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Youth Activist, Sam Phaty's New Year Message To Gambia Youth

Sam Phatey(Opinion) – All praise be to God, creator of the man and the world, Lord of the universe, King of Kings, the most merciful, the most benevolent, the most gracious and the most forgiving.

Fellow Gambians and my fellow youth of the Gambia:
New Year is like a new sun rise of hope, of prosperity, of happiness; it’s like a new beginning of thoughts, of words, of actions; it’s like a new day of energy, of strength, of ideas; it’s like a bunch of whole new things of prayers, of friends and of love.

The year 2012 ended with mixed emotions for all of us. Life may not always give us the second chance to see another new year, so we are happy and grateful to God that we are alive to see another year and I pray that 2013 will be that of happiness, good health, wealth, prosperity and joy.

With the exception of the joy of having to live to see the New Year, 2012 have been filled with distressing, heartbreaking and un-Gambian like news for the Gambian people. 2012 has been a year where we have all seen the Gambian Constitution being abused, misused and manipulated to infest the citizens with fear, injustice and economic exploitation consequently resulting to national and international hullabaloo.

Sometimes, I feel I can see Dr. King telling me these words: “You know my friends, there comes a time when people get tired of being trampled by the iron feet of oppression.”
Sam PhateySam Phatey
2012 could have been the year when Gambian leaders could have turned adversity into opportunity, the wisdom to see a little further down the road and the courage to challenge conventional thinking and worn ideas.

With the right policies, our economy, education, agriculture and health care sectors could have been reinvented. Instead, 2012 will be remembered for the rigid and ideological adherence to discredited policies, torture of influential and respectable citizens, execution of the Mile II 9, disappearance of citizens, false information charges, economic crime charges, degrading health system and the ever increasing 10% annual tuition increment of the students of the University of the Gambia.

The first of these was the Operation Bulldozer launched by the Presidency of the Republic of the Gambia. The mass arrest of citizens, especially the Gambian youths in the name of security and reducing crime is not just illogical but inhuman, degrading and unconstitutional. The peoples’ freedom and inalienable right to movement and association protected by the Constitution of the Gambia are therein grossly violated by those that swore to protect what is enshrined in it.

Innocent citizens like Ousman Jammeh and Mamburay Njie, serving at the best interest of the people of our nation, have been dragged to court and slapped with economic crime charges for offences they have not committed while ordinary Gambians were constantly charged with giving false information and getting hefty sentences. This law of pressing charges on giving false information and economic crime charges have become of the most misused laws of our democracy.

By the end of the summer, the soil of our nation became soaked with the blood of the Mile II 9. The execution of the Mile II 9 inmates was far from being constitutional. No civilized society or person in the world, especially in this 21st century will hire people to become killing Roberts.

No due process was followed, the President has not issued a death warrant, there was no public notice as to when, where and how the execution shall be conducted, the family of the executed where not notified and inmates were not given the chance to meet their family. Above all, no notice was given as to how they will be buried. After they were killed, they were not given back to their families for proper traditional and religious burial as required for any human being.

I therefore challenge the President of the Gambia, Yahya Jammeh to retract his words that the execution was hypocritically blown out of proportion because it was not. He broke the moratorium and executed Lamin Darboe, whose death sentence have been averted to a life sentence by Sir Dawda Jawara and executed Yarboe, who was mentally disabled. How do you even take a mentally disabled individual on trial to extend that you have him convicted and then executed?

Fellow Gambians and my fellow youths:
Before we could revive from this bitter and sad event, government focused on arresting influential citizens such as Amie Bensouda, Imam Bakawsu Fofana and the latest of them being Imam Baba Leigh of Kanifing; held incommunicado without access to a lawyer or to his family. Imam Leigh has been held in custody for more than a month without any charge or appearing in court. It is a gross violation of the Gambian constitution to be held more than 72 hours in custody without being charged and taken to court.

The very people that swore to protect our constitution are the very abusers of the constitution. You cannot make people obey the constitution while you are violating it. It makes no sense to try it. Imam Baba Leigh must be released immediately without delay and there is no negotiation to that. This is disrespectful to our nation and its citizens. It is unacceptable and intolerable.

