Gambia: 'The Next Step Is System Change' Halifa Sallah Tells Journalists

Photo: Le Pays
Gambia's former president Yahya Jammeh

Honourable Halifa Sallah, the secretary general for Peoples' Democratic Organisation for Independence and Socialism has told journalists that the next step for the New Gambia is to have a system change.

Sallah said the Coalition succeeded in unseating ex-president Jammeh to achieve the second phase of the revolution. He said the first phase was to attain the right to self- determination, Independence and the sovereignty of the Republic. He said his generation has attained the second phase on second December 2016 that is the sovereignty of the people. He added that before 2 December 2016, few believed that sovereignty of the Republic resides in them and that their votes could effect change. HE noted that now all are convinced that their votes must determine who leads in the Gambia.

He indicated that the fundamental task that remains is to have a system change.

PDOIS Press Conference

The system change according to Sallah, should address the economic challenges that the country is facing.

PDOIS on Sunday explained to journalists the matters discussed at its national congress and the resolutions emanating from the debate of the delegates.

Sallah, who doubles as the National Assembly Member for Serrekunda Constituency stated this in a press conference held on Sunday 6 January 2019.

Earlier, the party's chairperson, Honourable Sidia S. Jatta said the press conference was meant to announce the beginning of a new beginning.

"The change that we have been calling for is yet to come," he said.

On his part, Honourable Sallah dilated on the formation of the coalition and the aftermath of the formation. Sallah stated that the formation of the coalition came out of necessity due to the political atmosphere that existed at the time.

Mr Sallah, who is also the National Assembly Member for Serekunda, said the Constitution of PDOIS establishes the congress as the second highest organ of the party.

"It has given a mandate to serve for four years but in between the four years the congress is given mandate to convene every two years a review congress," he said.

According to Mr Sallah, "in the 2015 congress of PDOIS, resolutions were passed and one of the resolutions was that the central committee had the mandate to negotiate with other opposition parties in order to develop a strategy and tactic for the 2016 presidential election."

"We would want the public to go back to what PDOIS indicated in Agenda 2016. We emphasized that we will work for electoral reform so that we can have a level ground for multi-party contest but if electoral reform fails, then the opposition parties should meet and select one candidate among their numbers who will serve as the flagbearer to effect the change that the people desired," he said

He explained that at the time the coalition was being formed, some of the political leaders were either in prison or out of the country. He said he sought the consent of the Central Committee of the party to write to all presidential candidates to invite them to a meeting so that they could discuss the formation of a coalition. He added that several meetings were held at Kairaba Beach Hotel. He averred that the Coalition was eventually formed and a convention held where an independent candidate in the person of Mr. Adama Barrow was elected by the delegates.

He said after the December 1 elections, the Coalition won and the former president accepted the verdict of the people and congratulated the president elect (as he then was). He called on all Gambians to show appreciation for the work done by the former Inspector General of Police Yankuba Sonko and former Chief of Defence Staff Qusman BadJie, respectively.' He said he had to convene meetings with the security chiefs to handle the affairs of the 120000 who became internally displaced and over 50000 who became refugees. He said in one of the meetings the former Director General Yankuba Badjie came late and explained that Jammeh wanted to take him along but he declined to go.

Sallah also stated that the Coalition security personnel should also be given national awards for their steadfastness and devotion to the State.

"These are people who have risked their lives for the State knowing fully that they were risking their lives and they could have been killed," he said. He said to prevent ECOMIG forces from entering as a force of occupation the current Chief of Defence Staff who was outside the country had to be sent by President Barrow to come to the Gambia as a security advisor to serve as liaison between the security forces and the ECOMIG contingent

"ECOMIG entered the Gambia as a force of solidarity and not a force of occupation," he said.

Sallah said essentially power was handed to the president-elect, Barrow without any life and government property been lost and no bank looted.

He said it was the PDOIS 2015 Congress Resolution that was implemented in collaboration with other stakeholders that effected change and President Barrow came to power.

Sallah said the government should have been a transitional one that serve as an end to self-perpetuating rule and ensure civic awareness. He said the New Gambia should be embraced by the birth of new Gambians who will be sovereign and know that power belongs to them.

"The people should be enlightened to be united as a nation," Sallah said.

He said the transition should address the question, who is citizen because the previous governments have failed to address it. He put forward that the issue of citizenship could only be addressed when proper documentation of the citizens take place so as to avoid fraudulent acquisition of citizenship. He said for his party, they are of the view that every person born in a village or any community should be recorded and computerized so that no person can have access to acquire citizenship fraudulently.

On the Constitutional Review, Sallah said PDOIS proposed a 2-term limit of 4 years and that the death penalty be revoked. Also, whenever the office of the President becomes vacant, elections should take place with 90 days. He said PDOIS also believes that the right to life, liberty, freedom from torture and unlawful arrest and detention, bail, property among other rights should be enshrined in the new Constitution and there should be institutions to support those rights. Sallah added that the country should be a secular state.

"It is very clear that without socialization, we cannot have a cooperative society. If we were to have a cooperative society, socialization must start from our homes and also with educational institutions. We must be able to impart the values that would enable us live as a united nation," he said.

