By Kebba Jeffang
The Director of Press and Public Relations at the office of the President, Amie Bojang-Sissoho, told journalists on Thursday June 22, that the draft bill on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission is ready for final review by the Justice ministry.
Mrs. Sissoho alongside the Minister of Information, Communication and Infrastructure, Demba A. Jawo, held the first press conference to brief the public on the state of affairs of the government at the temporal office of the President in Fajara.
“A draft bill is now ready for final review by the Ministry of Justice before it is presented to the National Assembly. We hope that we will have a law in place before September so that the commission can start its sharing by the end of the year,” said Sissoho-Bojang.
Meanwhile the press director also highlighted the status of the country’s blue print that has been broiling frustration from concerned Gambians. She said a fifteen member committee has been identified and this comprises nine men and six women from diverse disciplines. According to her, the President will launch this very soon.
“A national development plan 2018/2021 is being formulated and cabinet has been briefed on the formulation process. Government has agreed on the comprehensive review of the draft plan to take into consideration the priorities of the new government as articulated in the Coalition Manifesto,” she said.
Talking on another frustrating issue, electricity, the Director of Press said one of President Barrow’s preoccupations has been the poor electricity situation in the country. She said electricity is one of the priority areas of the government. She informed that a decision has been made so that the government, which has inherited 50% of electricity problems, can be solved immediately.
“So far NAWEC has rehabilitated three generators which have been down for over a year, and they are also providing an additional 18 megawatts of power at the moment,’’ she said.
NAWEC is also currently rehabilitating 3 other generators with a capacity of 21 megawatts, expected to be completed later this year, she added. An additional 11 megawatts generator is expected to be installed before the end of this year, she explained. According to her, discussions are also at an advance stage between NAWEC and a Senegalese electricity company for cross-border electrification where they will supply electric power to most parts of rural Gambia.
According to her, similar arrangements will be made for the Greater Banjul Area in due course. She said the medium term plan of NAWEC is to increase its capacity to 129 mega wags by 2020, through public and private partnership.
Shifting to the environmental conflict between Gunjur and Golden Lead Import and Export fishing company, she said government has agreed to resolve the matter out of court. However, the company will remove its pipes from the sea and will make a comprehensive ecological assessment and restore the damage done to the ecology, she remarked. According to her, the company will also pay for testing of the water to know how and why it was affected.
The PR officer also discussed the issues in Kanilai and informed that government deeply regrets the death that occurred as a result of the confrontation between the people of Kanilai and ECOMIG forces and expressed sympathy to the family.
“However we are pleased that calm has returned to the area and President Adama Barrow encourages all citizens to be law abiding. The president has also sent a delegation to the area to engage the community through reconciliation because we are all Gambians and we have the interest of our country, which supersedes the interest of individuals,’’ she said.
“Kanilai is an integral part of the Gambia and the decision for ECOMIG to be based in the country, is for national security,” she explained.
On legal reforms, she said President Barrow has appointed a total of seven Gambian judges at all levels of the superior courts including the Chief Justice. She said the ministry of justice has also recruited new judges including a Solicitor General and the appointment of a special adviser to the Attorney General.
For institutional reforms, she said:“reforms are ongoing and the office of the president has now been decongested of matters which were handled by other various government departments. The Presidency has now returned most of these portfolios to their relevant line ministries”.
Mrs. Bojang Sissoho noted that staff audits are also ongoing to clean up the civil service pay roll in order to promote good governance and transparency. She said all the ministers have been asked to declare their assets by the 15th of July, 2017.
She also discussed government’s stance to return to the Commonwealth pointing out that they have initiated the process by engaging in direct talks with the Commonwealth Secretariat in London.
“This is usually a long process but we are hopeful that Gambia will soon re-join this important international organisation which we were part of, from Independence through to 2013, when the former President ended our commonwealth membership,” she said.
However, she said, regarding the International Criminal Court, the Gambia government never really left the court. She said the former government has initiated the process of withdrawal from the ICC. However, she added that, President Barrow led government has stopped the process of the withdrawal.
Reacting to the dragging of the appointment of the Vice-President, Mrs. Bojang Sissoho said: “as you already know, the president has assigned the minister of Women’s Affairs to oversee the office. The office of the president would like to assure all Gambians, that if there is change in the arrangement, they will be informed.”
On the issue of threat to security from external threats towards the country, she said the Foreign Affairs and security authorities have noted it and they are consulting with international partners. She said the president urges everyone to work towards keeping the peace and security of the country.
On the issue of FGM, She said the president made it clear that it is a law, and the government intends to maintain all positive laws that are for the benefit of the citizens.
On the deployment of the IGP, she said the Inspector General of Police will be deployed to the ministry of foreign affairs and a new IGP will come in.
The deputy IGP will also will be deployed to the department of immigration and the director of immigration department will also be replaced by the acting director.
On fertilizer, she said government has reduced the price of fertilizer to D700. 00 and the line ministries will give details. She said the price of tickets to Mecca has also been reduced and the actual price will be communicated later.
Meanwhile, the Minister of Information, Demba Ali Jawo, also assured that his ministry will be holding regular press-briefings in the coming months and years.