The Point (Banjul)

23 January 2013

Gambia: Assembly Convenes Session On Gambia's Petition On EU's Demand

Members of the National Assembly of The Gambia Monday convened an extra-ordinary session at the National Assembly Chambers in Banjul to unanimously consider and approve the Petition by the Gambian people on the European Union's Article 8 Political Dialogue with the Gambia Government.

It came following the demand by Gambian peaceful demonstrators for the national legislative body known in The Gambia as the National Assembly to take up the matter with the EU Parliament in a manner that would uphold and maintain the dignity of the country.

Laying the motion before the Assembly, Fabakary Tombong Jatta, National Assembly Member for Serrekunda East and Majority Leader, said The Gambia is sovereign and independent state, noting that the National Assembly will act because the people they represent have raised their concern.

He informed deputies that The Gambia is prepared to improve on all issues for national development, but it has to be based on respect for the country.

"Dialogue must not be pre-conditioned, but it has to be with respect. The Gambia is ready to forgo any aid that will enslave us," he said.

Hon. Jatta took the house back to the Constitution that stated that every citizen should endeavour to defend the sovereignty of the country.

"Once we are willing to partner and dialogue with any institution on all issues, but based on recognizing and respecting us as an independent state," he stated, adding that the tone, and timeline by the EU is unacceptable.

He revealed that the Government of The Gambia had done a lot of preparations for the dialogue prior to the letter from EU, noting that any partnership and dialogue have to be based on respect.

On the issues of press freedom, the seasoned politician once again stressed that no government will go out to give absolute freedom to throw its country into chaos, noting that rights go with responsibilities.

"We agreed that the media is the fourth arm of government and partners in national development, but what we want is a vibrant and responsible press. It is under this regime that we have a lot of newspapers and radio stations."

On the executions, he said the executions were done through due process of the law, and in accordance with the constitution of The Gambia.

"We are aware of the ban on veils and detention for years without appearing before a court of law in countries claiming to be democratic countries," he stated, noting that The Gambia had a dialogue with the EU on many occasions, while accusing some people of trying to undermine the integrity of The Gambia.

Seconding the motion was Honourable Lamin Saine, a nominated member, who described the move by the European Union towards The Gambia as unacceptable, and that the National Assembly will stand by the wishes of the people and the Gambian leader.

"Executions have been carried in other countries, but why is The Gambia so special," he queried, while concluding that The Gambia will not tolerate disrespect.

Dr. Njogu Bah, the Secretary General and Head of Civil Service who is also the Minister responsible for Presidential Affairs, conveyed the Gambian leader's warmest greetings to the National Assembly, noting that the President lauded the initiative taken by the National Assembly to debate and approve the Petition from the people of The Gambia on the EU demand.

According to him, the government's stand in very clear, and that the sovereignty of the country cannot and will never be compromised.

"We are pulling out of the EU Article 8 Political Dialogue because the condition is unacceptable. It is insulting and lack of respect to our independence and sovereignty. Any action taken is in line with the Constitution. They want to bring chaos to the country, and their desire will not happen in a billion years," he declared.

On the issue of press freedom, he called for a more responsible press and not one which will incite violence, noting that the EU could have talked about how to improve the country's key sectors, but they did not.

"We are small, but dignified, and if they want to work with us, they have to respect us. We have been surviving without them, and will continue to survive."

He concluded by thanking the members of the National Assembly for their support and solidarity.

Meanwhile, members condemned the demands by the EU, describing them as unacceptable, and that The Gambia is an independent and sovereign state that will not be colonized again.

They expressed solidarity with the Gambian leader, and commended the Gambian people for maturely expressing their total disagreement with the EU in a democratic manner.

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