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Monday, July 22, 2024

Protesters warn NAMs against passing laws to ‘enrich’ judicial officers, themselves

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By Tabora Bojang

Hundreds of youths and activists stormed Banjul yesterday voicing their opposition to the reintroduction of the Judicial Officers Remuneration Bill and called on lawmakers to reject it for the second time.

They also demanded the National Assembly Members Salaries and Pensions Bill to be thrown out.

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The protesters were holding banners and placards with slogans reading “reject the bill,” “no to economic inequality” and “stand up for social justice.”  Others chanted and whistled “stop the steal” “no to corruption” and “youths are happy is a scam.”

The judicial officer’s bill according to the government is meant to address the issue of inadequate remuneration of judges to attract experienced lawyers to the bench and to rectify the disparity in remuneration between The Gambia and comparable jurisdictions to ensure judges are fairly compensated for their service.

But the bill has faced opposition from many Gambians who are outraged that the purported fat wages and entitlements will only cripple an already weakened economy.

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“We are unequivocally opposed to these bills that are aimed at serving the interest and enriching members of the parliament and the judiciary over the general public,” said Lamin Manneh, one of the leaders of the protest.

Manneh charged that these bills are coming at a time when the majority of civil servants and private sector workers are “struggling to feed their families from their unattractive salaries due to the escalating high cost of living.”

He went on: “The majority of young people are unemployed leaving them vulnerable to drugs and irregular migration. Addressing these unfortunate conditions that the majority of Gambians face is what should be the focus of a House that is supposed to be the guardian of the people by making laws that address the needs and aspirations of the public as opposed to laws that are aimed at enriching the few.”

The protesters want the authorities to bring a fair and balanced approach for compensation, introduce salaries and pensions bill to ensure teachers, nurses, security personnel and other key workers receive better salaries, prioritise allocation of resources to healthcare, education and agriculture, reduce income gap and inequality and for lawmakers to put in mechanisms that will avail the electorates to hold members accountable for their decisions and actions.

These demands are contained in a petition they handed over to the Speaker of the National Assembly Fabakary Tombong Jatta who received the petition and went back to the Assembly building without making any remarks.

The protesters vowed not to bow down until their demands are respected by the authorities and vow to go on a national strike if the Assembly passes the bills.

During the protest, several lawmakers such as Bakary Badjie, Omar Jammeh and Almameh Gibba joined the protesters to show solidarity.

Badjie pledged that he will not vote in support of the two bills while Gibba refused to make any comments.

Several opposition politicians including MC Cham Jr and Marie Sock were also in attendance.

Ms Sock claimed members of the 6th legislature have so far been a disappointment, adding that Gambians expect nothing this time but an outward rejection of the bills.

“Let these bills go back and since it is about their retirements let them go and join Social Security,” Sock said.

Retired prison officer Lamin Manneh vowed that Gambians will not accept these bills to pass. “I have worked in government for 32 years and cannot even pay a healthy house rent. If they pass it, we will be on the streets and occupy them until our demands are met,” he said.

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