22 January 2013

Gambia: Assembly Approves Gambia's Petition Against EU Demands

Members of the National Assembly of The Gambia unanimously considered and approved the Petition by the Gambian people against the European Union's Article 8 Political Dialogue with the Gambia government during an Extra-ordinary Session convened Monday at the National Assembly Chambers in Banjul.

The session followed the demand by Gambians after a peaceful demonstration some weeks ago for the legislative body to take up the matter with the EU Parliament in a manner that would uphold and maintain the dignity of the country.

In a petition against the EU, Gambians, acting in solidarity with the president of the Republic and the government, expressed their grievances and utter disagreement with the EU's 'so-called' 17-point proposed Political Dialogue with the Gambia government.

Gambians believed that the demands of the EU are baseless in substance, procedure and covert intentions and that the conditions violate the sovereign rights of the Gambian people. The people also believe that the EU acted beyond the limits of a genuine and balanced dialogue by laying down conditions with timeframe prior to consultations on such measures, which is seen as both arbitrary and high-handed.

Again, Gambians described EU's actions as a proof that they do not have regard for the independence of the Gambian state; that they have infringed the sovereign rights of The Gambian people by ordering the review of laws that are promulgated by the National Assembly and in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution of The Gambia.

In summary, the people further described the EU's action as an indication of direct interference in the domestic affairs of the country, an attempt geared towards undermining the peace and stability in the country, which the Gambian people shall never accept.

Laying the motion before the House, Hon. Fabakary Tombong Jatta, the Majority leader and National Assembly member for Serrekunda East, thanked the Gambian people for abiding by the democratic tenets in presenting their issues to the National Assembly. He stressed that The Gambia is a sovereign and independent state, noting that the National Assembly will act because the people they represent have raised concerns.

He told 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 referred the house to the Constitution that states that every citizen should endeavour to defend the sovereignty of the country. "We are willing to partner and dialogue with any institution on all issues but based on recognising and respecting The Gambia as an independent state," he stated, adding that the tone and timeframe imposed by the EU is unacceptable. He said the government of The Gambia had done a lot of preparations for the dialogue prior to the letter from EU, adding that any partnership and dialogue must be based on respect.

On the issue of press freedom, Hon Jatta once again stressed that no government will go out to give absolute freedom to throw its country into chaos. He pointed out that rights go with responsibilities. "We agree 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 lot of newspapers and radio stations," he added.

Seconding the motion, Hon. Lamin Saine, a nominated member, described the attitude of the EU towards The Gambia as unacceptable, saying the whole country stands firmly against it.

Dr. Njogu Bah, the secretary general and head of the Civil Service who is also the minister for Presidential Affairs, conveyed President Jammeh's warmest greeting to the speaker and through him to the entire members of the National Assembly.

He said: "His Excellency, the president applauds the laudable initiative to debate, consider and approve the petition by the Gambian people on the European Union's Article 8 Political Dialogue with the Gambia government."

He averred that the position of the government on the issue is very clear, noting that the sovereignty of the country cannot be and would never be compromised because of the EU or any other thing. "The government's position is that, we are pulling out completely from the Article 8 Political Dialogue with EU and its affiliatedinstitutions because the conditions and timeline imposed are unacceptable and it would not be implemented," he declared.

Minister Bah told the House that the EU is not out for dialogue or negotiation and looking at their submission, the government finds it very insulting and disrespectful for the independence and sovereignty of this nation.

He continued: "We are not averse to dialogue with anybody but we demand respect and nothing else. We must ask ourselves who is raising this red flag here. They should apologise and compensate Africa for colonialism and slavery and only then can The Gambia consider the topic. We have our laws and they are as adequate as they are now. Whatever action(s) is taken here is within the dictates of the law. They have their own laws and we can take many points in their system that are not perfect."

The Presidential Affairs minister also said the EU has no moral authority to interfere in the affairs of The Gambia, looking at the maltreatment being meted out to Muslims, blacks and Africans in EU countries with impunity, with nothing being said about it. He said the EU wants to bring chaos and enmity in the country, and vowed that it would not happen in a billion years"

Freedom of press

On the issue of press freedom, Minister Bah asked the EU to give the Gambia a break, as no responsible government will sit and allow irresponsible people to use the pen or the radio to carry stories that are not backed-up.

"It is only here in The Gambia that you would find a person without a degree in journalism, just from secondary school, and pick up a pen and call him or herself a journalist and start writing. Sometimes, their actions are guided by ulterior motives. We all know their actions are guided sometimes by the need for a visa or to get an asylum in a certain country and these people are being used and can be used to incite violence," he said.

He added: "You [journalists] have to be responsible for what you write because your freedom of expression and your freedom of the press start somewhere and ends somewhere."

Others who contributed included Hon. Abdoulie Saine of Banjul Central, Hon. Baboucarr S. Fadera of Kiang Central, Hon. Misba Hydara of Lower Niumi, Hon. Seedy SK Njie, nominated member, Hon. Mam Cherno Jallow of Upper Nuimi, Hon. Yaya Dibba of Kiang West, Hon. Bintanding Jarju of Foni Brefet, Hon. Demba BT Sambou of Niani, Hon. Baboucarr S. Nyang of Banjul South, Hon. Alhagie Sillah of Banjul North, Hon. Netty Baldeh of Tumana, and Hon. Babou Gaye-Sonko, nominated member.

They condemned the demands by the EU describing them as unacceptable and stressed that The Gambia is an independent and sovereign state that will not be colonised again. They further expressed solidarity with the Gambian leader and commended the Gambian people for expressing their total disagreement with the EU in a democratic manner.

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