Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Sidia Jatta: The Gambia’s Debt Stands at Over D77.4 Billion

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By: Kebba AF Touray

Sida Jatta, the National Assembly Member for Wuli West, has disclosed that the Gambia is indebted to the tune of over D67 billion.He indicated that the debt has increased from 67 billion to 77 billion.

He said: “And, under the first republic, …. the then-president was speaking and said, this is a debt that we cannot pay until the evil day. Do you know how much it was then? Only 2 billion by 1985 before it reaches its peak. The burden here was 2 billion and the president said; it could not be paid until the evil day. 2 billion debt but now you are talking about 77.4 billion.”

See below the statement delivered bySidia Jatta during the adjournment debate;

“Thank you. Those of you who have long memories recall that in this very chamber when the late former president of this republic was laid in state here, I made a tribute. And in doing it, I tried to indicate the historical motivation for naming his party the People’s Protectorate Party, because there were precepts.  

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The reason was simply that, up to that time, the forming of PPP, all the elections that took place in this country for almost four decades were limited to this area, here. The people in the Protectorate were seen as if they were aliens even though they were paying the same taxes that the people here were paying. But they were denied to assume the responsibility of determining their manner of government. And it was under colonial rule. But the same historical anomaly is being repeated in the Gambia as a republic. 

This was the matter I wanted to talk about today. But fortunately for me today, two of my colleagues took virtually the words from my mouth, Banjul North member and the member for Serrekunda West. I said the same historical anomaly is being repeated here for 55 good years, particularly for the last 23 or 25 years, since the inception of the current Constitution. 

Honorable Speaker, Section 26 of this Constitution stipulates very clearly that:

Every citizen of The Gambia of full age and capacity shall have the right without unreasonable restrictions.

 (a) to take part in the conduct of public affairs, directly or through freely chosen representatives;

 (b) to vote and stand for elections at genuine periodic elections for public office, which elections shall be by universal and equal suffrage and be held by secret ballot.

 And then you go to Section 33 subsection 1&2. Subsection 1 says;

 (1) All persons shall be equal before the law without discrimination.

 I emphasized that: all persons in this republic are equal before the law.

 (2) Subject to the provisions of subsection (5), no law shall make any provision that is discriminatory either of itself or in its effect.

 Hon. Speaker, these sections speak eloquently on the matter that is of concern to me and my committee. We have been dealing with it and I inform you that; there is a bill in the process to that effect. 

 Hon. Speaker, let me give you some statistics. Before I do that, let me ask you this question; we are now in the registration period. Suppose you are going to register and on the way, you are stopped by a group of people who say no, you are not a Gambian.

Hon. Jatta asked: “How would you feel?”

He buttressed: “That is what we are doing. That is exactly what we are doing”. 

 Hon. Speaker, there are approximately in Africa alone: 25,200 Gambians. They have been denied to vote. But you have been doing it and you are equal. All of you are equal. All of you are equal in sovereignty in this Republic but you said no, they should not vote.

In South and East Africa 25,600 Gambians

In Europe 43,600 , whilst in Northern and Western Europe 67,600 Gambians.

Americas and Caribbean 37,200 Gambians

 The Middle East, Asia and Oceania 2750 Gambians

The total is,175,350 Gambians have been consistently denied their fundamental right of being citizens of this country. And we all know. We sit on it, particularly this Parliament. We swore to defend the Constitution and we have seen that people trampling that Constitution afoot. And they are silent about it even though we swore that we will defend it. 

 “How serious are we defending the Constitution?”, asked Sidia Jatta.

 The Minister of Finance will come here and tell us in terms of remittance, how much is coming from these people? What you know officially and is very likely what you do not know unofficially is more than what you know officially. And we are just quiet about it here. And IEC has been time-. As if they own the people. You cannot stamp on the right of people and you clap. These people have a right like you and l, to be members of this Parliament. And the other thing is;  

 He said: “They have to be recognized as the eighth region of this republic”.

Because if you divide 175,350 into the number of Constituencies they have, you will have 35,070 people in each of those Constituencies. There are very few constituencies here in those areas in the urban area which have 35,000 voters. These people, let us say for 55 years, have been denied they are not Gambian. They are contributing financially, intellectually, morally. These coalition efforts would not have been successful without their participation.

