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Pres. Barrow and the NAMs and the State of Public Emergency

Madi Jobateh
Human rights Activist

Indeed, what we are witnessing is a classic failure on the part of both our National Assembly and the Executive. In a time when the nation is facing an existential threat what is expected is a concerted effort and cooperation by the two leading national institutions to salvage the country. Unfortunately, both the Legislature and the Executive decided to allow reason and common sense to escape them only to fall back on a blame game.

In the first place the National Assembly should have extended the state of public emergency for 21 days. Regardless of how ineffective and unresponsiveness the Government was in the previous state of public emergency the National Assembly should continue to provide leadership by creating the enabling environment for the Government to do its job, good or bad.

NAMs should not fail to take advantage of their powers and execute them in such a situation. Failing to act on their powers in times of need tantamount to disempowering themselves and giving opportunity to the Government to expose their failure. This s why Barrow happily stated that since the National Assembly failed to act he has a duty to act.

By stating that it gives the impression that indeed Barrow has also provided adequate leadership over the period. The fact is Barrow is in fact the root cause of this abysmal failure even if NAMs should not have allowed emotions to take the better part of them. On that note it is in place to commend those NAMs who voted for an extension.

Barrow must be reminded that since he first declared a state of emergency in March it was his duty to enforce the regulations he put in place. On this score he failed. He had failed to use law enforcement and even the military if necessary to ensure that the regulations were enforced. As we came to see there was flagrant and widespread disregard of the regulations throughout the country. Just visit any market from Banjul to Basse to see the facts.

Secondly, since Barrow proclaimed social distancing measures, imposed restrictions on movement, banned public gatherings and forced businesses and offices to either close or reduce their operations it means therefore livelihoods have become severely affected. In every country where such measures are taken there is a concomitant response by the Government to provide relief to the people in one form or another. Indeed, the Gambia Government reduced fuel prices and delayed tax payments but other than very little was done.

The much needed food relief came so late and until today most beneficiaries are yet to receive their supplies. The distribution of this relief was also politicized with total disregard of local government structures which should have been the appropriate channels to get food to communities and families.

Above all the Barrow Government has been severely dubious in the management of public funds in response to COVID 19. Not only has the Government failed to follow the due process to access public funds but it has also been lacking in transparency and accountability in the way these funds are spent and reported.

In the final analysis, the Barrow Government has mismanaged its responsibilities at these trying times such that they have generated apprehension in both the citizenry and the NAMs. The NAMs must indeed be commended for extending the state of public emergency for an initial 45 days which was long enough for the Government to address lot of things properly. But the Government failed.

While we must commend Barrow however for declaring a new state of public emergency for 21 days which is necessary, what we must also emphasize is for his Government to urgently put its house in order and address the urgent needs of the country. We must not accept lackadaisical and corrupt attitudes anymore.

The COVID 19 Committee of the National Assembly must become even more vigilant from now on to ensure that the Government is transparent, accountable and responsive.

Finally, I expect the Speaker to respond, in a public statement to the President’s claim that the National Assembly has failed to act. The integrity and dignity of the National Assembly must be defended. Did the National Assembly actually fail to act in the interest of the country? If they did, why? She owes Gambians an explanation. If not, she must demand the President to withdraw his unfounded allegation.

The political parties must also speak to this issue. This matter is indeed embarrassing, disheartening and worrying for which our political parties must not keep quiet while the President and the National Assembly are accusing each other while the citizens continue to suffer. Let the political parties show that indeed there is leadership in this country.

For the rest of citizens, do not take any side. Rather hold the President, NAMs and Political Parties accountable. Remember, if anyone got to suffer it will be we, the Citizens.

For The Gambia Our Homeland

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