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Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Sheriff Abba Sanyang, Minister of Lands and Regional Government

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With Alagie Manneh

Part 2

The Standard again, Councils are not also enjoying the level of autonomy accorded to them under the constitution or even under the Local Government Act 2002. Like for example political and economic power in the regions remain concentrated in the hands of the central government. How do you intend to give greater autonomy to councils?

What type of autonomy are you talking about?

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Abba Sanyang the Basse community market is a case in point, when Adama Barrow decided to delegate the responsibility of allocating stalls to the governor of URR.

Now, if we all follow the genesis and the construction of the Basse market. You see, to me, autonomy in responsibility matters from how much performance or performing you are. Let’s take this scenario, if Basse Area Council felt the market is under the domain and the auspices of the council, who would they wait for to see the demarcation, the control, the building and so on of the market? Would you wait anybody for that? The destruction that even occurred at the market, I will take the blame to them because if I am the manager of an institution, I should be responsible of monitoring and coordinating the affairs of the institution to regulate everything; its wiring system, water system, drainage and everything. But you don’t leave things to go rotten, and you leave it rotten until somebody builds it up and you feel it belongs to you. It’s not fair. Gambians need to be very pragmatic in approach. I’m not saying the government should take control of it, the government cannot, and besides, the government is in a partnership. The government have to be a watchdog, and the Governor has to be a watchdog over all implementation of projects and programmes in his region. Do you know that? That’s the Governors responsibility. Every programme, development, and every project in every region should be supervised and monitored by the Governor.

Isn’t that too much duplication?

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No. It’s not duplication. That’s a major responsibility. Do you think somebody will go to The Standard, and said I need a document, I need to go into the archives of The Standard and talk to you alone? Tell me, will he? No. You came here, because you informed your managing director that you will be coming here, am I not right? The governor in the region has been there representing the president. The president appointed him to represent him in the region because he cannot be there every day and that is why he said let me have somebody there every day to look after my work and my issues there. That’s not politics. He’s not there to represent NPP, UDP or any other party. He’s representing the president of the country. You see, we need to take off our personal ego, lets divorce it from work, and professionalism. The moment we are able to do that, we can make progress. But unless and until we are subjected in our thinking. You see, subjectivity is tantamount to non-performance, and it is in fact none-intelligence. You see, to make a mind more broaden, gentleman, let’s be critical and objective. And for every meaningful progress and development, collectivity is the only solution. Let’s come together! Let’s drop the unnecessary… I want to be autonomous; I want to be this. Political ‘autonomosity’ where did you ever hear that in the world? What jargon is that? Politically, we want to be autonomous, economically, we want to be autonomous. How can you be autonomous? Your economy is highly dependent on the contribution of people. Being autonomous mean, you should be able to generate your own resources, do your own programmes, your own implementation without any supervision, coordination, without anything. And can that be functional? No state can function in that matter. There have to be regulations in a country. A country must be regulated and coordinated. If you don’t want a coordination unit, my brother, you better go to your bed and sleep, there you are left to sleep. But as long as you work in an institution, you will be regulated. You must be regulated.

Councils are also not effective in collection of taxes and rates mainly due to lack of capacity, corruption and refusal to pay. What effective measures will you take to review and revise the system of tax and rates payment?

Yesterday, a district called me directly and said honourable minister, we have a problem in our district. He said, herein, as am talking to you I have with me all the alkalolu in my district, they are with the money of their villages to pay their taxes and rates, but they said the machine that process the payment is not functional, that it is not working. Gentleman, Gambians must accept change! We must accept change. Because its digital, and controlled, because of those control mechanisms you say the machines have a problem. The machines will not work if you don’t want the system to work. In my region at the time, every village pays tax. Any village that did not pay I would invite them and tell them to pay. We need to take our work seriously, take the country seriously and take situations of change seriously and work towards development. It’s a council we are talking about here. So, if that Council was autonomous, completely autonomous, will they have the powers to regulate the payment of taxes to them? My brother, we must be under a government, under a law, under a regulatory system. Everybody must be under a regulatory system. Unless we do that, this country will not work. The taxes they are talking about, we are all in the campaign for the taxes to be paid. We shouldn’t be complacent about it. But that’s not the limit of it. We must also accept change. The machines that are provided to make sure the system is accountable to itself should be respected, cherished and well taken care of. But a system cannot be down for a whole month. We spoke about the internet issues, and said fine, you can now do the payment without internet. Because the payments can be done without the internet, now they said the payment cannot be done because the machines have a problem. So, the problems will be sequential in this manner. When do we go as a state? I think we need to be pragmatic, honest and sincere in our focus and dimensions of development, and we can achieve something at the end of the day.