They drove it with their money. And now we are sitting here happily, IEC playing with them. Before, we thought around this time they are to be registered and be voters. And now they are (IEC) wasting time again. And we are all quiet. We must not be quiet. We must make sure that before the next election, these people are given the right to vote. Otherwise, there will be no elections in this country. That is what should be the stand of this Parliament. They must be registered and they must be voters. Otherwise, there will be no elections in this country. We cannot afford this type of unconstitutionality in this Republic. It is our responsibility.

“We must assume our responsibility. We must assume our responsibility. No political opportunism should prevent these people from voting. I am saying emphatically; no political opportunism should prevent them from voting this time. It is because of political opportunism that is preventing them. Ah, because I think they will not vote for me. Who are you? Every citizen has a right to belong to whatever organization he or she chooses. Every citizen has a right to vote wherever he or she pleases. Who are you to determine? Who are you to refuse anybody a vote when you are enjoying it? I trust that we will join hands to make sure that something happens this time”. 

“Hon. Speaker, the other question is which way for Africa”.

Hon. Speaker, which way for Africa? You see, when I was setting up my room, I was crying because I was dealing with some western academics. And one of them sent me their discussions in a forum. And I have said this in this Parliament. All of you are witness to it. I always say emphatically and I repeat; 

 No loan, no grant will develop any part of Africa. All these are tactically designed to keep you at bay. Anybody who does not understand it that way, you are sleeping. No western aid, no western money whether in the form of grants or loans will develop Africa. Tactically, the West, East, Asia are united in the fact that they want to keep Africa at bay. Because;

 The development of Africa is to their detriment. This western academic was telling me, he said; “our role in our universities is to tell you that your poverty is your own making. That is what they are there to teach in their universities”. 

He said: “Your underdevelopment, your poverty is your own design. But we make sure that you cannot do anything with the raw materials you produce because if you do, it means we will die.”

That is what he told me. I have been saying that even before he talked to me. Why can’t we see this? The whole world is united against Africa because Africa’s development is to the detriment of the rest of the world. So what are we going to do about that? We are going to keep on asking for grants and loans and we think that is going to make us. These are technically meant to keep us at bay, keep us where we are. Because we are so indebted today that we cannot even have money to develop anything in this country. Tell me. 

 He quizzed: “Do we have it”.

 “And, under the first republic…….., when the then-president was speaking and said; this is a debt that we cannot pay until the evil day. Do you know how much it was then? Only 2 billion by 1985 before it reached its peak, the burden here was 2 billion and the president said; it could not be paid until the evil day. 2 billion debt, but now you are talking about 77.4 billion”, he said.

 WHERE ARE WE HEADING TO MY DEAR FRIENDS?

 I think we are failing our people. We are failing our people. And whatever we do is also failing our people.

 The budget for AU was financed to the tune of 73% by the World Bank and international monetary agencies. That is Africa – The Organization of African Unity – crying to liberate itself is now dependent to a tune of 73% for its budget.

 WHERE CAN WE GO?

 There is a proverb in this particular language (Mandinka) “Nang Maakoy, Naaye Kordaa Men Loo, Nmaa Nyaasoto Wole Ka Jee Tey” (Translation in English) – Help Me, If Help Me Builds Any Compound, Eventually, I don’t have time Is What Is Going To Destroy It.

All these are psychologically calculated. Wallaahi! Psychologically, they have technicians whose responsibility is to think out the strategy to keep you at bay. And we are here sleeping. Anything, ok we are looking for experts. Experts where? Anything you want to do in this country, they say experts when you are the experts yourselves. I always take China as an example; the sleeping giant of the world before the revolution. 

 They have never taken a butut from any country. Not a single butut from any country. But where are they today? Today they are the most powerful country economically. They have overtaken everybody. America is owing to them. The US is owing to them but they are not owing to the US. Europe is owing to them but they do not owe Europe. But before, they say the sleeping giant of the world. But today, they are the big giants in every respect.

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