Gambia: Opinion: Observer Staff to take to the street            

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Observer Staff to take to the street            

By Kajali Dampha

Reliable and confidential sources confirmed to this me about planned protest to be staged by staff of the Observer Company Limited, should the authorities continue to be indifference and ignore their plight as fellow Gambians, who fell victims of the venom dictatorship that virtually affects all sectors of the country and her people.

They will be the first protesters for the year 2018, as long as their source of income remained  closed with no signals from the disarranged lack of coordinated led coalition government.

Its common sense for even a primary school child to appreciate and interpret without much difficulty, much more for an elected government in our new-found democracy. This company was forcefully seized by the dictator, through expelling its proprietor, misruled and managed it to advance his personal egos at the expense of ordinary staff of the company.

This new government seized it and place it under state appointed receiver, which common sense dictates that its now part of the very government institutions, hence no need to have it close for business, cognizant of the unemployment rate in the country and continue talks about the need for more job creations, especially for the youths.

It does not also make sense rendering thousands of people jobless in the name of tax arrears that did not happen in one months and also not under this new found democratic dispensation of Adama Barrow, where everyone both Gambians and none are beaming with hope and space for all to achieve their development objectives, coupled with efforts to have the spirit of reconciliation prevail at the expense of revenge and anger.

The staff of the Observer Company Ltd, Publishers of the Daily Observer Newspaper, once again seized this opportunity to appeal for passionate state consideration over what we called “Protracted Closure” of a company that employed and generates decent source of living for thousands of Gambians and none alike, through its daily operations as one of the biggest and leading medium of communication in the country.

The company was established by a Liberian refugee called “ Kenneth Best” some 25 years ago, with the sole objectives of not only providing information on divergent views, but also serve as an equal employer, hence effective and efficient contribution towards sustainable development of a country we proudly called motherland.

The Observer Company employs over hundreds of paid staff and thousands of others benefiting either directly or indirectly, through its daily operations with unspecified amount of daily expenditure in various forms, all meant to have timely production of the news for both local and international readers on print and electronic.

His decision asserted, affirmed and strengthen what modern global economies and other development specialist variously viewed and describe the private sector as engine of growth for both developed and third world countries like the Gambia.

This theory approved and acknowledges the fact that, no single country across the globe has the potentials and means of employing all its citizens thus, development and protection of liberal economies characterize by private sector as equal partners in all aspects of the economy, including the Gambia.

The advent of New Gambia brought about a renewed sense of hope, inspiration, aspiration and unlimited assurance for achieving our collective and individual objectives, devoid of unacceptable features associated with 22 years of dictatorship under the former regime of disgraced Jammeh.

The Gambian people voted for change that ought to place this country and her people at the same level  with the rest of the world, trading on universally approved concepts of democracy, rule of law, good governance and respect  for human rights, including the right to gainful employment opportunities, meant to make life on this planet fit for our survival.

The Observer Company was registered as a private limited company, in line with provisions contained in section 5 of Companies Act, but unfortunately later went into the wrong hands through dictatorship over the years, which is a product of its present situation “protracted Closure” at the expense of ordinary innocent hard working staff, occasioned by none tax compliance that spanned over 15 years.

The for this period, successive management of the company did not represent the interest and welfare of general staff, as the dictator was at liberty to hand pick even the most illiterate and impotent personnel to manage based on his personal interest as president with impunity.

The successive Gambia Revenue Authority (GRA) management, including the present director general (DG) Yankuba Darboe were present and did nothing to stop accumulation of the tax arrears of the Observer Company under the dictator.

The company was declared to be part of companies either directly control or associated with the former president Jammeh, then placed under  state appointed receiver “Augustus Prom”, followed by court order for its closure pending settlement of over D17M (seventeen million dalasis) Gambia Revenue Authority  (GRA) tax arrears accumulated under the dictatorship as cited above.

The closure is now running into sixth or seventh months, right from the first closure in June 2017 and the final on 24th August 2017 to date occasioned by the GRA court order.

However, the state through the Attorney General Chambers and Ministry of Information, were on record prior to the said GRA court order that, Observer Company will not be close for business. Meaning it will continue to operate like others placed under the same state receivership.

The state is also on record through the cited ministries that, the state will not sale the company, despite allegations of attempted interest shown by certain people to that effect.

The Attorney General Chambers and Minister of Justice, whose office serve as the Chief Legal Adviser to the government, has written two separate letters addressed to various stakeholders including the Gambia Revenue Authority (GRA), Ministry of Finance and Economic Affairs, the state receiver Augustus Prom, Ministry of Information among others recommending for reopening of the Observer Company to no avail.

                     The position of the staff

“We are all Gambians and certainly we have no criminal record on our lives, except for the tax arrears committed in our name by the dictator and his failed appointed managements. We have all voted for change and executed unceremonious departure of the dictator of our time into exile hence, no room for making life unbearable for anyone in our new found democracy”, said one of the concerned staff of the company.

The staff therefore outlined what they described as humble suggestion for the government to consider the following options;

1-Reopen and restructured the company by putting in place effective management that would not only raise the fund to offset the embattled GRA tax arrears, but also represent the interest and welfare of the company for posterity

2- Reopen and allowed staff of the company to reorganize themselves and put in place effective management that would execute the cited purpose or objectives

3-Sale the company and let the new ownership settle employment liabilities of those, whose services might not be needed in accordance the Labour Laws, including Labour Act, Laws of the Gambia, International Labour Organisation and other legal instruments at both domestic and international level, regulating employment related matters

4- Declared the company bankrupt, appoint liquidator to sale its assets and pay the cited employment liabilities

We further believed that continue closure of the company, could have serious consequences than expected, as monthly salaries of staff is on the increase, the social security monthly deduction arrears is also on the increase, as well as the very GRA monthly tax arrears on move

The machines and equipment use for daily production of the Newspaper are also at the risk of perish or severe damages that might go beyond repaired, which may require further investment at one point or another

The doubt about ownership of the company has been put to rest or mute as per the state taken over and placing it under the custody of  appointed receiver.

Beside, the statement adduced by one Abdoulie Cham, former Finance Director of Central Bank of the Gambia at the ongoing Janneh Commission of Inquiry further set the record straight about true ownership of the Observer Company. He explained how observer was bought from state recovered fund.

Thought Amadou Samba’s name has been linked to ownership of the company prior to his denouncement and instructions for removing his name printed at the foot of the papers’ edition in line with section 11 of the Newspaper & Broadcasting Act, Laws of the Gambia.

No evidence exists to support alleged ownership of the company by Baba Jobe. In the absence of any court order to that effect, such allegations cannot and should not occasion permanent closure of the company at the expense of national development, the interest and welfare of its employees. Six to seven months serve as enough notice for anyone to approach the court and asset his/her ownership right over the Observer Company, as per contained in sections 18 to 33 of the 1997 Constitution as well as section 5 therein.

Debt cancellation of the company is at the discretion of the Ministry of Finance, having supervisory powers over the Gambia Revenue Authority (GRA), as far as the company has already been placed under the state custody.

We therefore, once again call on the government to reconsider our plights as fellow Gambian brothers and sisters, through reopening of the company for business without delay and by extension reduction of the alarming high unemployment rate in the country, especially youth unemployment.

We have seen over the past weeks and months, the teaming number of illegal and legal migrant returnees, all having to struggle for employment opportunities failure of which, could have further serious consequences on our new found democracy, as people has to have means of  earning a decent living, probably through gainful employment.

Editors note: The views expressed by the author are sorely that of the author. Thanks for your attention.

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