Protesters call for withdrawal of controversial judicial & NA bills

Jul 10, 2024, 7:51 AM | Article By: Momodou Jawo

Hundreds of Gambians, mainly young people, yesterday marched in Banjul protesting against the Judicial Officers Bill and the National Assembly Salaries and Pensions Bill. The protesters have called for the immediate withdrawal of the two controversial bills and urged the National Assembly Members not to pass the bills into law.

The protest was organised by a group of young Gambians called Concerns Gambians. They started the protest at Born Road to the gate of the National Assembly where they handed over their petition letter to the speaker of the National Assembly Fabakary Tombong Jatta.

‘Consider the plight of teachers and not to self enrichment’; Equal Right and Justice for all Gambians’; You were elected to represent the interest of your people and not to enrich yourself’; The judiciary is not more important than the educational sector. The bill must be dropped, the civil servants are hungry’ were different inscriptions protesters carried along.

Lamin Manneh, who spoke on behalf of the protesters after submitting their petition letter at the Assembly, said: “It is our belief that the members of the National Assembly have decided to operate unconstitutionally.”

Section 112, sub-section (b) of the 1997 constitution of The Gambia, he said, clearly stipulated that ‘All members shall regard themselves servants of the people of The Gambia; desist from any conduct by which they seek improperly to enrich themselves or alienate themselves from the people, and shall discharge their duties and functions in the interest of the nation as a whole and in doing so, shall be influenced by the dictates of conscience and national interest.’

“We unequivocally opposed to these proposed bills that are aimed at serving the interest and enriching the members of parliament and judiciary over the general public as a whole,” Manneh said.

“Sadly, these bills are proposed at a time when the majority of civil servants and private sector employees barely feed their families on their salaries for half of a month due to the escalating high cost of living. The majority of young people are unemployed, leaving them vulnerable to drugs and irregular migration,” he postulated.

“Addressing these unfortunate conditions that the majority of Gambians face should be the focus of a house that is supposed to be the guardian of the people by making laws that address the needs and aspirations of the general public as opposed to designing laws that are aimed at enriching few civil servants rather than the general public.”

“As such, the Concerned Citizens are making the following demands, which we want the members of parliament to address in the soonest possible time which is Fair compensation for all public servants, Equitable allocation of national resources, accountability for national assembly members, national assembly should engage their electorates before passing critical bills, promotion of social justice and government to introduce a new pay scale among others.”

The government, Manneh went on, should prioritise the well-being of all civil servants. “We want the government to introduce salaries and a pension bill that will ensure teachers, nurses, security personnel, and other key workers receive better salaries. The current pay scale is very poor. We recommend that this proposed pay scale be introduced in the Parliament as soon as possible.”

“Failure to attend to our demands, we shall endeavour to organise a nationwide protest and we shall continue to protest against these bills until our voices are heard and respected by you the servants of the people.”

“Equally, we want to categorically make it clear that we are your brothers and sisters who are concerned with the life of an ordinary Gambia. We are not in any way a threat to any institution nor are we selective in fighting for justice most especially economic justice for our people.”

“We believe that the members of parliament as our servants,  you will critically look into these demands and respect the voice and concerns of the electorates by addressing these,” he stated.