Gambia: Lawmakers React to President Barrow's Statement of the Nation Address

Gambian lawmakers have faulted President Barrow's recent State of the Nation of Address, which was held at the legislative House last week.

They said they anticipated the President to elaborate adequately on strategies developed by the Government to address the numerous challenges confronting the country, but that their anticipations fall short of their expectations.

They made these statements on Wednesday 23rd September 202, during a debate on the President's State of the Nation Address 2020.

Matarr M Jeng, Member for Upper Nuimi, faulted the address saying he was expecting the president to dilate on the impacts of curfew and its impact in combating the coronavirus pandemic, as well as on the livelihoods of the citizenry.

He said the President should have cleared the air on the elapse of the curfew, through issuance of an official statement, adding that some continue to implement the curfew regulations when it has already elapsed.

He said: "I urge the authorities to lessen the leverage that has been brought to bear on the "Lumos". Our people are starving at that level. I did not hear the elapse of the curfew as was part of the content of the address. I was also expecting to hear that there was lessening and allowance for the lumos to operate countrywide".

Brikama South lawmaker, Lamin J Sanneh, dilated on the defense aspect of the address, which deals with the efforts being made to intensify routine sea patrol to enforce the law and protect the borderlines and the territorial integrity of the nation.

He said; "This is crucial, but I am not comfortable. What I anticipated to hear in the address is the plans made for the protection of land borders during the COVID-19 pandemic. We have seen incidences wherein our security personnel were assaulted by their Senegalese counterparts. This is a potential conflict, which requires a serious and concerted approach to address the trend".

He said there are buffers at the borderlines between the two countries, except for Dimbaya and Darsilame borderlines. He said the security of the territorial integrity is of paramount importance and needed to be adequately taken care of in the President's address.

He said: "The territorial integrity needs to be protected and all the sea, land and air borders need to be defined and make us know what our territory is. We need to approach and holistically address the issue, because this can be a source of potential conflict between Gambia and Senegal".

This Hon. Sanneh lamented has not been adequately deliberated on by the President in his statement. He said he expected a befitting and exhaustive elucidation on the issues.

Member for Banjul Central, Muhammed Ndow, also cited that the world is in a trying moment due to the COVID-19 crisis, and that has affected governments in the implementation of some of their plans. He said the President is trying to downsize officials in the Embassies worldwide, but this has been shattered by the pandemic.

He said it was an error to establish numerous missions because the government was spending huge amounts of money in those missions.

He added: "We have to strategize and reduce the number of foreign missions. This will help us cut the amount of funds pump into these missions and the Gambia may in the long run afford her bills."

He praised the President for the move to reduce the number of foreign mission officials as deliberated on in the address, but urged the government to avert the recurrence of establishing many foreign missions as it costs the country dearly in terms of economy, in view of the fragile economy of the country which is primarily based on taxation.

He also decried that the Gambia has lots of porous borders and that the government should provide the security sector, especially officials at the border posts with adequate mobility, to effectively patrol the entry points. This he said will help the officials especially during the pandemic to enforce the regulations on the border closure.

Ndey Yassin Secka, Nominated Member said she expected the address to be held during the first quarters of the current legislative year, but that did not happen. She however hailed the President for fulfilling his constitutional mandate even though it was done at a later time.

She said she had also anticipated the President to give detailed explanations of the government's plan to tackle the problems that the country is facing. She said diseases such as malaria and yellow fever still exist in the country and that people prefer private clinics to public hospitals due to fear of COVID-19. She said many people can afford the cost of treatment at private health facilities.

She said: "I would have loved the President to visit institutions and obtain firsthand information on the status of those intuitions before the address, instead of relying on cut and paste information. The President should have explained in detail the strategies devised by his administration to address the problems facing the country".

Earlier Speaker Mariam Jack Denton, reminded lawmakers that the president has outlined policies and programs of the government for the consideration and scrutiny, and has equally entreated Legislators to work together in the best interest of the nation, peace and stability amidst COVID-19 Pandemic.

She said: "therefore, I wish to reiterate that we must nurture our young democracy for a peaceful and prosperous Gambia and in doing so, I kindly urge Honorable Members to reflect and debate on the address with due diligence".

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