By Lamin Cham
The Commissioner General of the Gambia Revenue Authority has said that the Daily Observer newspaper company was reopened yesterday because the law allows only 14 days for temporary closure.
The Gambia’s leading paper was shut down by the tax authorities a fortnight ago for defaulting on payments of D17 million tax arrears.
Speaking to The Standard last night, Yankuba Darboe explained: “The [GRA] Act allows us up to 14 days to temporarily close down the business. It was a temporary closure. We reopened them yesterday because the 14-day period had elapsed. But the liability is there and it must be repaid. If it is not settled, we will go there and close down the place again and again until we go to court to seek [final determination] which will be the final solution.
“This has been going on for a long time. We cannot allow the Observer to refuse to pay tax when other businesses and newspapers like Foroyaa and The Standard are paying their taxes. We are asking them to make a 30% [about D5.1 million] down payment of their [D17 million] liability and agree to pay the balance over a reasonable period of time. They have said [before that] they do not have any money. But these taxes must be paid and we are determined to collect them.”
Commissioner General Darboe said he has invited the management of the Observer Company to a meeting this afternoon “to sit, discuss and find a way forward” over the vexatious matter.
Meanwhile, the managing director of the company Pa Modou Mbowe confirmed a planned meeting with GRA today. ”The company and other stakeholders such as the Gambia Press Union will today engage the GRA so as to arrive at a deal that will hopefully put a close to this chapter in the interest of both parties,” he said. Mr Mbowe said the Daily Observer was overwhelmed by the solidarity and concern shown by media colleagues at home and abroad during the last few days, which they very much appreciated.