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Vision 2016 still ‘a dream’, says Halifa Sallah of PDOIS

Aug 8, 2014, 9:58 AM | Article By: Malamin Conteh

The People’s Democratic Organisation for Independence and Socialism, PDOIS, in a statement issued Wednesday stated that those claiming that Vision 2016 “is achievable are not basing it on concrete facts”.

“ PDOIS wishes to reiterate, and is willing to take on any one who holds the contrary, that APRC’s Vision 2016 is still at thephase of a dream”.

Entitled “PDOIS Statement on the Twentieth Anniversary of the 1994 Coup”, the statement “issued for Central Committee” on 6th August 2014 was released at a press conference held at the Churchill’s Town and organized by the political party and read to reporters by PDOIS Secretary General Halifa Sallah.

In the statement, PDOIS declared: “Where are we 20 years after the coup? This is the question that deserves an answer. Where do we go from here? This is the route worth mapping out, if we are to make any further progress in eradicating poverty and self-perpetuating rule”, the statement added.

According to the statement, “July 22nd is a day to reflect on how far we have gone in our quest to be the sovereign, indomitable and self-determined people capable of fostering self-reliant and self-determined development”.

Among other things, it went on to point out that The 1970 Constitution made The Gambia a Republic and the sovereignty of the people.

Yet, “this day is not commemorated in the first or second Republic…The two governments which have ruled The Gambia for half a century have not shown commitment to propagating the values of the Republic and sovereignty of the people”.

It also stated: “Decree No.1 the Supreme law of the July 22nd coup abrogated the Republican constitution and trampled it under the foot of decrees as well as nullify any gains in promoting the sovereignty of the people by abolishing political rights and freedoms. Yet the day is commemorated as liberation day”.

“The 1997 constitution which came into being on the 16th January 1997 states that ‘The sovereignty of The Gambia resides in the people of The Gambia from whom all organs of government derive their authority, and in whose name and for whose welfare and prosperity the powers of government are to be exercised.’ This day is not commemorated by the APRC government”.

“PDOIS is of the opinion that the days worth commemorating (as national days) are 24th April 1970 and 16th January 1997. 24th April is when the constitution of the first Republic came into being putting a definitive end to the executive governance of a colonial power. 16th January is when the constitution of the second Republic came into being putting a definitive end to the quasi monarchical system of government imposed by Decree No. 1 and its amended version.

PDOIS in its statement further declared that “the omissions, amendment and violations regarding the current instrument of governance, the Republican constitution, need to be exposed and addressed. The factors which impede liberty, prosperity and unhindered progress need to be highlighted. The solutions needs be apprehended in order to move forward”.

It went on to catalogue the following:

“The AFPRC rejected and omitted the proposition for a term limit opted by many Gambians from the draft constitution instead of submitting it for consideration during the referendum .This would have put a definitive end to the culture of self perpetuating rule. No wonder they are commemorating 20 years in power, and are still yearning for more…

“The APRC utilised its parliamentary majority to aid the executive to amend section 48 subsection 3 of the 1997 constitution, which was approved at a referendum to ensure that a presidential candidate would be elected by the absolute majority of voters.

“The provision reads: ‘no person shall be elected as president in the first ballot unless the votes cast in his or her favourat the election are more than 50 percent of the total number of votes validly cast at that election’…

“The APRC utilised its parliamentary majority to aid the executive to amend section 72 of the constitution which tried to prevent conflict of interest by banning Ministers from engaging in business, and requiring them to put any business owned before their appointment under trusteeship.

“The leadership continues to ignore the constitutional provision which provides for the secretary general of the public service to be appointed from those occupying the public service and not to hold other positions of emolument like a ministerial post or hold a position in a political party, so as to separate party from public service.

“It has nullified security of tenure of parliamentarians, judges, members of the Independent Electoral Commission by dismissing them at will without any impeachment proceedings or judicial review…

“The APRC utilised its parliamentary majority to amend section 58 and 59 of the 1997 constitution which aimed to dismantle the colonial local government structures which made district and village heads puns of the executive through executive appointments by introducing the elective principle to fill such posts. The elective principle has been nullified.

“The amended provision now mandates the president to appoint and remove district heads while the minister responsible of Regional Administration couldappoint and removevillage heads. Section 193 also required councils to be run by democratically-elected representatives who are to exercise a high degree of autonomy. The chairpersons of councils are no longer elected through universal suffrage and the autonomy of councils have been completely nullified by strengthening the grip which the executive have over them

“The APRC executive swore to uphold and defend the 1997 constitution. Section 19 of the constitution protects the right to liberty by making it instructive for detainees to be informed of the reasons for their arrest and detention, and their right to contact a legal counsel within three hours of detention.

