Issued for Central Committee 6 th August 2014
By HALIFA SALLAH
20 years ago , on 22nd July 1994 to be precise, the PDOIS leadership which came into being on 31st July 1986, assumed its role of investigating and confirming the facts behind the drama like scenes which were unfolding right before everybody’s eyes and whose essence was wondered at by many but understood only by a few. At first hand, what lay beneath the notion that a military exercise with the US marine was in the making was invisible.
In short, July 22nd 1994 coincided with the visit of USS Lamour County, a US naval vessel which had paid a friendly visit to The Gambia with a view to conducting naval drills with the members of the Gambia armed forces under the Jawara administration of the first Republic.
Having a media outlet enabled PDOIS to acquire information which was not readily available to the Public. The PDOIS leadership monitored the movement of troops and members of the Cabinet who constituted the PPP government. Once it became clear that the President and Vice president had left the country and were on a US Naval vessel it became evident that Mr. Jawara had abdicated. Once the Ministers obeyed the order of the coup makers to report to the nearest police station and handed over themselves we announced to the nation that the PPP Ministers had surrendered and the PPP government has been overthrown.
History would testify that, at that material time when we, as an opposition party under the first Republic, could have taken to the streets to celebrate the overthrow of the PPP government and further prepare ourselves to occupy the Ministerial posts offered to us by the coup makers, instead decided to write to remind them that the Gambia was a sovereign Republic and overthrowing Jawara should not be equated with the overthrow of the Republic and the sovereignty of the people. Hence the success of the coup should not lead to the overthrow of the Republic and the sovereignty of the people. We called on them to convene a National conference of stakeholders including political Parties to discuss and agree on a transitional mechanism aimed at preparing the ground for the promotion of the civic and political awareness of the citizenry and the holding of free and fair elections within the shortest possible time, which would give rise to the unalloyed choice of the people.
In making such a proposal, we were guided by the incontrovertible historical truth that coup makers could only preserve Republics and sovereignty of the people if they refuse to usurp the mantle of executive power and instead promote consultation among stakeholders which would lead to the adoption of transitional instruments and a provisional government whose only mandate would be to conduct civic and political awareness to promote and uphold democratic and Republican values, preserve and enlarge fundamental rights and prepare all necessary instruments and mechanisms for the holding of free and fair elections to Restore the Republic and the sovereignty of the people through democratic means.
It was and still is our view that a coup d’etat could never be equated with a revolution. Historical science teaches that a revolution amounts to a takeover of power by the people leading to the reconstitution of society to enable the people to enjoy enlarged freedom of political Assembly, unhindered freedom of political Association and unfettered freedom to assert their sovereign right to determine their manner government.
We cautioned that, if a coup d’etat results in the take over of power by a few it ultimately would lead to the negation of the Sovereignty of the Republic, the suspension of Republican constitutions, the consolidation of the sovereignty of the coup makers, the stifling of the sovereignty of the people, suspension of freedom of political Assembly and Association and the abrogation of the right to determine one’s manner of government.
Hence as we draw lessons from what happened 20 years ago we should explain the unalloyed truth to the present generation and those yet unborn so that, together we could grow as a sovereign people endowed with unlimited capacity to be the architects of a destiny of unhindered liberty, unfettered dignity and unbounded prosperity.
The Facts of Coup Period 1994 – 1997
A state must have instruments, institutions, policies, programmes, plans and projects which may either enhance or retard liberty, dignity and prosperity.
It is these instruments, institutions, institutional processes and normative practices which provide the public space for the interactions of the citizenry in particular and all persons at large and thus regulate public order by democratic or undemocratic means.
The question now arises: What instruments, institutions and processes did the July 22 coup engender? Did they promote or stifle Republican and democratic values and practices? Did they move Gambia from its status during the PPP era of being among the least developed countries in the world?
After the overthrow of the PPP Government the coup makers did not start by calling for a National conference to enable all stakeholders to participate in building Republican and democratic instrument, institutions, policies, programmes, plans and projects that would have led to the ownership of the country by the people and the enhancement of liberty, dignity and prosperity for all who operate within the context of the law.
What it first did was to promulgate its own law, Decree No 1.which was cited as “The Constitution of the Republic of The Gambia (Suspension and Modification) Decree 1994” to apply throughout The Gambia.
The Decree gave the AFPRC (Armed Forces Provisional Ruling Council) absolute powers which could not be restrained by the judicial review. The hands of the courts were tied behind their backs by asserting that “The validity of this or any other Decree shall not be questioned in any court of law.”