With all these ongoing issues, journalist continue to be harassed, arrested and detained and newspapers and radio stations critical to the government are been closed down unlawfully. As of today, the death of Deyda Hydara, Ousman Koro Ceesay and others, the disappearance of Chief Ebrima Manneh and others are still unresolved. News filtering from reliable sources is confirming the existence of a killing machine group that goes out at night to kill Gambians. We have to straighten up the situation.

Fellow Gambians and my fellow youths:
Gambia’s economy is projected to be growing at 10% by the World Bank and IMF. Notwithstanding, Gambian people continue to live in abject poverty and in the worsening living conditions. An average Gambians’ salary is about 3,000 GMD and after buying a bag of rice, 20 liter gallons of oil and condiments, the money runs out. The prices of food continue to rise while Gambians continue to earn so little. The economy is said to be growing but it is growing over a monopoly of the presidency at the risk of ordinary citizens and striving entrepreneurs.

The taxes are high and tax payers money continue to be spent on unneeded programs, activities and hopeless budget allocations, whiles our unserviceable international debt continue to ever increase, leaving the future generation indebted and having a huge burden to get it paid.

Our health sector is worse than ever. No medication at the hospital, no blood in blood banks, no gas in operating theaters, no equipment for critical medical examination. Gambian citizens have to travel to Dakar to get examined.

Gambian citizens have to buy gas to fuel the ambulance to take their sick ones from one health facility to the other, while Ministers, Permanent Secretaries and Directors, who are paid by the tax payer get a shell coupon book paid for by the tax payers to get gas to fuel their luxury official cars to and from work each day.

Ministers can send their children to private schools and get the best quality education, while the tax payer is sending his son or daughter to a public school where there are no teachers, no books, no proper education in classrooms that are about to collapse or sitting somewhere under a mango tree with a blackboard.

A high ranking government official can send his or her child to get a college (university) education in the United States or United Kingdom but an ordinary Gambian tax payer cannot send his or her child to the University of the Gambia because tuition continue to increase at 10% per annum.

Fellow Gambians and my fellow youths:
Our nation is gripped with fear but hope is not lost especially for us the future generation of leaders. Misguided and miss-prioritized policies by the government continue to relegate the Gambia into its darkest moment. The country is so full of laws that are of lip-service and never enforced. Properly enforcing those laws is what will guarantee the security and safety of citizens and properties not Operation Bulldozer.

The operation is a waste of tax payers’ money and economic resources that could have been used meaningfully in other sectors such as health and education. The Mile II 9 according to the Presidency but done to deter people from crime but days later, a woman killed her new born baby, somebody got stabbed, banks got robbed.

If you want to stop crime, you must first look into the root causes of crime such as unemployment and economic hardship; address and address those root causes with policies and programs that are realistic and beneficial to our communities. Not by violating our society with blood.

When it comes to reducing crimes, our border towns should be protected and government must create a more conducive economy for job growth which attracts investors and companies which require skills that are high paying. But in a country, where unemployment is one of the highest in the world, and government do not even care to know the unemployment rate, people result to crime and on the other hand, we continue to lose the dignity upon which our nation is built and we continue to lose the most precious jewels of our nation, the youth to the back-way and if they make it, to industrialized world.

Government should desist from trying to implement unrealistic policies and programs and focus on programs and policies that address the needs of the Gambian people. Every day, I hear the President talk about transforming the Gambia into the silicon valley of Africa, making it an economic super power and achieving Vision 2020. 2015 is just at the corner and we are far from achieving most if not any of the Millennium Development Goals. How do we become a silicon valley or an economic super power? We will not be any of the aforementioned unless we have our policies properly prioritized and realistic.

In this vain, the tax hikes are unnecessary and tax break should be given to corporations that create jobs and hire Gambians and pay them more than 7,000 GMD – 10,000 GMD per month. The tax break will allow them to hire more people and pay Gambians more to have more money left in their pockets after providing the basic needs of their families (shelter, food, education, health and clothing).

This will allow more money to be spent into the markets thus improving the economy, creating healthy business competitions which will in turn reduce the price of goods and service thereby improving standard of living and significantly reducing the cost of living. At the same time, instead of arresting people, Government should go after companies that make millions in profit in the Gambia but economically exploit Gambian people by paying them nothing.

