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Monday, October 2, 2023

Sait Matty Jaw defends NAMs’ vehicles

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By Omar Bah

Human rights activist, Sait Matty Jaw, has defended the National Assembly’s decision to purchase D2.5 million cars for Members. The decision attracted widespread condemnations from critics who feel the NAMs weren’t concerned about the difficulties their electorate face every day to put food on the table.

But in a write-up shared with The Standard yesterday, Mr Jaw said it is imperative to steer the conversation towards appreciating the potential benefits these vehicles can offer, rather than solely fixating on the price tag.

“Delving deeper into the matter, it becomes evident that the necessity of these vehicles extends beyond financial considerations, encompassing factors that can significantly enhance governance and citizen representation,” he said.

A particular concern raised by critics centers on the cost of these vehicles, which some claimed to be as high as D3.5 million but the Assembly insisted that it’s D2.5 million and is 50-50 shared cost between the NAMs and the NA in five years. 

According to Sait, understandably, this hefty price tag raises eyebrows, especially among citizens grappling with unemployment and economic challenges, which is also the major concern of critics.

“Yet, beyond the initial shock value, a nuanced understanding of the situation reveals a more complex reality. To place this issue in context, it’s essential to acknowledge the National Assembly’s pivotal role in the democratic process. As an entity responsible for enacting laws, scrutinising government activities, and representing the interests of the citizenry, its functionality directly impacts the nation’s governance. In this light, the purchase of vehicles should be seen as a strategic move to bolster the Assembly’s effectiveness rather than an indulgent expense,” he said.  He said a prevalent issue in many democracies is the detachment between citizens and their elected representatives.

“Gambia is no exception. Afrobarometer surveys indicate that constituents often struggle to contact their parliamentary representatives. By providing vehicles to parliamentarians, particularly those hailing from rural areas (we are all aware of the conditions of roads there), the potential for more frequent and meaningful interactions with constituents increases. This aids in bridging the gap between citizens and their elected officials, fostering mutual understanding and better representation,” he added.

He said parliamentary sessions often face disruptions due to insufficient attendance, which impedes the legislative process.

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