The Decree further went on to abrogate freedom of political Association and Assembly as enshrined in Section 23 of the 1970 Constitution by asserting in categorical terms that “no person shall assemble or associate for the purpose of forming a political party or engaging in any political activities.”
The PDOIS leadership disregarded this assault on the integrity of Republic and the sovereignty of the people. The AFPRC did not back down on its mission to rule by might.
To enforce the provision of the Decree abolishing political Assembly, Political Association, political expression and political right to determine one’s manner of government, Decree No: 4 was introduced as “The Political Activities (Suspension) Decree, 1994.”
The Decree categorically stated that: “No person shall in any manner carry on or, engage in any political activities” and anybody who contravened the provision was “… liable on Conviction to a fine not exceeding five thousand dalasis or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding three years or to both such fine and imprisonment”
It is therefore , irrefutable that the 22nd July coup resulted in the negation of the Republic and the abrogation of freedom of political assembly , association, expression and the right to determine one’s manner of government which are fundamental rights and freedoms which give substance and meaning to the right to self determination and Independence . For two years Gambians were no different from those subjects under monarchical despotism who have no right to determine their manner of government.
The PDOIS leadership had to defy such laws leading to arrest and trials. The defiance only stopped when the coup makers finally constituted a committee which worked out a transitional programme leading to the restoration of the Republic and the Supremacy of the Republican constitution on the 16th January 1997 which is the birth of the second Republic.
Those Gambians who maintained that their sovereignty was inalienable called for more than the mere restoration of the Republic. They were quite aware of inadequacies of the first Republic which consolidated self perpetuating rule They, therefore , advocated for the building of a democratic system that would give rise to free and fair elections and ensure an end to the self perpetuating rule of the past which allowed only one person to lead the country for thirty years.
The AFPRC eventually conceded to the restoration of the Republic and the adoption of a Republican constitution at a referendum but rejected the provision of a term limit that would have put a definitive end to the culture of self perpetuating rule. Where are we 20 years after the coup? This is the question that deserves an answer? Where do we go from here? This is the route worth mapping out if we are make any further progress in eradicating poverty and self perpetuating rule .
Hence July 22nd is a day to reflect on how far we have gone in our quest to be the sovereign, indomitable and self determined people capable of fostering self reliant and self determined development. Have we attained the self determined awareness or consciousness which are required to imbue in each the self determined sense of dignity and self worth necessary to be the architects of a destiny of liberty dignity and prosperity? Each must give an answer followed by a self determined commitment if this commemoration is to have any meaning.
Those born today need to be told that Gambia is set on an irreversible trail to attain its right to self determination and Independence which could only be consolidated if all citizens become sovereign and indomitable and are committed to Republican and democratic values. National days should foster such a sovereign citizenry.
THE IRONY OF HISTORY
18 February 1965 marked the first faltering step taken by the Gambian people aimed at attaining self determination and Independence. This day is commemorated as Independence day in both the first and second Republic even though the 1965 Constitution which gave birth to the day contains provisions which stated that “the executive authority in the Gambia is vested in her majesty” and that “ there shall be a parliament which shall consist of her Majesty and the house of representatives. “ It also empowered the governor general, her Majesty’s representative in the Gambia with the powers to “ at any time prorogue or dissolve parliament…”
The Gambia certainly was not a Republic in 1965.She had only taken a step towards self determination and Independence and landed in the jurisdiction of a constitutional monarchy and was still chained by law under the sovereignty of a Foreign Monarch .
The 1970 Constitution ended her Majesty’s executive power in the Gambia with the birth of a Republic and the sovereignty of the people. This day is not commemorated in the first or second Republic. The two governments which have ruled the Gambia for half a century have not shown commitment to propagating the values of the Republic and sovereignty of the people.
Decree no.1, the Supreme law of the July 22nd coup abrogated the Republican constitution and trampled it under the foot of decrees as well as nullify any gains in promoting the sovereignty of the people by abolishing political rights and freedoms. Yet the day is commemorated as liberation day.
The 1997 constitution which came into being on the 16th January 1997 states that “The sovereignty of the Gambia resides in the people of the Gambia from whom all organs of government derive their authority and in whose name and for whose welfare and prosperity the powers of government are to be exercised.” This day is not commemorated by the APRC government. Instead it has declared 17 January as medicine day when HIV AIDS and EBOLA are still defying medical science as killer diseases.
