By Omar Bah
The National Assembly Member for Bundung, Sulayman Jammeh, has defended his decision to vote for the controversial former presidents’ bill.
Last week, the National Assembly passed the controversial new bill to establish lifetime pensions, gratuities, and other benefits for ex-presidents of The Gambia and their spouses, despite strong disapproval from the opposition members, most of whom walked out of the sitting leaving members of the ruling NPP coalition and the independent No Alliance NAMs to vote for it.
Three days after voting for the bill, Foni Jarrol lawmaker Kebba Toumanding Sanneh said if he had known that Yahya Jammeh would not be eligible for the benefits of the former presidents’ bills, he would have walked out too.
But speaking in a Star FM exclusive to be aired today, the APRC NAM Sulayman Jammeh, who also voted for the bill, said he has no regrets, arguing that his decision was not influenced by any individual interest.
“The former presidents’ bill is not something new because former President Jammeh brought something similar for the late President Sir Dawda Kairaba Jawara. So, it was already there, just that a few things were added to it because the old bill, which was passed in 2006, only catered for allowances and a few other benefits, but the new bill is trying to bring about a few new things, including pensions and gratuities, which I think are quite reasonable,” he said.
NAM Jammeh said it is important that “if our presidents leave office, they continue to live in good condition”.
“It is just like what we do for any other person, but it is understandable that we cannot all agree on one thing. I supported the bill, but maybe there are people in Bundung who don’t support it. My decision to support it was not meant for the current president or anybody, but for the sake of the office of the former president, of which anybody could be a beneficiary.
“We believe it will help our former presidents not to think of staying in office forever. It will also encourage term limit. As far as I am concerned, I support it because I think it should be. You cannot serve your country at that level and then become a destitute. I heard people say that money could be spent on agriculture, but I think it is the responsibility of those working to do what is supposed to be done to improve agriculture in the country. If you say there is not enough medicine in our hospitals, what stops those responsible for that from ensuring there is enough medicine in our hospitals? So, I supported it, and I have no regrets about supporting it,” Sulayman Jammeh said.
He said people often criticise anything that they feel will not benefit them directly.
“Being citizens or civil servants, we should all do what is required of us to build this country. I am not in the National Assembly to satisfy one individual interest,” he added.
Developments in Bundung
He said consultations are at an advanced stage to address the issue of water in Bundung.
“I have brought a lot of boreholes into Bundung during my time as councillor, but the water issue has remained a challenge, so because of that, I thought about the new borehole project, which I believe could help address the issue once and for all because water is a very essential commodity that we cannot go without,” he said.
He commended the Tuku Jallow Foundation for providing borehole projects for the residents of Bundung. Jammeh said he has also secured two new boreholes that use both electricity and solar, and they are open for 24 hours. “We are also working very hard to address the issue of the roads; the delay was caused by the Nawec and Gamtel installations, but that has been sorted out,” he added.