Thursday, November 20, 2014

Respond to UN allegations, additional budget is 'horrible’ - Opposition leader tells Gambia gov

NRP leader Hamat Bah speaking to journalists on election nomination day in 2011 (Photo Credit:
  •  NRP urges Gov’t to respond to UN Experts allegations

The Gambia government should responds to Independent United Nations Experts’ allegations of being blocked from investigating torture and killing, opposition leader Hamat N.K. Bah said on Wednesday.

On November 7, 2014 Christof Heyns, a Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, and Juan Méndez, a Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment said they were blocked.

In a damning statement, they said they were denied access to the security wing of the Mile 2 Central Prison where those serving lengthy sentences, including the death penalty are being held.

“…an inference must be drawn that there is something important to hide,” Heyns said.

On November 19, the leader of the National Reconciliation Party (NRP), told a press conference at his party’s offices along Kairaba Avenue, the authorities must not remain silent. 

“Why are they still mute on these serious allegations? We are waiting on them to respond to these allegations,” Mr Bah said. “If they can go that far to invite the UN Experts why can’t they allow them to complete their investigations and accept the reports in good faith?”

Bah added: “We are seriously concerned as citizens for this issue to be addressed.”

He said he commend the government for inviting the UN Experts for what he added, would improve the human rights image of the country, but noted that “Gambia’s image is seriously battered when it comes to human rights [issues].”

‘Disturbing news’

He said: “We felt that it is a good step for the government to invite them to serve as a starting point for Gambia towards the international community.

“…but unfortunately when the duo came they gave us some ‘disturbing news’ that they were obstructed or prevented from doing their job as they wanted.”

He said this was something that came out of shock to those of “us who thought” the move could open up a new page for the government to addressed human rights issues.

“I think it was a very serious misjudgment from whoever gave that instruction to denied these people access,” he said.

  • D1 billion plus additional budget ‘is horrible’ - Bah

Opposition leader Hamat N.K. Bah has described as “horrible” Gambia government’s request for an additional budget of more than one billion dalasi.

A sum of D1, 134, 695, 948 as contained in a “Supplementary Appropriation Bill 2014” was approved by The Gambia’s National Assembly on Monday November 17, 2014.

“…is horrible, we have never had such a huge amount in the history of The Gambia when there are only six weeks for the year to end,”  the leader of the National Reconciliation Party (NRP) said on Wednesday.

In December 2013, The Gambia pegged its 2014 national budget at more that D5 billion – meant for government expenditure from 1st January to 31st December. 

Mr Bah told a press conference at his party’s offices along Kairaba Avenue on November 19 that it is a “serious fiscal abuse.”

“We call this a ‘serious fiscal abuse’ of national resources. It is unacceptable. Gambians should know that this government does not have their interest at heart, otherwise they would not misuse our national resources,” the outspoken opposition leader said.

He added: “If the government can think and behave like this - on the way they spend our national resources - then we are doom. [This] shows that they have little interest for us and people need to know about [it].”

Bah said the usual budget for a year use to be D600 million, but noted that the Office of President Yahya Jammeh’s request for almost D460 million in the supplementary budget has caught the attention of his NRP party.

He also questioned the President’s Office request for D86 million for ‘national celebrations’ – saying: “We all know that this year’s [February 18] independence was not celebrated, it was decentralized. What other celebrations do we get? 22nd July, and they are quoting D86 million.”

Bah added: “We all know how much they spent in celebrating  22nd July, what are they celebrating when Gambians are finding it difficult to put one meal on the table;

“When our students graduate and have no jobs. These monies could have been put in job creation for our youths to avoid ‘dying in the back way’. When our farmers are struggling with 75% decline on agricultural productions;

“When most people are out of job because companies are closing down, when we are facing the threat of Ebola affecting a serious down trend of tourism in the country;

“All the loopholes in the country - you spend D86 million on celebrations, yet, you want to tell us you have the interest and welfare of Gambians at heart.”

Hon. Samba Jallow, a Minority Leader of the National Assembly, said this is one of the “most serious financial indiscipline” in this country.

“There is no way one can justify this. Just on 1st December we should table the 2015 budget. It is definitely a serious concern,” said Jallow, also a representative of the Niamina Dankunku district.

He suggested that the Office of the President be scrutinized by the national assembly if they really mean transparency and accountability.

“There is no way we can sustain things if we have two State Houses in The Gambia, Banjul and Kanilai,” Hon Jallow said. “Imagine every week, the president and his entourage’s movement is so expensive. That is the reason I told them to minimise the expenditure.”  

Source: The Voice newspaper, Serekunda

Edited by TNBES's Modou S. Joof

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