Litigants call on Chief Justice to ensure Industrial Tribunal becomes operational

Chief Justice, Hon. Justice Jallow

By Yankuba Jallow

Several litigants whose cases were adjourned for lack of operation of the Industrial Tribunal at the Kanifing Magistrate’s Court have called on the Chief Justice to take steps to appoint new panellists.

They have also called on the Chief Justice, who is the head of the Judiciary to look into the delay of matters before the Industrial Tribunal. The Industrial Tribunal is an adjudicatory body handles industrial disputes including employment-related matters (labour matters).
Last week, the case of 145 former Ocean Bay Hotel employees together with several others couldn’t proceed because the Magistrate was absent.

The case of the 145 former hotel workers began over years ago and only three plaintiffs’ witnesses have been called. The case has been handled by different magistrates. The case was supposed to proceed on Wednesday, 5th February 2020, but the trial Magistrate and her colleague panellists, as well as the clerks, did not come to work. Their office was closed because they usually sit in chambers.

Currently, one of the panellists of the Industrial Tribunal is not coming and according to one of the court officials, he is not coming because his contract expired and no one has replaced him.

Speaking to the former hotel workers about their case, they said they have been coming to court for so many years and they want to see justice been done.

Other litigants, who spoke to Foroyaa on condition of anonymity, expressed frustration in the way the Industrial Tribunal handles their cases.
“In the Gambia, if you don’t have a lawyer you suffer. They will drag your case and you will be coming to court for years. This is really frustrating,” an old litigant told Foroyaa.

“I don’t have money to hire the services of a lawyer. I just want justice but to be candid with you, I want to give up with my case because I am tired of coming here every time and nothing happens,” a litigant told Foroyaa.

All the litigants that Foroyaa spoke to, all expressed similar or the same sentiment as they called on the judiciary to solve the issue of delay of their cases at the Industrial Tribunal.
The Registrar of the Courts, when approached, refused to make comment about the issue as he referred Foroyaa to the Judicial Secretary. The Registrar was heard telling one Lawyer that she did not know why the Magistrate of the Industrial Tribunal was absent.

Lawyers, who prefer to be anonymous, expressed dismay over the way their cases are dragging in court.

“There are cases before the Industrial Tribunal for years. My case is one of them and I want the case to come to an end. If there won’t be sittings, we should be communicated to by the court,” the lawyer said, as he threatened to file a formal complaint to the registry of the court about the issue.

Foroyaa visited the offices of the Judicial Secretaryand the Chief Justice, but he was told they were both not at work on Wednesday. Foroyaa will go there today to investigate the matter and keep the public informed about the matter. We will also contact the Bar Association, Gambia Labour Union and litigants about how they feel about the way their cases are handled.