Sallah said PDOIS will introduce an education that will focus primarily on citizenship education for building of a sovereign Gambian who would have the right to self-determination and self-reliance that will go through all the other institutions.

He remarked, "The objective is to build a self-determined and self-reliant human being who is capable of ensuring the self-reliance and self-determination of the Republic".

Sallah said the 1 December 2016 elections was the first time in the history of The Gambia for power to be transferred through the ballot box.

"For PDOIS this was our achievement, we effected the change and it was President Barrow's responsibility to exercise direction and control over an executive and prepare the ground for the type of policies and the institutions that will effect what the Coalition aspired for; an inclusive Gambia, transparent and accountable Gambia where institutions will serve the people with devotion.

We expected a transition where a new Constitution will emerge and empower the citizenry; ensure the accountability of elected representatives to the population and ensure that services are delivered to address the needs and aspirations of the people with efficiency and effectiveness."

Sallah said PDOIS wanted to achieve that by remaining together and have independent candidates for both the National Assembly and the local government elections so that they build The New Gambia that will serve as a platform for system change.

"The quality of regime change would have eradicated self-perpetuating rule, ensure civic awareness so that we will be able to move forward to another change where elections will be held on a level ground, parties will be given the mandate to contest on a level ground and build the type of Gambia we all aspire for," he said.

Sallah said what exists today is that the country has an executive president and whether he serves 3 or 5 years is entirely left to him because the Coalition existed in the past but not in the present.

Sallah said during the PDOIS Congress, it was noted that the party went into the National Assembly and Local Government elections unprepared because the level ground that was sought by the opposition parties in 2015 for Electoral and Constitutional Reform in The Gambia did not exist.

"After the change, parties sought resources wherever they wanted and the executive president decided to favour whoever he wanted and ultimately we have a country that has gone to the same political level as it were in the previous regimes because there was no level ground for multi-party elections," he said.

He said PDOIS has succeeded in ensuring that people know that sovereignty resides in them which is the basis of putting an end to self-perpetuating rule.

Sallah said the problems that the country has been facing since independence to date cannot be solved when the country continues to depend on taxation as its source of funding.

"The government should ensure that it builds sovereign national wealth," Sallah said.

He said the first republic collapsed because the revenue that was generated could not pay for expenditures. He added that the export could not pay for the import and that was why they introduced the Economic Recovery Programme (ERP), destroyed the PWD and sold the public enterprises and banks.

"That was when PDOIS came into being, in 1986," he said.

He added that the second republic was faced with the same situation where the debt was increasing.

"The new government has 56 billion on its head. Just recently the 2019 budget is 28 billion dalasis but the revenue estimates of 25 billion dalasis cannot pay for the 28 billion. So, 3.4 billion must be borrowed somewhere to meet the budget expenditure and 13.5 billion must come from budget support. Only 1 billion will come from non-tax revenue and we have to pay 2.7 billion as interest on debts. How are you going to pay it when you can only raise 1 billion from non-tax sources and the rest from taxation? Is that sustainable? No," he said.

He added: "In trade the deficit is 24 billion, exporting domestically is 613 million and re-export is about 400 million whilst we are importing over 25 billion. So, the same disease that existed in the first and second republic is continuing during the transition."

He said the PDOIS Congress Resolution affirms that Gambia must build sovereign national wealth rather than a company being given the whole responsibility of mining in Batokunku, Sanyang and Kartong where minerals were being mined over the years without any form of information coming to the public.

Sallah said the existing government has given the responsibility to a Company whereas the country does not have any national institution that is established to partner with it on a 50-50 basis.

"Is that what is going to create sovereign national wealth?" he asked.

Sallah averred that the government has entered into a fisheries agreement with the EU which the government could have capitalized on to secure jobs for Gambians.

He remarked, "We could have 50% of the crew in those vessels as Gambians."

He said socialism has been misconstrued by many people.

"PDOIS has been guiding the nation that our resources and terrestrial and marine belong to us," he said.

"We will not allow anyone to take control of our resources and use our people to make wealth at their expense. Instead of giving land to companies to employ women, we will utilise sovereign national wealth to establish a cooperative bank to give seeds, fertiliser and farm implements to these women to work on the land and share the benefits of their produce," he added.

"Those who fish in our waters would have to employ our people to constitute half the crew and land half their catch to be processed in the country. The gains should also go to enable Gambia to have fishing trawlers.

Investors will always be required to have Gambian partners or enter into Public private partnerships.

"The Congress has resolved that the fundamental task of PDOIS now is to work with anyone to build a New Gambian who will effect system change. We also resolved that the new Gambian must be a sovereign Gambian. We believe in cooperative sovereignty which creates a bond among Gambians irrespective of their ethno linguistic origin, gender, religion and other social status. As a citizen no one is minority; we are all equal in sovereignty, we all belong to the majority -the citizenry"

Halifa Sallah has called on those involved in maligning and defaming the Gambian media to remember those trying times when the coalition's only access to the Gambian population was through that same media.

"We must remember the courage of the media in accepting all forms of intimidation but remaining persistent in echoing the voice of the coalition. So those who today malign the media must remember those trying times when our only access to the population was this very media that is here present today," the PDOIS Secretary General said at a press conference held on Sunday.

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