FOROYAA Newspaper (Serrekunda)

22 January 2013

Gambia: National Assembly On EU Proposals for Political Dialogue

The members of National Assembly adopted the petition submitted by the Marches in Banjul against the European Union's proposals for political dialogue with the Gambian authorities. Readers would recall that Civil Servants, Members of the National Assembly, Ministers and APRC party supporters held a procession and marched to the state house to deliver a petition in support of the position of the president to reject the priorities proposed by the EU to be the agenda for the political dialogue.

The motion for the National Assembly to deliberate on was read by the Speaker as follows:

"Be it resolved that this August Assembly do consider and approve the petition by The Gambian People on the European Union's Article 8 Political Dialogue with the Gambia Government. This is a national and public interest issue. It is for us as the elected members of the people to decide", asserted Hon. Abdoulie Bojang, Speaker of the National Assembly.

The motion was moved by Hon. Fabakary Tombong Jatta, Majority Leader and National Assembly Member (NAM) for Serrekunda East. He thanked those who took the petition to the National Assembly. He said they have acted rightly as required by democratic tenets.

Hon. Jatta condemns the proposals of the European Union. He accused them of interfering directly on the domestic affairs of the country. He accused them of trying to destabilize the peace and security of the country.

"There are lots of people who are jubilating for the EU to sanction the Gambia. This country is a sovereign country", he said.

The Majority Leader said they are prepared and willing to deal with all issues for the betterment of the country. He mentioned the various Articles that the government signed including the Lome' and Cotonou Agreements. He accepted that all these agreements were based on fundamental principles to respect the security of the people.

"We know we cannot live in isolation. We are prepared to engage in dialogue with any institution but with recognition of our dignity", argued the Majority Leader.

Hon. Jatta admitted that no system is perfect. He argued that the total majority of the Gambian people are with them. He said they are not afraid of any dialogue. The Serrekunda East NAM complained of preconceived agenda with regard to the time frame set by the EU. He mentioned the execution of 9 death row inmates which he said was carried out in accordance with the law.

"We as the representatives of the people should decide the merits and demerits of the death penalty but must be guided by the wishes of the Gambian people", he pointed out.

The Majority Leader asserted that the reviews of the laws are ongoing but giving timeline to the National Assembly is disrespectful. He made mention of elements working with the EU to undermine the peace and security of the country. He argued that most Europeans did not know what is happening in the Gambia.

"The Press is a partner in development but we will not tolerate the people who have their own agenda hiding behind Press freedom", he disclosed.

Hon. Jatta condemns the call for the free registration of media in the country. He said the country is a tax based economy. He calls for the right to regulate the online media which he branded as the most dangerous media.

"We accept and appreciate the opposition. They can engage us. They must respect the ruling party", said the Majority Leader.

The Majority Leader calls for change of attitude on the side of the opposition in the country. He argued that the opposition would reject the invitation to attend the state functions. He said they would not attend state functions but would be the first to arrive at the EU functions.

The motion was seconded by Hon. Lamin Saine, nominated member and Deputy Director of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA). He argued that the human rights of Gambians are respected at all levels. He argued that the timeline of EU is unattainable and unacceptable as they are standing by the Gambian people. He said they are not against dialogue but the approach taken by the EU is wrong.

"If you look at what the EU is saying it is all happening in the country", asserted Hon. Samba Jallow, Minority Leader and NAM for Niamina Dankunku.

The Minority Leader reminds the Assembly of his comments during the last adjournment debate. He said he cannot agree that the EU proposals are emanating from the outside . He said it is something happening in the country.

"Let us not forget that the EU is our long time partner in development", he pointed out.

The NAM for Niamina Dankunku calls for more diplomacy and maturity in dealing with the issue. He mentioned the million dollar projects in agriculture funded by the EU which he said cannot be called 'chicken change'. He also mentioned the various road projects funded by the EU which he said the government used to boast. He said they cannot deny that the country is benefiting from the relationship.

"The recent demonstration or 'solidarity march' reminds me of the student demonstration when people were shot and killed by the authorities. Two journalists were detained for applying a permit to organise peaceful demonstration. Why is it that all the time members of the ruling party are allowed holding demonstrations and others are denied", asserted the Minority Leader.

The Minority Leader quoted section 207 of the 1997 constitution about the freedom and independence of the media. He argued that the ruling party may boast about the numerous radio stations in the country but cannot deny its ineffectiveness. He argued that most of the radios are meant for only music without broadcasting the concerns of the people.

The Niamina Dankunku NAM mentioned the closure of Taranga FM radio and other media houses in the country. He mentioned the detention without trial which he said is totally against the laws of the country. He argued that the families of the 9 executed prisoners deserve the right to know where their loved ones are buried.

Several members contributed giving unflinching support and expressed loyalty to President Jammeh. They include Bintanding Jarjue NAM for Foni Brefet, the NAMs for Banjul Central, North and South, members for Kiang Central, Kiang West Jarra East, Lower Niumi, Upper Niumi including nominated members Hon. Babou Gaye Sonko and Seedy Njie.

Subsequently, the petition was considered and adopted by the Assembly.

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