By: Kebba AF Touray
Sidia Jatta, the National Assembly Member for Wuli West, said two hundred and seventy-five thousand, three hundred and fifty (275,350) Gambians outside the country have been disenfranchised for decades.
Jatta made this statement on Wednesday 28th July 2021 at the assembly during the debate on the Supplementary Appropriation Bill (SAB).
“What we are to do here requires serious thinking. I have seen the IEC allocation in the SAB, but the big absentee in it is what is so crucial to me and even to you whether you say it or not, it is crucial to you. There are 275,350 Gambians outside; they are sovereign citizens and have the same right like you. But they have been disenfranchised for decades,” he said.
He said despite being disenfranchised, the country is not moving without them as they have been contributing more than some people in the country, towards the development of this country. But it appears as if nothing is happening, he added.
“275,000 sovereign Gambians outside this republic, who are part and parcel of this republic like you, they have the same right like you, but we are behaving as they don’t matter.”
He said the law provides for the said Gambians to participate in the electoral processes of the country, and that the lawmakers have a responsibility in making sure that the laws are respected and adhered to.
“We swore to defend the constitution and to defend the constitution means that you must make sure that whatever is done in the name of that constitution is right and correct, if not you should challenge it,” he said.
Jatta said he would have appreciated it if he had seen in the SAB money provided for the registration of the said Gambians and for their participation in the elections that are coming. He said they should not be excluded because if they are excluded, then the lawmakers are committing a serious error.
“We are all flouting the constitution which makes them equal to you in this country. I think when we come to sit over this at the committee stage, we should really do something about it. This time these people must be enfranchised and it is our responsibility to make sure that that happens,” he said.
He said the other important thing that he had expected to be in the SAB was the issue of COVID 19, which he said whenever it mutates, it mutates into something very dangerous. He said that is what is in the country at the moment, but the country is behaving as if nothing is happening.
This, he said, even though it appeared in the SAB differently, he expressed that he would have thought that the first thing that should have been considered in the SAB is precisely the issue of COVID19 to be able to save lives.
Jatta added that even if ambulances are provided to take patients to the hospital, a provision should be made to make sure that wherever they are taken, there is something to receive and treat them, but he said he has not seen that in the SAB.
The veteran politician also said the whole SAB boils down to the issue of COVID19, adding that the country is faced with a very serious and critical issue.
He said he looked at a report wherein it is indicated that 373 infections in three days have been registered, with a rise in the death rate. This, he said, is the first of its kind since the outbreak of the coronavirus.
Jatta further said the pandemic is surging everywhere in the world, resulting in locked up in Europe and Saudi Arabia. It continues to go up and that nobody knows where it is going to end, he pointed out. To him, the country should prepare for the pandemic to be able to save the citizenry from it.
“This SAB should bring something fundamental like that. I think we have to look at it. It is our responsibility and when we sit over this, we do something in that regard. But the tragedy with our people is that people don’t care about it. Even here in the chambers, there are people here without face masks and this chamber should not accept that anymore,” he told the assembly.
Jatta said another issue is that the UTG is owed D154 million, saying he was one of those who tried to settle the matter. He said they were informed by the permanent secretary that they have already paid D20 million towards the amount owed.
The lawmaker said this means that there is an outstanding balance of D134 million, yet only D50 million was captured in the SAB. Jatta said this will not solve the problem, saying it is very important that they sit over it because he believed the sum is insufficient.
“The government gives about D2 million subvention monthly to the UTG, but this is inadequate,” he said, adding the UTG spends almost D30 million.
Jatta said the situation cannot remain like it is, suggesting that the money be raised up to at least D75 to D80 million if not D134. Without this, he said there will be a never-ending strike.
He called for spending of the little money available on key and urgent matters, saying the most urgent matter is the life of the people in the face of the pandemic in its new form.
“Delta variant kills and is killing people like flies. It infects without indication and goes to other people more quickly and rapidly than the previous one. So, these are things that we should consider seriously in this SAB.
“We must take serious measures much more than we have ever taken to protect our people so that this small republic will not collapse in the face of COVID19,” he said.