By Adama Makasuba, edited by Yusef Taylor, @FlexDan_YT
The Police Intervention Unit (PIU) on Thursday, 13th December 2018, denied Gambian youths and members of the Civil Society entry into the National Assembly (NA). Overnight Gambian Youths and sympathisers organised themselves under the banner #OccupyNationalAssembly to demand a complete rejection of the Supplementary Appropriate Bill 2018 (SAB) tabled on Tuesday 11th December 2018, by the Hon. Minister of Finance and Economic Affairs, Mambury Njie.
The movement, #OccupyNatioanalAssembly was calling for the rejection of D1.2 Billion Dalasis bill, which sought to fund activities for the remainder of the year 2018, of which less than three weeks was reamining. Outside the NA Activists expressed dismay about the 2019 budget estimates which they described not ‘not reflecting the needs and desires of ordinary Gambian citizens.’
Hon. Halifa Sallah, National Assembly Member (NAM) for Serrekunda attempted to negotiate with the PIU Officer to grant youths access into the NA but the PIU in full riot gears resisted his appeal and blocked the group from entering the NA premises. Nonetheless, the controversial SAB was completely rejected even after the Finance Committee amended the SAB, slashing it from D1.2 Billion Dalasis to D500 Million. Below is a video on Social Media of Hon. Halifa Sallah’s encounter with the group and PIU officers.
One of the Activists at the scene, Raffie Diab, a member of #GambiaHasDecided raised his concerns about the presence of PIU officers and the Barrow-led government questioning if “this is what they voted for?” As tensions heated up before the rejection of the SAB, Mr. Diab described the NA as a rubber stamp Parliament lamenting that every law the government brings into the house is being passed by the legislature.
“I feel very angry and disappointed because I feel this [is the]people’s parliament. It belongs to all of us,” he said. “We didn’t come here with guns, we are well dressed and we have the right to come here and watch. So why should they bar us from entry? This parliament is paid by taxpayers’ money.”
One student from the University of The Gambia, Tony F Mendy said he is not discouraged from being barred entry into the NA, adding that neither the government nor any individual can stop him from exercising his rights as a citizen.
It must be noted that PIU Officer granted at least five members of the group entry into the NA amid concerns that the group would attempt to disrupt the proceedings of the Legislature who had to deliberated the SAB and the increase of NAMs salaries.