It takes a life-time of study and experience perhaps forever to gain an encyclopaedic knowledge on subjects that potentially or actually come up on the floor of the National Assembly. On the reasonable assumption that National Assembly Members (NAMs) have relatively lower expertise and aggregate experience in most areas of public policy, vis-à-vis civil service administrators and technocrats, I think it is advisable for individual NAMs to identify and engage with knowledgeable members of the public, and consult with them on ‘difficult questions’ if such consultation does not violate confidentiality rules.
During the past week, the Honourable Minister of Finance and his team were highly commended, and rightly so, for drastically reducing the budget deficit registered at the start of 2017. As part of his explanations, the Honourable Minister of Finance and Economic Affairs cited the Public Finance Management Act and asserted that all that is required in budget revision is a reduction of the total budget. I would say, the Honourable Minister is right, but only partly, or his explanation was incomplete. The supplementary question NAMs failed to ask was ‘Are upward revisions of specific budget items in conformity with regulations governing virements?” The answer is still out there.
In reference to the menace of feral dogs, the Honourable Minister of Interior, also during the past week, asserted that a pair of breeding dogs ‘can multiply to over 300 in three years’. Incredibly, the Honourable Minster was not pressed to reveal his source. Even under the most extreme assumptions of litter size, sex ratio, survival rate and in-breeding within a pack, the projected dog population is way off the mark. On reading this piece, the Honourable Minister is humbly advised to be more circumspect in his written statements and to always seek information from authoritative sources. On the other hand, NAMs need to develop and sustain a refined sense of skepticism (guided by common sense).
Remo R Jones
The fight over nothing
In a particular Gambian language, tribe is referred to as “residential” or “place of residence”, “See-yo”. ‘See’ means sit. ‘See-yo’ could also mean the act of sitting.
Again if you are confused by the above, get to understand that “see-yo” is used also to mean relocating to another residence. “Ee si ta Jang leh”: “This is where they were resided”.
That is perhaps more telling because “ee si doo lah” mean “their place of residence” which is what shapes their identity.
Based on this, tribe is nothing but a historical accident which is passively but sometimes actively decided by one’s choice of residence.
This has made it possible for people’s ethnicity to be molded by their place of residence. I met a Badibunka ‘Mandinka’ few years ago who, out of our few minutes’ conversation excused, “you know I can’t speak Mandinka very well”.
Oh, he has never lived with them. Their family live in Banjul and virtually their entire community speak “Jollof”.
So who wants to kill a human being over some historical accident?
The power of the people: lessons from Bakoteh
By now every Gambian must begin to realize that indeed power belongs to the people.
For years we have the deplorable Bakoteh dumpsite and the Government and KMC never cared. But the moment the masses rose up, immediately we see each and every organ of the Government got up to address it. Yet these Government officials, from the President to Cabinet Ministers to National Assembly Members and Councilors as well as the police all have seen this hazardous dumpsite as they pass by it every day. But they never got up to address it. But the moment the masses took extra-ordinary measures, we see how every Government official and parliamentary and opposition leaders now position themselves as if they represent the best interest of the masses.
The lesson therefore is clear. Let the people always remember that only the people can defend the people. Only the people can make government, politicians and leaders work in our interest. Only the people make democracy work. Hence the people must never ever relent. If we relent nothing works. But when we become vigilant and stand our ground, the politicians have no choice but to run helter skelter.
So let the people of Bakoteh and the youth in particular congratulate themselves. They must remain peaceful, organized and steadfast to ensure that our civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights are protected and fulfilled. That is the only way forward to building the New Gambia.