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Hon. Halifa Sallah, Secretary General, PDOIS

By Halifa Sallah

April 24, 1970 is not an ordinary day. It was the day when, knowingly or unknowingly, The Gambia and her people totally broke away from the shackles of   colonial domination. This is when the leaders and people of The Gambia ceased to owe any allegiance, obedience and adherence to the authority of a foreign monarch and constitutionally proclaimed ownership of their sovereignty. April 24, 1970 is therefore the beginning of our existence as a sovereign Republic and sovereign people with the unbridled and inalienable authority to determine our own destiny.

Hence, as we mark the 54th anniversary of the birth of the Republic, without any solemn state orchestrated ceremony or fanfare; we ought to take our individual or collective decisions, as sovereign citizens to contemplate, in our quiet moment, where we are and what path we are to take towards a better future.

It is incontrovertible that we ought, by now, to have known our place in our country and the place of our country in Africa and the world. It is that knowledge of sovereign-self, sovereign-country and its place in the world of sovereign states which would prevent us from being marginalised and uncounted in world affairs as the least developed poor and voiceless countries of the world. It is awareness and maturity in thinking of a people that enable them to be the architects of a destiny of liberty, dignity and prosperity for all.

Hence, as we commemorate the 54thanniversary of the Republic each ought to ask himself or herself, whether we have attained the liberty, dignity and prosperity that we deserve as the owners of the sovereign wealth of the country that is chambered in its diversity and abundance, in the bosom of our land, airspace and sea. April 24, 2024 is the right day and time to take stock of how far we have gone to attain the fundamental objectives of freeing our country from the inherited colonial yoke of economic dependency, social impoverishment, industrial stagnation, infrastructural backwardness and multiple contradictory cultural identities that perpetuate ethno-linguistic and sectarian rivalries that militate against national unity, social cohesion and the emergence of state leadership based on informed choice.

We own 11,256 Square Kilometres of land or even more but no government has sought to enter into a permanent treaty to fully determine our borders for the past 54 years of Republican existence. This is precisely responsible for the many shoot to kill practices in the undefined border areas with our neighbour. We have 500,000 hectares of arable land or even more, after soil reclamation of the rough terrain of the country or the use of our water bodies.The priority is to ensure by law, through the enactment of a Lands Act, that Gambians, without any discrimination, would be given ownership of all the land they could possibly put into productive use to guarantee self-reliance and self-sufficiency in food and agro-industrial production. April 24 could only have meaning if we achieve such a goal.

Furthermore, The Gambia inherited an economic and social base that gave rise to imbalance and disproportionate development of different parts of the country thus giving rise to rural urban and urban to diaspora drift of the youth in search of greener pastures, at the expense of their precious lives and liberties through risky voyages of no return that has turned the bed of the Mediterranean sea into a mass graveyard of unknown youths.

The various governments of the Republic that have existed so far have not provided remedy to this imbalance. PDOIS is unique in being the only party, since the birth of the Republic, that has unequivocally stated with unparalleled clarity and conviction that it will rely on the economic law of balanced and proportionate development of society to build a country with universal access to public education, health, housing, utilities such as electricity, water, drainage, internet services, facilities for leisure such as parks, labour saving devices and other infrastructural development for the benefit of those living in cities, municipalities and regions, that are fit for a Republic.

Suffice it say, the debt burden is symbolic of the shackles and tentacles strangulating our independence and subjecting the state to the dictates of creditors. PDOIS is the only party that indicates how to offset the debt burden by maintaining a positive balance in the ratio between sovereign national wealth and the National debt, to prevent any conditionality from creditors.

We have made it abundantly clear that there are two types of welfare systems that have helped to push society towards poverty reduction and eradication, that is, consumption based and production based welfare.

In highly industrialised countries where social justice is a demand of the population consumption based welfare has been introduced to ensure the fairer distribution of wealth through state sponsored social welfare programmes for the socially disadvantaged.

In a country like The Gambia which is ranked among the least developed countries in the world, consumption based welfare programmes cannot be relied on to eradicate poverty. In short, the GDP of the country is 123 billion dalasis giving a per capita income of 45,000 dalasis for every Gambian if the wealth produced annually was shared equally among the population. Hence, all Gambians would have earned meager sums that would be less than the worth of a 100 kilo bag of rice per month.

In the same vein the total National debt is 110 billion dalasi which puts a debt burden of 41,000 dalasis on the head of every Gambian including the newly born baby.