Do you share the feeling like a lot of other Foninkas that Foñi has been militarised by the Barrow administration?

I don’t. You see, security of a country starts from the rights and privileges and the security of the Commander-In-Chief. It’s his responsibility to make sure everybody in the country is secured. Before a country is secured, he himself must be secured and protected. The CDS owes it to the people to make sure the whole country is secured, and protected. I go to Foñi every week, I find securities doing their job, I’ve never been stopped and asked questions by anybody. I’m not harassed. They are on their domain of security, and I am in my compound, and on my farm. Nobody ever came to question me, and am not sure anybody in my community have ever been questioned by the securities, or halted by the securities. You see, certain things we don’t need to elaborate on as a people. Security is a domain of its own, and they can go on their security business. I’m a farmer by profession, and that’s my business. I will leave the securities to do their job. Banjul is not militarised, KM is not militarised, and am not seeing any part of the world or this country being militarised. So, if the language is the problem, then I may not comprehend the language. If the behaviours are the issue, I may not take it as something factual. I’m not definitely bothered about that, to be honest with you. Actually, I believe and see every Gambian as a Gambian and that’s what the president is also seeing. I am not seeing Adama having any remorse against any Gambian, talk less about a Foñinka. I’m a bona fide Foñinka. And several other people like me from Foñi are working for the Gambian people. So, I have nothing against him, nor against the government, nor against his party. Alright.

What do you think should happen to your former boss, Jammeh in light of the TRRC findings and the government White Paper?

I don’t know. What should happen to him? I don’t know. [Laughs]. Seriously, I am sorry but whatever should happen to everybody is what should happen to everybody. We are all governed by a law, and the law supersedes everybody in this country. Be it on Jammeh, or be it on me or be it on somebody else, we are all Gambians. Jammeh is a human being like everybody else and I… whatever, I mean definitely, I don’t have a problem and an opinion about that. I don’t have any opinion to say about him or whatever around him. I don’t.

What is the position of the government regarding the fight between the revivalist imams and the Ahmadiyya Jama’at in The Gambia?

Being responsible of religious affairs, I have gone through all round the country. What I have been preaching is religious tolerance. And I am telling you, and I have said it, and I am standing by it, everybody has a right to live in this country. What we cannot accept as a government is anybody infringing the rights of somebody else. It’s not fair. When Allah created the human beings, He has been sending messengers all the time to communities all over who are defiant of His instructions or authority. Those prophets were to instruct and inform people about the righteous way to live. When Allah discovered that it was coming to perfection, the human system is becoming perfect, even though He knew it can never be perfect. Verily, he created man, He knows everything about him. He brought in the last prophet we believe in as Muhammad and in His closing remarks, He told him Ya Muhammad, this is the closing time of my religion, and this [the Qur’an] is what I have left you with. I gave you my book which is the holy Qur’an. And when He gave Muhammad the holy Qur’an, He said it is sealed and complete. That means it can be lived by man for posterity and no man can change a word of it. Prophet Muhammad delivered the message to his people. But when Allah was doing that, Allah knew very well He mentioned surah Al-Kafir in the Qur’an. And the same Allah mentioned sura Al-Rahman in the Qur’an. Then Allah mentioned through Gibril to Prophet Muhammad to be very careful of his neighbour. He told Muhammad, ‘your neighbour,’ and reiterated it to a point when the messenger thought that even his neighbour could inherit him. But thank Allah that wasn’t mentioned. I keep telling people, be whoever my neighbour is, whatever tribe he is, whatever religion he is, whatever colour he is, wherever he came from, what did Allah say? Your neighbour. That’s where he stopped. He never continued to describe your type of neighbour. And He tells us to be very kind to our neighbour, and to give what we love best to our neighbour. Allah has been very cautious, conditioning people to have that peaceful co-existence. So, abusing some religions, abusing some people and doing whatever is not fair. Everybody has a right to live. Inasmuch we take religion, there are pagans in this country, there are atheists  and Christians in this country, but the Muslims and the Ahmadis are mainly the two who are mostly conflicted. Why? We are advising each other and advising ourselves to love and cherish each other, and to live peacefully. Let’s live, and let others live.  

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