Fellow Gambians and my fellow youths:
8 million dalasis allocated for the visiting head of state of Taiwan, 6 million dalasis for the renovation of the residence of the Governor of CRR, 800,000 USD for consultation with a US Capital firm are a waste of tax payers’ money. The unnecessary public holidays are hideous to our economy because we do not have such money to waste.

The National Assembly is full of filibusters who are not keen about the welfare, plight and well-being of their constituents and do not have no confirmation of the appointment of public official neither do they scrutinize policies and actions. The judiciary is so not independent and it is time that Gambian people take over the judiciary and at least our young graduating lawyers can practice what they have learnt and ensure justice.

Instead of allocating over 400 million GMD to government departments and a 100 million GMD out of the lump sum to the State House, that money could have been used in buying state-of-art health equipment, medication and fueling ambulances for our citizens. That money could have been used to start unemployment and welfare benefit programs.

That money could be used in reconstruction of schools, building staff quarters for teachers across the country especially in the provinces and supplementing the salaries of teachers and giving them and their families’ benefits and incentives. That money could be used to create a financial aid and government grant to students of the University of the Gambia and to get the great professors into the University for our youths to have the skills needed to make our country an economic super power and a silicon valley.

Let us work on factories that will preserve perishable agricultural and horticultural goods so we can become self-sufficient and export more by equally having a macro-finance program that will revolutionize the agricultural system into a high industrialized one. An agricultural policy that will help make fishing profitable and making in commercial to the extent that we can export millions of dollars’ worth of fish.

A policy that will see the Gambia become industrialized especially the agricultural sector by producing peanut oil from groundnut which will save Gambians from buying imported oil. A policy system which will see perishable goods in market places taken to industries that will make the food safe to consume and seeing them in Wal-Mart like stores owned by Gambians all over the country and even outside the Gambia.

Fellow Gambians and my fellow youths:
This will create jobs; people will spend more money improving our economy and pay taxes with the right tax policies in place; reduce cost and cut time spent by poor women in market places selling these goods and making nothing because they have to buy more of it and pay the ice plants to get them stored. After another day of sale, they are all bad again. We can break this cycle of poverty.

If this happens, Gambians youths will not bother about going to Europe or America, but will stay home and live the Gambian Dream because they know they can work and make it in the Gambia. They know they can take care of their family and make their parents proud. They know they can buy their own car and a house unlike years ago where a security man cannot have one.

We are at a crossroad and the future generations of leaders have an overwhelming work to do to reconstruct our nation and get a respectable place in the family of nations. We stand a moment of a great challenge but also a great opportunity to make our nation a better place. These challenges are a result of failed leadership and flawed polices. We are in the 21st century and the world has changed, but our leaders in Banjul have not kept pace with the tests of the 21st century.

Fellow Gambians and my fellow youths:
I pray that this New Year bring changes. May our eyes, minds and hearts be filled with true spirit of starting a New Year that gives a fresh dimension to our nation. We are all in this together. Let us put our partisan believes aside because this is beyond politics. This is about our children and our children’s children.

When something is right, let us stand together and give a standing ovation and work together to maintain that good; but when the wrong happens, let us also stand together and correct it. We the young people must engage the government and we will. This has become a matter of life or die; of a step forward or a step backward and backward is what will not happen because we will keep pushing until our nation is where it is supposed to be. Martin Luther King said: “We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed. “

Happy New Years and God bless you and God bless the Republic of the Gambia!

Written by Sam Phaty

Sheriff Mohammad-Samsudeen Phatey
Facebook: Sam Phatey


+1 #3 2013-03-01 22:16
I am sorry for the late comment but I think it is better late than never. This is piece engenders hope, hope for the future, hope that all is not lost for The Gambia. With young, intelligent and focused young people like Sam, it is evident that our country will transit from darkness to light and from the grips of terror to one that guarantees the security and safety of all citizens. I pray that you grow into adulthood to realize your dreams.
+1 #2 2013-01-24 08:50
It's good
+7 #1 2013-01-08 18:59
Excellent !!!

For the first time..critic is supported by necessary policies and actions.

History guides a shining light to confirm that any meaningful social and economic change was inspired by youth.

This boy got real mans talent.

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