It’s been months since your government through the minister of Interior, Mr Mai Ahmad Fatty, announced the discontinuation of the issuance of the national documents, ID Cards and Passports. This has had some serious consequences on many folks in this country. For instance, one goes to a bank and is unable to withdraw any money because the ID card is expired. Or, one goes to a hospital and cannot enjoy the privilege of being a Gambian so one has to pay the fee foreigners are supposed to pay. There are many others to this effect.
Mr President, the public does not really know the reason[s] behind the discontinuation of the issuance of the national documents. The saying that many non Gambians were given these documents, or that some people have the ability to produce fake ID cards is not reason enough to stop issuing them to genuine Gambians. Why can’t the government find a way to produce ID cards which cannot be forged? Why can’t there be a mark which will differentiate between the fake and genuine one? There has to be way of doing it which doesn’t include denying genuine Gambians their right to obtain the national documents.
It is also said that the previous government signed an agreement with a foreign company for the issuing of biometric ID cards and biometric passports. It is said that in this contract, the government of the Gambia gains only D500 out of the D3000+ that passport applicants pay. I do not know whether this is true or not, but if it is, then it is ridiculous and that the government should terminate it forthwith. Certainly, there are Gambians who have the expertise to produce such documents. There is no reason why we should allow a foreign company to take away our hard earned money when our people can do it and the money remain in our country.
While we are talking about the national identity card, I want to suggest that we combine the ID card, the voter’s card and social security number in one. Let us find a way of making all these into one card. This has a lot of benefits for the country and will solve many problems for us.
Besides, the issue of the ID card expiring after five years should be revisited. Why don’t we have an ID which does not expire, or, at least let it last for a period of ten years. This will reduce the burden on ordinary citizens to be running around looking for ID cards every now and then.
The national documents are too important to be discontinued for this long. Find a way of surmounting this problem as soon as possible.