 years were quite when the problem began.
“The President now said he is going for 5 years. You cannot do anything about that. You must now focus on development,” he said.
He said the coalition was a tactical move to solve a problem.
“It was not ignorance. No one knows the Constitution better than we do. The coalition does not need five years to do what it was supposed to do – just reforms. (It is) just clearing the field for a multi-party contest in a decent situation,” he said.
The veteran politician called on those engaged in insulting one another in the National Assembly to desists from their actions, adding that they have more important issues to talk about. He said they should always ensure that they talk about the people they represent at the parliament and not to engage themselves in insults.
“My colleagues, you must stop this (insults). This place (the parliament) is not a place where you get scores against each other,” he said.
Jatta called on deputies to be ready to sacrifice for the country by forfeiting their allowances as a way to contribute to the debt payment. He challenged them all to do that in 2020.
Jatta argued that farming has now become a liability in the country. He said the quality of the groundnut is no longer good, adding that the price that groundnut is being purchased is not good.
He said undue dependence on other nations is one way of sacrificing the sovereignty of The Gambia. He said the Government is relying on begging and borrowing, adding that this has to end.
“This has to be addressed. I have the solution to this. If I am given the means, I will address the economic problems of this country and not without sacrifice,” he said.
He said boreholes are constructed based on funds obtained through begging and borrowing.
“How can we develop through begging? Development is not development unless everything that is primary to your living is handled and controlled by yourself. If you can’t do that then you are dependent and not independent. Anything that is primary to our development must be generated and controlled by ourselves,” he said.
Honourable Jatta said 2020 should be a year of changes; a year to end begging.
“No nation has developed through begging,” he said.
He said the government should create a health facility that will be a specialist institute that will cure people without referring them to Dakar.
Madi Ceesay suggested that the Government should go for a year loan embargo.
“Let’s go for a year loan embargo and this may solve our problems. We must be ready to sacrifice. A loan embargo for a year will solve a lot of our problems,” Ceesay said.
Earlier, Deputies debated on whether President Barrow should step down as a way of honouring the coalition 2016’s agreement and the promise he made to Gambians or continue with the 5 – year tenure as provided for by the Constitution.
Sulayman Saho, the deputy for Central Badibou said the people who protested on the 16th December 2019 were out to remind the President of the promise he made to them.
“Those in the protest weren’t criminals. They are (were) simply reminding the leadership of the coalition of their promise. The stakeholders were aware of the constitutional provision of 5 years, but they went in for 3 years. The people are out to hold them to account. When they failed to meet their target, they should have gone back to the people and explained. This will foster peace,” Saho submitted.
He said there is need for a national dialogue on the issue.
“If not we will hold you by your neck,” he said.
On President Barrow’s 2019 nationwide tour, Saho said it should have been a platform to give people accurate information about their policies and their intervention.
“It should not be used as a platform to misinform or insult others. It is a form of creating violence,” Saho said.
Alagie Jawara, the member for Lower Badibou said 3 years is not the only agreement of the coalition. Honourable Jawara said the coalition stakeholders agreed that the President should be a coalition president but when they assume office, others brought about dispute saying he should be an executive president.
“This is why he (the President) can hire and fire you. Why don’t you protest then? We were the pioneers (starters) of the 5 years (campaign). Let us be honest. Nobody has the power to force the President to resign. He (the President) has the discretion to resign and it should not be a force. An agreement cannot supersede the constitution,” Saho said.
He said the members of the National Assembly calling for 3 years were the same people who were supporting President Barrow to go for 5 years.
“I have always supported the five-years and this is what I will remain to defend. I feel ashamed of some of my colleagues who now turn to defend 3 years because we all started the five-years (campaign) together. We were all throwing our weight for five years. Why the change now? We all know why the coalition failed? That is an open secret to all of us. This is very disheartening,” he said.
The member for Tallinding, Fatoumata Jawara called for political decency.
“There are threats to burn down the buildings of some of the National Assembly members and cabinet ministers. Our country is flaming – I am calling on political leaders to condemn their actions. Those calling for 3 years were the ones supporting the President’s 5 years.
We all know where they belong to,” she said.
Madi Ceesay, the member for Serrekunda West said the issue of 3 years is the making of the current government and they must face reality whether they like it or not.
Honourable Ceesay said protest within the confines of the law is in order and that was why the people protested on December 16.
“People are saying the president must be held accountable for his own words. Gone are days when politicians become deceptive. The electorates were out to hold their elected representatives to account. The number of people who came out on December 16 cannot be ignored by any serious government,” he said.
He said the government should treat the petition (by 3 Years Jotna) with care and maturity in order to avoid chaos.
“The petition is a challenge to the government of the day and they should not put it under their carpet – history will judge them. It is important that the 3-years issue should be treated with maturity,” Ceesay concluded.