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‘NPP press conference unmasks motive behind commission’

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The National Assembly member for Latrikunda, Yaya Menteng Sanyang has said Sunday’s press conference by the governing National People’s Party has clearly unmasked the hidden motive behind the supposed establishment of a commission of inquiry to probe local councils.

“Instead of talking about their preparations for the local government elections, the officials of the party including cabinet ministers, openly talked in support of a commission that is in fact not officially announced, and which is targeting to witch-hunt their political opponents,” Hon Sanyang said.

He said one of the cabinet ministers of the government that is targeting political opponents with this commission, Bakary Badjie, is a candidate in the elections.

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“Why now when Local government elections start in March 2023? Obviously the motives is clear: all those candidates that are currently in local government will be impacted by the commission. Some will be intimidated by the proceedings while others will be distracted from campaigning and may even be ordered not to attend campaign events and instead attend the commission. However, the main impact will be on the public. The minds of the public will likely be tainted or impacted as they watch their candidates dragged to a commission that is televised daily. This is the motive of the government since they know they cannot win against the mostly opposition incumbent council leaders,” Hon Sanyang said

The Latrikunda NAM continued: “Even if one were tempted to believe that the president was just acting in a routine manner to investigate these councils, the fact that there has been no announcement from the Office of the President but instead the NPP held a high powered press conference on Sunday the 19th February speaks volumes about the political motivation. The members of cabinet who no doubt are the authority behind the commission, donned their political hats to decry corruption and support the commission. All these facts together clearly spell an unfortunate future for The Gambia. The timing of the Commission sends the message yet again to the outside world that the Government of the Gambia has no qualms in using its institutions in a manner that interferes with the elections and subjects opposition members to restrictions and interference which members of the incumbent party do not face”.

The opposition UDP NAM said the local governments are among the most heavily scrutinised institutions in the country because they are audited annually by the National Audit Office and report their finances to the Finance and Public Accounts Committee of the Parliament. ”All their procurement is scrutinised by the Gambia Public Procurement Authority and the Ministry of Regional Government inspects them quarterly. Is the President saying that these structures are not enough? Why did he not simply request the information from all these bodies?  Also, the administration of local authorities including the CEO and Directors are all hired by the Local Government Service Commission who are under the Ministry of Lands. So what further need is there to investigate at this time?,” Hon Sanyang asked.

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He added that the President’s open use of Government institutions to stifle the rights of the people to self-determination is sad.

“Ordinarily, it is the right of the President to establish a Commission of Inquiry to advise him on any subject. Even if the subject is questionable, a commission is not a trial or prosecution, it is simply a fact finding mission and the President is free to act on the conclusions and recommendations in the most advisable manner he deems fit,” he said.

Hon Sanyang however argued that a commission is a public proceeding with a mandatory attendance for all witnesses and accusations can, and have been directed by lead counsel against persons in several commissions in The Gambia. ”Even though such persons may have the right to defend themselves in future action, a commission of inquiry is a platform that every citizen in The Gambia can follow on a daily basis and it gives national attention to the subject that the President has decided to investigate,” he said

Sanyang further stated that a commission of inquiry therefore creates the idea in the minds of the citizens that indeed there is an issue of concern that is worth spending tax payers’ funds on.

“What about the numerous corruption scandals that plagued the same cabinet and government without any recourse?”, he asked.

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