By Arfang M.S. Camara
Deputies at the National Assembly Friday adopted a motion for the extension of the period of State of Public Emergency for 45 days in The Gambia, effective from 3rd April.
They said this will allow the executive to put in regulations as measures to control the spread of coronavirus in the country.
The government earlier proposed for the extension of Presidential seven days public emergency decree to 90 days but that was viewed by deputies as too much.
In their Friday debate, lawmakers approved the Standing Committee on Human Rights and Constitutional Matters report and suggestion for a 45 days extension instead of 90 and recommended to the government to come up with financial compensatory mechanisms in order to reduce the hardship imposed by the above regulations.
Lawmakers who spent over 15 hours debating on the issue have all against the motion for the 90 days extension period.
Suwaibou Touray, member of Wuli West and Deputy Chairperson of the standing committee said there have been divergent opinions among members of the committee for the extension to 90 days, adding that the committee finally agreed to recommend for 45 days instead of the motion brought in by the Justice minister.
He said the Justice Minister’s argument was based on the fact that the 90 days period will avoid regrouping and will enable the government to prepare for a long-term plan.
Minority leader and member for Niamina Dankunku, Samba Jallow said 90 days is not the problem but the regulation that will be put in place for the state to govern the country within the period of 90 days.
“My concern is how this regulation is going to affect the people we represent.”
According to him, the country is in a situation in which they do not want people to be sick and and go hungry due to the extension of the declaration.
Saikouba Jarju, member for Busumbala reinforced the committee’s recommendation in respect to funding for COVID-19 financial aid.
He suggested for the creation of a special committee that will mobilize funds and coordinate all donated fund meant to fight the virus. He believes that will minimize any potential corruption or misappropriation of funds.
Attorney General and Justice Minister, Abubacarr M Tambadou told lawmakers that by seeking for extension of the public emergency, government is not proposing a lockdown but a fight to prevent covid-19 pandemic from spreading in the country.
“We are calling for the extension of the state of emergency so that government can put in place restrictions in the form of regulations that can provide protection to the people of The Gambia from covid-19 pandemic. Three of the four regulations presented to the parliament are to restrict movement and prevent infection,” he said.
Dr. Ahmadou Lamin Samateh, minister of health said the reason for the extension of the state of public emergency is to avoid the spread of the virus.
He added that the much-talked about government D500 million aid for covid-19 is still with the ministry of Finance, and not yet disbursed to his ministry.
“Before the D500 million issue came up, we made a request of D12m to buy materials and equipment such as sanitizers and sensitization,” he said but finance Minister Mamburay Njie said the D500 million fund is in the custody of his ministry, saying it is meant for the ministry of health.
“Before the D500 million, we have disbursed D12 million in total but they have only spent D11 million and now there is a request from the health ministry for D60 million, which includes the payment of hotel and some impresses for regional health [that’s D100, 000 for each],” he said.
According to him, the message is that the D500 million is not a spending spree, noting that they
are very cautious with how the money is going to be spent.