Speaker Abdoulie Bojang and Fabakary Tombong Jatta majority leader
By Baboucarr Ceesay
The regional outreach forum for National Assembly members for Central River Region (CRR) and Upper River Region (URR), at the Regional head office of Ministry of Education, Janjanbureh, CRR from 26 to 29 May 2014 was marred with fear for transparency and accountability as councilors and other participants tried express their feelings freely.
This was evident in the responses to the concern of participants who spoke their minds at the outreach.
When the forum was officially opened in the morning of Tuesday 27 May, it was categorically made clear to participants from the various constituencies that they can say anything they feel.
But many of the critical issues raised were countered instead of noting them for correction despite announcement that all participants can express themselves by explaining their problems at the gathering.
Fabakary Tombong Jatta, majority leader of the House blatantly told a participant who complained about the imposition of candidates on people during parliamentary and local elections that whoever is not in line with the desires of President Jammeh will have his or her demands brushed away.
With all the counter comments made by the majority leader the speaker of the National Assembly Abdoulie Bojang remained calm to the critical comments from the participants.
Seizure of tractor and detention of a woman
It was unimaginable that a former lady councilor, from Jimara district who introduced herself as the daughter of the great marabout of Gambisara village to be distracted when she disclosed that her tractor was seized from her and that she was detained and released without any just cause.
Her complained prompted the majority to call for a side discussion after the session instead of allowing her to explain her ordeal at length to the gathering.
Need for presidential term limit
Menkeh Ebrima Barrow councilor of Sarre Ngai ward in Upper River Region (URR) Menkeh Said there should be a term limit across the board especially for the president.
For Menkeh, to allow leaders to rule as long as they wish would only makes them more corrupt.
He said the Local Government Act stated that there is a term limit of ten years for councilors. “Why is the same thing not extended to the national assembly members and president”, he demanded.
He said the term limit for political office in the country should be across the board.
Menkeh said councilors are paid only D1500 monthly as their sitting allowance without any salaries.
He said many councilors who are professionals in other trades would concentrate on their work rather than the welfare of their wards because of the lack of motivation.
Again these points of the Sarre Ngai councilor was greeted by the intervention of the majority leader who said that such comments can cause tension.
Imposing candidates on constituents
Dawda K Ceesay, councillor for Sarre Soffie said people should be allowed to be choosing their own choice of candidates instead being handpicked by party authorities.
Karim Kamara, a resident of Niamin Dankunku and Green Youth leader for Niamina East also disapproved of disallowing people’s choice of candidates. He said the tendency is affecting their politics as people function at grassroots.
Exemplary leadership and wisdom of Umarbun Hatab
Sulayman Keita, Chief of Niamina Dankuku who is an Islamic scholar said that right holders have all the rights to ask their duty bearers questions.
Keita said a disciple of Prophet Muhammed, Umar Bun Hatab as a caliph of the Muslims was confronted with a question by a young man about how he got his expensive gown when other people were still struggling to survive.
According to Keita, when people were dismayed by question of the young man Umar told them to allow him ask because he has the right. The Caliph then clarified by informing the young man that the gown was a gift from his son followed by further clarification from many people present in the gathering.
At this point Seyfo Keita emphasized that representative of the people should have wisdom and it is very significant for National Assembly members to acquire certain level of knowledge as lawmakers of the people.
But surprisingly most of the speakers’ comments were feared because of the rare courage in their self expression and issues raised.
The majority leader said he was not surprised by chief Keita wisdom because of the man’s religious knowledge.