“They should also be charged and taken before a court or be released within 72 hour. This is violated with impunity. At this very moment the former head of the civil service, 10 Agric senior officials and others are under detention for more than 72 hours”.

PDOIS’s statement has a section sub-titled: “The July 22nd Coup and the Issue of Poverty and Prosperity”.

“At the twentieth year of its administration, the APRC has come up with a Vision 2016 promising to produce sufficient rice to meet domestic consumption needs. This vision is being hailed by its advocates as a drive towards food self sufficiency.

“The PDOIS holds that those who are claiming that the vision is achievable are not basing it on concrete facts.A vision could only pass the stage of fiction and wishful thinking when it is translated into a policy, programmes, action plans and projects. PDOIS wishes to reiterate, and is willing to take on any one who holds the contrary, that APRC’s vision 2016 is still at thephase of a dream…

“The PDOIS leadership has spoken to farmers all over the country who have expressed their inability to purchase fertiliser at over 1000 dalasis per bag. They do not have enough seeds and farming or threshing implements. Many are threshing rice by hand…

“Hence the APRC leadership should be taken seriously only if it transforms vision 2016 into a project stating the amount of hectares it is to put under cultivation, the quantity of seeds and fertiliser needed, the farming implements required for the project, the cost, the source of funding and how Gambian farmers would access all the necessary inputs. It is only then that one could anticipate the output. Each person should challenge the advocates of vision 2016 to reveal these facts…

“According to the APRC, Agriculture engenders 60 percent of house hold income andemploys 70 percent of the population.Interestingly enough as of now it contributes less than 30 percent of GDP. There is little linkage between agricultural production and the growth of the domestic economy in real terms in order to attain food self sufficiency and sustainable development…

“Neither cash crop nor food crop production has been developed to bumper harvest level on a sustainable basis…

“Despite its commitment to the Maputo consensus; the NEPAD initiatives; the Expanded Rice Production Initiative with Taiwan as a development partner; the Gambia National Agricultural investment programme; the Food Agricultural Security Development Project (FASDEP) and Agricultural Land and Water Manangement Development project (NEMA) which are allocated130 million dollars no tangible facts could be given to confirm that the country is heading towards food self sufficiency…

“The PDOIS leadership has visited the vast areas where rice is grown and could be expanded. The gains are being lost to impoverishment and inability to purchase farming inputs,the breakdown of the irrigation systems , the blockage ofcanals, salt intrusion which makes planting conditional to the availability of rain as well as inability to control hippos, baboons and other competitors for grazing land .

“Furthermore, there is little linkage between agricultural production and processing to add value, income and jobs. The linkage between production and marketing has also broken down. The APRC has no investment policy on how to handle agro industrial and marketing components of agriculture…

“During twenty years of AFPRC /APRC rule The Gambia continues to be poor and indebted. This is confirmed by its economic classification. During five years under Constitutional Monarchyand 24 years underthe first Republic, The Gambia was classified among the least developed countries of the world. Twenty years after the coup, instead of being an economic super power, Gambia has not graduated from the class of the least developed countries,but has in fact earned the qualificationto join the class of the highly-indebted poor countriesof the world .

“Lastly, in commemorating the July 22nd Anniversary advocates of the APRC claim that those who do not see the infrastructural development of the past 20 years must be blind. Here the PDOIS leadership must add that those who do not find out how the development took place and evaluate the cost and sustainability must be blind in mind or ignorant of development paradigms.

“The PDOIS wishes to convey that infrastructural development has been premised not on earnings from the productive base of the economy but on loans which are becoming unsustainable and grants which are drying up because of governance issues. Consequently the country has become a highly-indebted poor country…

In 1992 the Gambia’s debt stock was 390 Million dollars. By 1999 the debt stock reached 599 Million dollars…By 2003the Nationaldebt rose to 666.06 million dollars. Domestic debt has risen to over 11 billion dalasis, according to PDOIS.Inflation is rising while unemployment and low wages remain.

“The directors are in grade 12and in 2013 they earn less than 7000 dalasis per month and the lowest are in grade one and in 2013 they earned less than 1000 dalsis per month. If a director purchases two hundred dalasis worth of petrol a day he or she would be left with less than a 1000 dalasi a month.

“Hence, if the government is to address the issue of corruption it must first establish a salaries commission to give fair remuneration. Where it does not have the means it must give incentives in terms of free transport, hospital care and offer housing schemes to compensate low income.

“In 1999 The APRC claimed that theGambian youths, most of whom are unskilled constitute47 percent of the population. They argued that providing them with employment is vital to a significant reduction in poverty.

“They promised to introduce theNational youth policy and action plan 1999- 2008.Despite the fact that the Labour Act calls for the maintenance of records on employment, it is honoured with disregard. There is no youth policy which links registration of the youth in need of employment, skills development and the employment market.”