Honourable, Madi Ceesay, United Democratic Party (UDP) National Assembly Member (NAM) for Serrekunda West Constituency, and Omar Ceesay, Gambia Democratic Congress (GDC) National Assembly Member(NAM),) have told NewDay that the honourable James Gomez, Minister of Fisheries and Water Resources, would have “betrayed country” and be “acting in Contempt of Parliament” if recent media statements attributed to him are true.
Mr Gomez had been requested by the National Assembly and had promised, about a week ago, to present documents relating to fishing agreements between The Gambia and Senegal.
However, yesterday, he was reported in the media to have said there would be no further need to present the documents before the parliament “because it (the documents) expired on March (24) 2021”.
“They [National Assembly Members] cannot sit over an agreement that is already expired. But now that they have indicated to us that every agreement should go to them before becoming effective, we are now engaged in discussions to evaluate the positives and the negatives in the first agreement and then we will come to sign a new agreement and once that is signed, it will be taken to parliament,” Minister Gomez explained to The Standard.
He continued to explain that he has been using “discretionary powers” provided by the law to allow people to fish in Gambian waters since the expiration of the agreement. “The minister has the power to allow people to fish or not in our waters when there is no agreement,” he had told the newspaper.
“If he did say those words, then that is no respect to the National Assembly. He never said that on the floor of the Assembly, but saying it on another platform is tantamount to lack of respect for the National Assembly” If he had said such words on the floors of the National Assembly, then members of the National Assembly would have taken care of it,”
said Hon. Madi Ceesay, who said the minister would have betrayed the country by allowing people to fish in Gambian waters on the basis of his whim. “I am very disappointed in this statement by a sitting minister,” said Ceesay. “The days of dictatorial powers have passed in this country and everything we do must be governed by law.
“He has no discretionary power to allow anybody to fish in the waters of The Gambia. The Gambian water is neither a personal property of James Gomez nor the ministry.
These waters belong to The Gambia and her people and The Gambia is governed by laws. His statement that he has the power to allow people to fish in our waters is illegal and absolutely dictatorial,” he remarked.
Omar Ceesay, Gambia Democratic Congress (GDC) National Assembly Member (NAM) said the minister’s conduct constitutes “a Contempt of Parliament. It is very disrespectful and I promise the National Assembly will take action.
“His conduct is contempt of the National Assembly because we do not expect an honourable minister to come to the National Assembly and misinform National Assembly Members, and it is important for him to know that we cannot let him go like that.
Misinforming the National Assembly shows a lack of respect to the people’s representatives but we will deal with it as per the law. I told him today that this parliament is structured with various committees;
we have committees that are charged with the responsibility to perform oversight functions and scrutinize government institutions, and these committees will nevertheless go ahead and scrutinize whatever happened in relation to that agreement, regardless of his claims that it has expired.
“All the transactions and dealings, everything that had happened will be investigated; the monies collected, those employed, people involved all should be known so that parliament can take the necessary action”
He also said parliament as a representative institution must not be underestimated and it will not allow such things to happen; especially since it has do to with the lives and livelihood of the people.
“The Fisheries sector is one of the most important sectors in terms of natural resources and this document has to do with the lives and livelihood of the people and also with the revenue of the country.
Parliament cannot see such things happening and be silent about it when the powers are there to perform oversight functions to ensure that the truth is known and everything that has to do with the contract is made known.”
Hon. Omar also said he believes the Minister of Fisheries is “misrepresenting the government because he is charged with the responsibility to speak on behalf of the government on anything that has to do with the fisheries industry.
He is not doing this job alone; he is doing this job in consultation with other cabinet members, especially the Justice Ministry.
So, everything that has to do with law and policy, I believe the Justice minister must be consulted and for anything that has to do with finance, the Finance minister has to be consulted.
So, therefore, he is misrepresenting the government and misleading the Gambian people. We expect him to do better; not to come and mislead the public into thinking that he would escape unscathed.
The well-being of the people rests entirely on the shoulders of the National Assembly members and for that, members would take it upon themselves to task this committee to investigate and find out what exactly took place and thereafter, we will make our recommendations towards this very institution or the government at large.”
The GDC NAM further extended the blame to the entire Cabinet for allowing the implementation of an illegal agreement at the costly expense of the Gambian people. “I don’t blame the Minister of Fisheries alone but the entire cabinet, including the President.
There could not have been any bilateral agreement without the Cabinet having scrutinized that document first. Obviously, it is the law that the Executive or any member of the cabinet can initiate a contract or sign an agreement but that agreement must be ratified by the National Assembly.
The document has expired since March and the minister appeared before the Assembly just last week, so he must have known that this very document has expired,” he said.
Published on July 7, 2021