PDOIS is of the opinion that the days worth commemorating are 24th April 1970 and 16th January 1997. 24th April is when the constitution of the first Republic came into being putting a definitive end to the executive governance of a colonial power. 16th January is when the Constitution of the second Republic came into being putting a definitive end to the quasi monarchical system of government imposed by Decree No. 1 and its amended version. The way to end the irony is to be faithful to the dictates of history. It is the duty of the young people of this country to redress this irony of history by becoming defenders of the facts and not peddlers of fiction as facts.
We call on the Gambian youth to be the custodians and guardians of the true and incontrovertible version of our history. PDOIS shall always be on your side to guide you to attain the highest level of clarity attainable by a sovereign people.
THE LESSONS AND THE ALTERNATIVE
The omissions, amendment and violations regarding the current instrument of governance, the Republican constitution, need to be exposed and addressed. The factors which impede liberty, prosperity and unhindered progress need to be highlighted. The solutions needs be apprehended in order to move forward. The catalogue is as follows:
1. The AFPRC rejected and omitted the proposition for a term limit opted by many Gambians from the draft constitution instead of submitting it for consideration during the referendum .This would have put a definitive end to the culture of self perpetuating rule. No wonder they are commemorating 20 years in power and are still yearning for more.
The PDOIS proposes to put an end to self perpetuating rule by pioneering the introduction of a two four year term limit for the presidency in the Gambian constitution, if it receives a mandate to lead
2. The APRC utilised its parliamentary majority to aid the executive to amend section 48 Subsection 3 of the 1997 constitution which was approved at a referendum to ensure that a presidential candidate would be elected by the absolute Majority of voters.
The provision reads: “no person shall be elected as president in the first ballot unless the votes cast in his or her favour at the election are more than 50 percent of the total number of votes validly cast at that election”
The PDOIS proposes a restoration of the second round of voting and call on the APRC leadership to effect the amendment to restore the will of the people. If it fails to do so PDOIS will pioneer its restoration if it receives a mandate.
3. The APRC utilised its parliamentary majority to aid the executive to amend section72 of the constitution which tried to prevent conflict of interest by banning Ministers from engaging in business and requiring them to put any business owned before their appointment under trusteeship. The leadership continues to ignore the constitutional provision which provides for the secretary general of the public service to be appointed from those occupying the public service and not to hold other positions of emolument like a Ministerial post or hold a position in a political party, so as to separate party from public service.
It has nullified security of tenure of parliamentarians, judges, members of the Independent Electoral Commission by dismissing them at will without any impeachment proceedings or judicial review.
The PDOIS will pioneer the establishment of a professional civil service by promoting the enactment of a constitutional provision which would ensure that the President, Vice President and Ministers would not engage in business and would have to put their businesses under trusteeship if they are elected or appointed. All gifts received while in office would become state property. Special Service Commissions would be established to appoint permanent Secretaries , judges , magistrates , Senior police and security officers , Senior Prison officers , members of district tribunals, and members of oversight institutions like the IEC, Office of Ombudsman , National Human Rights Commission and so on and so forth to enhance professionalism and ensure complete separation of Party and state All such appointments would be subjected to parliamentary scrutiny and voidable only after the setting up of a tribunal to validate any accusation of infirmity , violation of the constitution or misconduct.
4. The APRC utilised its parliamentary majority to amend section 58 and 59 of the 1997 constitution which aimed to dismantle the colonial local government structures which made district and village heads puns of the executive through executive appointments by introducing the elective principle to fill such posts. The elective principle has been nullified.
The amended provision now mandates the president to appoint and remove district heads while the Minister responsible of Regional administration could appoint and remove village heads. Section 193 also required councils to be run by democratically elected representatives who are to exercise a high degree of autonomy. The Chairpersons of councils are no longer elected through universal suffrage and the autonomy of councils have been completely nullified by strengthening the grip which the executive have over them
The PDOIS proposes to restore the elective principle and universal suffrage in filling the office of district and village heads and introduce Regional Mayors to nullify the distinction between city and regions in terms of regional, district , village or ward administration. The PDOIS proposes the replacement of politically appointed Governors with regional permanent Secretaries who would not have any political role so that councils would be guided only by the laws and by laws and the interest of the people. Their members would be subjected to hearing before a tribunal before any suspension or removal from office on the basis of infirmity or misconduct.
