By Kebba Secka
Justice Landing Sanneh, the vocation judge sitting at the Mile 7 High Court Annex in Bakau on Wednesday September 22nd, 2021 dismissed a preliminary objection raised by the university of the Gambia Faculty Staff Association (UTGFSA) in their case against the university management.
Lawyers for the staff association (respondents) are Lamin J. Darboe, Sheriff Kumba Jobe and Abdoulie Fatty and counsel K Tah stood for the state.
The respondents’ (UTGFSA) arguments in their objection were mainly on the non compliance of the suit with the law. They contended that the Labour Act does not apply to the university as a public institution. They asked the court to dismiss the suit in its entirety. In delivering his decision on the preliminary objection raised by the respondents, the judge said: “I finally hold that the suit by the applicants is competent and the preliminary objection is hereby dismissed.”
On the arguments of the respondents about whether the civil service and public service are the same, the judge held: He said all civil service institutions are part of the public service, but not all public service institutions are part of the civil service. He said the civil service is headed by a secretary general. He dismissed the arguments of the respondents that the Labour Act does not apply to the University of the Gambia (UTG).
The UTG’s management and the attorney general have initiated a civil suit against staff lecturers seeking among other things for the court to declare the illegality of the staff association’s sit-down strike and grant them an injunction stopping the lecturers to embark on a sit-down strike. Prior to the law suit, the staff association had scheduled 15th September, 2021 for a sit down strike, but this is affected by the interim injunction.
After the judge read his decision on the preliminary objection, the applicants’ lawyer, K Tah, raised the issue of a contempt proceeding they had against one of the respondents, but the court advised the lawyer to follow the normal processes of service. The respondent, who also had a motion seeking to set aside the interim injunction granted by Justice Momodou SM Jallow on 21st September, 2021 also served the applicants a copy of the motion in court. The interim injunction granted prohibits the staff lecturers from going on with their strike. The purpose of the interim injunction granted to the applicants will set aside the lecturers’ planed strike until the court finally determines the case. The respondents’ motion about setting aside the interim injunction is scheduled to be heard on Friday September 24th at 9am. Notwithstanding, the applicants had also filed a contempt of court case against one of the respondents, Dr. Ensa Touray, for a comment he made.
The respondents’ lawyers believe that the entire process of the originating summon did not follow right procedures, they argued that if anyone is to initiate a civil suit, it should come by a way of writ of summon and a leave from the court should be granted, but the court held that the attorney general had followed normal procedures in filing the suit and it is competent. The court also explained that the respondents cannot make a preliminary objection without making reference to the affidavits.