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Suspended dock workers claim victimized for speaking out against president

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By Omar Bah

The Gambia Dock and Maritime Union has suspended five dock workers indefinitely for speaking to the media and releasing WhatsApp and voice recordings allegedly using abusive language against the union. But the affected workers said they are being victimized for speaking out against the maladministration of the head of the union.

The suspended officials are Bakary Ceesay, Foday Ceesay, Saikou Kanyi, Omar Fatty, and Saikou Colley.

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The letter, signed by Landing MC Badjie and seen by The Standard, reads: “Your kind attention is drawn to the above captioned subject matter. The union executive has monitored social media on WhatsApp and voice recording, and you are identified as the one broadcasting the message, apparently using the above insolent language against the Dockworkers Union. In line with the code of conduct of the union, you are indefinitely suspended from work duty with immediate effect until further notice.”

But reacting to the suspension in a writeup shared with The Standard, the dockworkers said the suspension came following interviews granted to different media houses concerning their grievances against their president, Lang Bala Sawo.

The dock workers said Mr. Sawo was unhappy with the manner in which they responded to an audio he shared with the Barrow Media Empowerment. “We have since reported the matter to the port police, who have called us to a dialogue, but Lang Bala Sawo refused to attend the meeting. During the meeting, some of the neutrals admitted that Mr Sawo has no right to suspend us without following due process. We agreed at the meeting that the suspension should be rescinded until such time that the board looks at the reason behind the suspension. We have also engaged the managing director, and he promised to look into the matter,” they said in the release.

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The suspended members questioned the powers the union relied on to suspend them because there is no such provision in their constitution.

“We want the suspension to be revoked immediately, and we urge Lang Bala Sawo to unconditionally resign and hand over all our assets,” one of them said.

Last month, at least 141 dockworkers signed a petition calling for the resignation of Gambia Dock and Maritime Union President, Lang Balla Sawo, over alleged mismanagement of the union’s funds which his office denied. The group also wrote petitions to the National Assembly and other institutions calling for an investigation into the financial dealings of the Union’s executive committee. The unhappy dockworkers argued that the executive has refused to hire independent auditors to audit its accounts, which is a violation of the union’s constitution and terms of reference.

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