5. The APRC executive swore to uphold and defend the 1997 constitution .Section 19 of the constitution protects the right to liberty by making it instructive for detainees to be informed of the reasons for their arrest and detention and their right to contact a legal counsel within three hours of detention. They should also be charged and taken before a court or be released within 72 hour. This is violated with impunity. At this very moment the former Head of the Civil service, 10 Agric Senior officials and others are under detention for more than 72 hours.
The PDOIS proposes to amend the criminal procedure code to ensure that any statement taken from a person who has been under detention for more than 72 hours would become inadmissible in court. Judicial authority would be required to take judicial notice of any evidence of detention without trial of accused persons beyond 72 hours and award remedies.
THEJULY 22nd COUP AND THE ISSUE OF POVERTY AND PROSPERITY
6. At the twentieth year of its administration the APRC has come up with a vision 2016 promising to produce sufficient rice to meet domestic consumption needs. This vision is being hailed by its advocates as a drive towards food self sufficiency.
The PDOIS holds that those who are claiming that the vision is achievable are not basing it on concrete facts. A vision could only pass the stage of fiction and wishful thinking when it is translated into a policy, programmes, action plans and projects. PDOIS wishes to reiterate, and is willing to take on any one who holds the contrary, that APRC’s vision 2016 is still at the phase of a dream. The PDOIS leadership has spoken to farmers all over the country who have expressed their inability to purchase fertiliser at over 1000 dalasis per bag. They do not have enough seeds and farming or threshing implements. Many are threshing rice by hand Hence the APRC leadership should be taken seriously only if it transforms vision 2016 into a project stating the amount of hectares it is to put under cultivation, the quantity of seeds and fertiliser needed, the farming implements required for the project, the cost, the source of funding and how Gambian farmers would access all the necessary inputs. It is only then that one could anticipate the output. Each person should challenge the advocates of vision 2016 to reveal these facts.
According to the APRC, Agriculture engenders 60 percent of house hold income and employs 70 percent of the population. Interestingly enough as of now it contributes less than 30 percent of GDP. There is little linkage between agricultural production and the growth of the domestic economy in real terms in order to attain food self sufficiency and sustainable development.
Neither cash crop nor food crop production has been developed to bumper harvest level on a sustainable basis.
Despite its commitment to the Maputo consensus; the NEPAD initiatives; the Expanded Rice Production Initiative with Taiwan as a development partner; the Gambia National Agricultural investment programme; the Food Agricultural Security Development Project (FASDEP) and Agricultural Land and Water Manangement Development project (NEMA) which are allocated130 million dollars no tangible facts could be given to confirm that the country is heading towards food self sufficiency.
The PDOIS leadership has visited the vast areas where rice is grown and could be expanded. The gains are being lost to impoverishment and inability to purchase farming inputs, the breakdown of the irrigation systems , the blockage of canals, salt intrusion which makes planting conditional to the availability of rain as well as inability to control hippos, baboons and other competitors for grazing land .
Furthermore, there is little linkage between agricultural production and processing to add value, income and jobs. The linkage between production and marketing has also broken down.The APRC has no investment policy on how to handle agro industrial and marketing components of agriculture
The PDOIS has a concrete programme. Food has its cultural dimension. In the Gambia people rely on millet and rice as staple supplemented by maize and findi. PDOIS intends to attain food self sufficiency not by banning food imports but by ensuring that food crops are produced in such abundance that they become available and affordable.
A Cooperative banking network would be established. Instead of Public enterprises purchasing hotels they would invest in cooperative banks which in turn would support production, marketing and processing through labour saving devices and cottage industries.
The family farms would be supported by cooperative banks through provision of farming implements, seeds and feriliser to attain food self sufficiency and the village farms would also be supported to promote earnings for village development funds that would be utilised to purchase, maintain and repair labour saving devices of villages end the pounding and other drudgery of women and sustain access to clean drinking water and other services. Liberation from household drudgery is one of fundamental objectives of liberating women.
Public sector investments would enable cooperative banks to support cooperative marketing societies with the means to purchase farm produce. The family farm revolution would be the corner stone of our green revolution to ensure food self sufficiency and affordability.
The village farm revolution would enable villages to have sovereign wealth to provide pipe borne clean drinking water , milling machines and other labour saving devices to eradicate rural hardship
The cooperative banking system would come to the aid of ex navy service men and women and seamen and women to enable them to form fisheries cooperatives which would own fishing trawlers on a share basis.
