Sunday, September 11, 2011

Is the GPU Secretariat virtually turning into a 'coffee drinking institution'?

Mr Ceesay, 1st VP-GPU
'Leaders who do not communicate with their people would not be beneficiaries of the beauty of transparency as an indispensable ingredient of good governance'

The 1st Vice President of the Gambia Press Union (GPU), Mr Baboucarr Ceesay has written to the GPU President Emil Touray, exhorting for more proactive measures to be taken by the new executive.
His communications with the President, a leaked email, followed almost three months of inactivity of the new executive that was elected into office during a June 26, 2011 congress.
 "I write to express concern that since we were elected as Executive end of June 2011, we are yet to convene a general meeting.  I think that it is incumbent on us, the senior leadership to demonstrate that we are able and willing to lead the union and that we want to start this process by listening to our general membership," stressed Mr Ceesay, who is also the publisher and editor of the online publication, the Gambia Watchdog.

The congress was marked by a lot of unanswered questions from the membership of the Union and at the height of it, the outgoing treasurer's report was rejected. Mr Pa Modou Faal read out a five minute report which is yet to be adopted.
In fact, Mr Abdoulie John, correspondent of the US-based Associated Press (AP) and Gambia affairs editor for the Dakar-based Jollofnews, called the report a "Kankurang" (Masqurade) Report. Adding "It was an insult to our intelligence".
Emil Touray, GPU Prixy

"You will agree with me that the last day of the congress saw a lot of unanswered questions and we still have an unadopted Treasurer’s Report (I later learnt this was a first in the history of the Union), these and so many concerns of our members must be addressed and they must be addressed in consultation with concerned parties, particularly our members," Mr Ceesay lament.

"I think we have all agreed that the last leadership of which you were part of did a great job and had brought in many initiatives.  What are our plans to carry these forward? I understand the need to continue on the Collective Bargaining, the Self Regulation, Gamprint, GAMES, EU and Article 19 projects being implemented but, do we have any new proposals which are beyond the projects already being implemented."

He also questioned Emil as to what is the vision of this executive?  We must be able to put on the table our vision for the GPU and where we want to steer the Union in the next three years.

He also added: "The former president, in her congratulatory email and last message to us, did indicate her willingness to hand over. I think the ball is now in our court to take things over and adequately handle our mantle of leadership.  If her proposals are not good for us, we must engage her, putting forward the way we want to work.  It would be a shame if it came out that an outgoing leader actually wants to hand over and we, the current leadership are making no efforts for this to happen."

Grilling of Alota and Njie
Alota (L), Njie (R) - Pix: Dailynews
"There have also been recent happenings in our media circles of which the Union has not had a position (publicly) or at least proposed a new approach, in particular the questioning of our members, the anniversary of Chief Manneh etc. We should avoid such docility about issues as unionists  who are entrusted by Gambia's media fraternity," he stressed.

On June 27, the executive director of the GPU, Aloe Ahmed Alota was detained overnight at the police intervention unit in Kanifing and grilled on what media reports said was his relation with GPU's former president Ndey Tapha Sosseh and the pressure group Coalition for Change The Gambia.
The accra-based press freedom and free expression watchdog, the Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA), quoted unnamed sources who said "Mr Alota was traumatised by his ordeal and refuse to speak to the press". 

His release was shortly followed by the picking up and grilling of the 1st secretary general of the GPU, Mr Madi Njie on July 1, 2011. He was also reported to have been questioned on issues similar to those put to Mr Alota.

Meanwhile the GPU 1st VP in his email proposed to the GPU President a draft agenda which he said can be subjected to discussion by the Executive.  
"I think also as a democratic institution, we should share this with the rest of the executive, preferably you or the SG should do this as it falls in line with your mandate," he wrote. "Leaders who do not communicate with their people would not be beneficiaries of the beauty of transparency as an indispensable ingredient of good governance."

He also added that the issue of Aloa Ahmed Alota and Mamadou Edrissa Njie, an editor with the Weekly Magazine, The Gambia News and Report, is a case in point It is prudent that we meet and address this misunderstanding among our members immediately and impartially as a credible union.
He concluded by stating that the purpose for posting this memorandum to you is to trigger constructive debate and discussion at executive level and even during general meetings. 

"I am also with opinion that the agenda of our meetings should be known before any general meeting so that the Executive and the general membership would have a clear mind about the burning issues of the union to be able to participate in the debate and discussions fully," the transparency-minded Mr Ceesay said.

GPU'S Response

Barely 24 hours after the leaked email was carried in two online publications, the GPU Committee, through its 2nd secretary general put out a media dispatch announcing that it will hold its first general meeting on September 17, 2011.

"This is to inform all GPU Members that there will be a general body meeting schedule to take place at The Gambia Press Union secretariat on Saturday 24th September 2011 starting from 12pm onwards," Mr Lamin Njie wrote erroneously, before writing back to note the meeting is scheduled for September 17.

"All members are kindly urged to attend the meeting and on time as important matters concerning the welfare of members would be discuss."

  • Author: Modou S. Joof for The Voice Newspaper

1-      Opening Remarks – President

2-      Flashback on non-resolved issues of the GPU Congress

·        Treasurer’s Report

·        Questions for former President which were apparently not answered due to technical issues and a poor internet connection.  Do we get in touch with her in writing to answer some of these for us?

·        The adopted constitution (how do we disseminate)

3-      Handing Over of the former executive (president).
·  On the fund raising training and the 3-year strategic plan

4-      Arrests/Questioning of GPU members, what is the approach of the executive to this? Do we maintain the position of former leaderships to openly denounce the State for clamping down on us? Do we seek to mediate and or reconcile with a view to engaging the state on the need to allow us to do our work without fear of intimidation? I think this must be debated frankly and openly and the membership should guide us on what approach they think is best.

5-      Vision of the new leadership.  We must be able to highlight new things that we intend to embark on with a view to strengthening the Union and to record success at the end of our term.  It’d be preferable if these are not one and the same with initiatives that we are just completing.

6-      AOB

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