Former secretary general Momodou Sabally and Dr Ismaila Ceesay, lecturer at the University of The Gambia, Friday had dissenting views on The Gambia returning to the Commonwealth of Nations.
News of The Gambia rejoining the Commonwealth broke last week with majority of citizens celebrating the move, saying the decision to quit the Commonwealth was made unilaterally by former president Yahya Jammeh almost 5 years ago.
However, while Dr Ceesay considered the move genuine, Sabally thinks it has no use.
“Really I am not in favour of Gambia rejoining the Commonwealth. It is a shame. What benefit will we have from this? We were colonised and we pulled out. Now we are going back and we are going to pay contribution to an international organization. I hope Government budgeted what they will pay to the Commonwealth. Commonwealth has no use here,” he remarked.
Sabally’s opinion on the much awaited return to the Commonwealth opened a debate between him and Dr Ceesay.
“How many Gambians have benefitted from a Commonwealth scholarship? Dr Ceesay quizzed, with Sabally swiftly responding: “You can count them! Not much compared to what we pay them”.
Dr Ceesay continued to defend Gambia’s rejoining, saying it is vital the country belongs to the Comity of Nations. “It is important we return to the Commonwealth,” he said, with Sabally quickly responding: “An ex slaves’ club? These are the people who enslaved us.”
The two panelists on Giss Giss, a show on the state broadcaster, also clashed on the recent strike by teachers, with Sabally opposing the strike saying the teachers should have given dialogue enough time. He however said government’s reaction to the strike “was totally bad.”
“Teachers have the right to demand for salary increment but I don’t support strike. Let’s sit and discuss the problem. It can be solved through dialogue and consider students. They have the right to demand but also the government’s reaction was shameful. It is a very critical situation; very unfortunate,” Sabally said. Dr Ceesay reacted: “I believe they felt strike was the last option.”
Sabally, who was visibly unhappy with the situation, said the teachers and the government had already “started the process of dialogue. Plus at this time of the year the budget has been passed already. I think it is a bit unreasonable Ismaila, to push government to the corner.”
Dr Ceesay responded: “They pushed teachers first to the corner. You go to class without even bread to eat. Let’s speak the truth to each other. Let’s tell the government to cut spending and invest in teachers because they are the ones teaching our children. For example, go to the teachers at the Gambia College you will even feel sorry for them. What the government should do is reduce embassies and introduce austerity measures.”
Fabakary Tombong Jatta, the caretaker leader of APPRC, who was the guest on the programme, also chipped in the heated debate on the strike.
“Salary increase maybe difficult but I understand that they are being owed 5 months allowances. That should not be compromised. The people in the leadership are having their allowances paid which are more than the teachers’ own,” he said, adding that government should never have used threat against teachers “because we are no longer in a world where threat will work. Gambians have passed that now.”