The Cooperative banks would support the establishment of cooperative marketing outlet for mangoes and other fruits and vegetables and facilitate their processing through the provision of finance to establish cottage and light scale industries to add value to agricultural production and create employment in the processing of nuts into oil, fruit into juice, vegetables into canned products and paste , milk into milk products and fish into fish products. We propose to do within two four year terms what has not been done for 30 years under Jawara and 20 years under Jammeh.
7. During twenty years of AFPRC /APRC rule the Gambia continues to be poor and indebted. This is confirmed by its economic classification. During five years under Constitutional Monarchy and 24 years under the first Republic, The Gambia was classified among the least developed countries of the world. Twenty years after the coup, instead of being an economic super power, Gambia has not graduated from the class of the least developed countries but has in fact earned the qualification to join the class of the highly indebted poor countries of the world .
PDOIS proposes to build a self reliant economy which would be capable of integrating with other Regional and continental economic grouping to promote the establishment of regional and continental financial institutions in the form of commercial banks, cooperative banks and development banks , a common currency, continental central bank, continental monetary fund, continental private , public and cooperative joint stock companies and continental clearing house to promote intra continental and intercontinental trade to move Gambia from a highly indebted poor country into a middle income country with a self reliant agricultural and processing base and a sound service sector aimed at providing adequate financial and infrastructural facilities to guarantee sustainable growth and general welfare within two four year terms of a PDOIS administration.
Lastly, in commemorating the JULY 22nd Anniversary advocates of the APRC Claim that those who do not see the infrastructural development of the past 20 years must be blind in eyes. Here the PDOIS leadership must add that those who do not find out how the development took place and evaluate the cost and sustainability must be blind in mind or ignorant of development paradigms. The PDOIS wishes to convey that infrastructural development has been premised not on earnings from the productive base of the economy but on loans which are becoming unsustainable and grants which are drying up because of governance issues. Consequently the country has become a highly indebted poor country.
In 1992 the Gambia’s debt stock was 390 Million dollars. By 1999 the debt stock reached 599 Million dollars
By 2003 the National debt rose to 666.06 million dollars. The domestic debt stood at 142 Million dollars. Many people did not know that treasury bills constituted 72 percent of debt stock at the time and bonds constituted 24 percent.
Total interest cost on domestic debt increased from 443 Million dalasi in 2003 to 588 Million by December 2004 Hence a domestic debt Committee was convened to monitor the process without much effect.
In short , the domestic debt has risen to over 11 billion dalasis. Domestic borrowing for 2014 is projected to be 935.5 Million. This is because the budget deficits are increasing while the country maintains a tax based budget. In fact, the revised projected budget deficit for 2013 is 2.4 billion dalasis. The repayment of principals on external loans is pegged at 763 Million dalasis. The trade deficit for 2012 was 3817 Million dalasis.
Inflation is rising while unemployment and low wages remain.
The Directors are in grade 12 and in 2013 they earn less than 7000 dalasis per month and the lowest are in grade one and in 2013 they earned less than 1000dalsis per month. If a director purchases two hundred dalasis worth of petrol a day he or she would be left with less than a 1000 dalasi a month.
Hence if the government is to address the issue of corruption it must first establish a salaries commission to give fair remuneration. Where it does not have the means it must give incentives in terms of free transport, hospital care and offer housing schemes to compensate low income.
In 1999 The APRC claimed that the Gambian youths, most of whom are unskilled constitute 47 percent of the population. They argued that providing them with employment is vital to a significant reduction in poverty They promised to introduce the National youth policy and action plan 1999- 2008. Despite the fact that the labour Act calls for the maintenance of records on employment it is honoured with disregard. There is no youth policy which links registration of the youth in need of employment, skills development and the employment market .PDOIS will put this mechanism into operation to make training relevant and youths employable.
Youth unemployment, underemployment and poor earnings undermine the very fabric of the Gambian family of tomorrow. The social ramifications of poverty are too obvious to enumerate.
PDOIS Proposes Agenda 2016 as a way forward to a third Republic of liberty, dignity and prosperity. It explains how the economy would be expanded at the level of agriculture, manufacturing or processing and services. It shows how land and sea transport would be developed and how a second bridge / port facility could open up road and rail links with the sub region to develop the economics of scale. It shows how sovereign national wealth could be harnessed from mines and public enterprises to reduce dependency on taxation and support services and infra structural development. This is the road to self determined development which would guarantee liberty dignity and prosperity to out sovereign people
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