The sharing of the wealth produced and the debt burden of the country would not enable Gambians to be free from poverty.

This is why PDOIS is advocating for an alternative to the consumption based welfare system to eradicate poverty.  PDOIS is a party that has not failed to display its uniqueness by indicating without any reservation how poverty will be eradicated by introducing a production based welfare system and further instituting the right social protection measures that would ensure that the sovereign wealth of the nation would be utilised to give each youth a fresh start into adulthood, through state financing of a national service scheme, before they enter the world of work. This would be buttressed by the introduction of a cooperative scheme that would give interest free loans to those who engage in agricultural production, operate small and medium scale agro–industrial processing establishments to provide value added goods through appropriate technology or are absorbed in other service sectors or the distributive trade to market the locally produced goods with the support of a cooperative bank.

It is only PDOIS, so far,that has given commitment to ensure that the building of a productive public sector would be fully linked to the eradication of poverty through the provision of adequate income and social benefits for quality living and general welfare in the form of low cost housing facilities, child support, leisure time and facilities for the employed.

It is only PDOIS that has shown its intention to strengthen the private sector to enhance its competitiveness against external competitors by availing them funds from an interest bearing cooperative bank and through public private partnerships based on the dictates of economic principles associated with private corporate responsibility to country and people before the maximisation of profit, at the expense of consumers.

Finally, PDOIS has shown how to expand democracy and human rights beyond hitherto uncharted frontiers by relying on the law of the withering away of the coercive instruments, institutions and practices of the state and the consolidation of its protective aspects. The Republic guided by PDOIS will nurture all citizens to know their constitution, institutions, rights and duties. Under a PDOIS democratic political dispensation no monetary restrictions or advantages would be entertained in participating in elections as a voter or candidate. All voters and candidates will have equal access to media, information and all processes or amenities indispensable to the conduct of free, fair, just, lawful and credible elections.

The Republic cannot function in an Island. PDOIS has called for African unity based on the cooperative sovereignty of African states and their mutual determination to establish economic and monetary union that would be consolidated by a Central Bank, a Monetary Fund, a Cooperative Bank with interest free social protection or low interest grant componentand interest bearing commercial, industrial and development components, to enhance the economic emancipation of the people. PDOIS aims to further promote continental unity by promising to be part of those democratic governments that would consolidate the protective powers and service oriented duties of their respective states for the general welfare of their peoples.

Furthermore, PDOIS has indicated that the conflicts between Ukraine and Russia, Israel and Gaza, the endless coups d’état in Africa and divided positions of the members of the Security Council are due to the abandonment of the fundamental principles of the United Nations, which call for the right to self-determination and independence of countries to be respected and defended and the sovereignty of peoples and their countries, irrespective of size to be respected and defended by all underpinned by an international culture flourishing in the observance of fundamental rights and freedoms. PDOIS has indicated that if there is to be world peace and security governments must exist for the peoples of the world. Leaders of each country must be seen to care for the peoples of all countries and the peoples of the world must support justice everywhere and oppose injustice everywhere. They must all stand on the side of putting an end to all wars of attrition. A world without injustice and without war is what PDOIS is calling for. This is the cornerstone to world peace and security which PDOIS has promised to uphold and defend in our relation with all countries in the world.

The Republic of The Gambia is calling for its true sons and daughters to take a stand and turn it into a land of liberty, dignity and prosperity for all her children without any discrimination on the basis of ethno-linguistic origin, gender, religion, place of birth, traditional status or any other demographic characteristics.

Leadership is not a right that anyone should claim ownership of, be they young or old. It is a duty to be performed whenever a people demand to be served.

As we head towards another decisive phase in the history of the Republic it is important to conclude that in the realm of leadership there are those, on one hand, who are driven by a mission and vision to build a freer, fairer and better society but there are also those, on the other hand, who are driven by ambition and position to promote their own enrichment and betterment, at national expense. .

The battle for system change is a battle against self-serving and self-perpetuating leadership. Such a leadership has no place in a Republic. A leadership with a mission and vision of how to move society and people forward, forever towards their fullest possible development is what a Republic needs. That is the type of leadership that the people of The Gambia, in particular and the people of the world, in general, deserve.

PDOIS has always been consistent in reminding the people to bear in mind the following clarion call: know yourself, know your country and know the world then you will be the architects of your own destiny.

The End

Halifa Sallah                                 

April 24, 2024

Secretary General

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