GAMBIA: BREAKING NEWS: THE SECURITY FORCES ARE ENTITLED TO BE PAID ALLOWANCES, JUST LIKE EVERY OTHER FRONT LINER AND THEY HAVE BEEN PAID TO THE BEST OF MY KNOWLEDGE—HEALTH MINISTER SAMATEH

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The quarantined Gambian Health Minister Dr. Amadou Lamin Samateh has said that members of Gambia’s security forces, who are part of the COVID-19 frontline workers, are indeed entitled to be paid allowances, like any other Healthcare frontline worker. “Yes, the security forces are entitled to be paid allowances, just like every other front liner and they have been paid to the best of my knowledge. I am not aware of those who have not been paid, but really any of those people, whose names would have been missed out, all they need to do is to lay the complains and they are paid. So, all the security forces who are part of the response have been paid allowances just as any other person,” Samateh told the Freedom Newspaper in a phone interview on Wednesday day.

Samateh’s statement was diametrically opposed to what the army spokesman Major Lamin Sanyang told this medium in an earlier interview.  Major Lamin Sanyang had earlier dismissed the soldiers’ claims. He says the payment of COVID-19 allowances weren’t part of the army’s operational mandate.

Soldiers, policemen, Immigration officers and other security personnel posted within the Greater Banjul area have been complaining about not being fed and paid COVID-19 allowances.

When asked as to whose statement between him and Major Sanyang, should we believe, Dr. Samateh was quick to add: “No, no, let me correct that, let me correct that, I say if it is in the response structure, there are security forces that are part of the response structure, these people you are talking about, I don’t know if they are categorized as part of that response structure. Now, if the ones who go to the market, who are overseeing the activities in the market are not classified under that response structure, that is a different thing and these people, the list is actually from the security forces themselves, the list of the people, who got the allowances came from the security forces, it was not imposed, If it is edited, the people who participated or who are participating in the COVID response.”

“Now, I did mentioned to you that the ones, who are supposed to be doing the patrols, there are some honoraria that are being given to them, that is what I am aware of, when they did their proposals, and some honoraria was supposed to be paid to them, which was a daily kind of amount, which was supposed to be for their upkeep, I am aware of that. So, I think the important thing before we speculate, is to get to the facts, so, I get to know which group is complaining and which group is entitled as to what, before we can authoritatively comment on that. Yah,” he added.

Samateh has called on citizens to practice social distancing to avoid contracting the virus. Dr Samateh spoke to the Freedom Newspaper via Skype call on Wednesday from quarantine. He went into isolation after the Vice President and three Cabinet Ministers tested positive for COVID-19.

Health Minister Samateh says his condition is stable. He said he hopes to be discharged if his test results are negative. Health Minister Samateh is still overseeing his Ministry despite being quarantined.

The speaker of the National Assembly has also been quarantined for an undisclosed illness. President Adams Barrow was also quarantined earlier in the week.

Below is the Q and A interview we had Dr. Samateh. The full interview would be aired in our today’s Civic Education show.

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MBAI: As the Minister of Health, what can you tell us about the security forces who are part of the frontline workers? Are they entitled to be paid allowances?

AMADOU LAMIN SAMATEH: Yes, the security forces are entitled to be paid allowances, just like every other front liner and they have been paid to the best of my knowledge. I am not aware of those who have not been paid, but really any of those people, whose names would have been missed out, all they need to do is to lay the complains and they are paid. So, all the security forces who are part of the response have been paid allowances just as any other person.

MBAI: Who do you consider as a frontline worker in the security forces, can we be more clearer here?

AMADOU LAMIN SAMATEH: Now, when we you talk about frontline workers, of course, as the name implies are the people who are at the frontline, but with COVID, you know it is difficult to draw a clear cutline because if you say the people who go and do the test in the lab, who collect samples, those who do contract tracing, those who go to get the cases, those who managed the cases in the various health facilities, but of course, someone will also tell you, what about the person at a hospital, which is not primarily COVID dealing with COVID and is at the emergency room, when patients come in, so they are also considered to be front liners. Now, these security forces, who are also working at these various points are considered front liners. They are security people, who are manning the treatment centers, for example, they are front liners, there are others, who are also at the border point, there are some who also accompany these people, who go to do contact tracing, so on, and so forth. They are front liners. So, I think this definition has been clarified and when these allowances were being disbursed and put together, the Ministry got the list from the various unit heads as to the categorization. So, that should be the responsibility of the unit heads to say who was under which category of which, for example. Yah.

MBAI: So, if I got you, the soldiers who are deployed to enforce the regulation, they are part of the frontline workers, those stationed around market areas, public places, they are all entitled to be paid?

AMADOU LAMIN SAMATEH: Yes, they are entitled to be paid because they are part of the response structure, the people, you see, what we have, we have various groups in our response structure and the security personnel are strongly represented in that group. Now, if they are not paid, I don’t know, I am not sure if they are paid or not paid, this group you are talking about, who are in the markets and so on and so forth, but I know in the response structure, even those who are actually doing the patrols and so on, there are some allowances, there are some allowances for them. I don’t remember the figure, but when these requests were being made, those people, who are doing border patrols, those people are also implementing the activities that should be implemented for the control measures, they have allowances. Now, those allowances probably are different from these allowances you are talking about that the front liners are getting. I am not sure what arraignment the security forces themselves put in, because they are highly represented in the various committees of the COVID response program.

MBAI: Will you be surprised to hear that some soldiers, policemen, and Immigration officers taking part in these ongoing efforts to fight the Coronavirus in The Gambia are complaining of not being paid and also fed? They are complaining as we speak.

AMADOU LAMIN SAMATEH: Well, I want to find out what is this, the stake is, what the situation is, with regards to that, and let me also know the group that is complaining because sometimes we need some clarifications with regards to who is paid, and who is not paid before I can comment on that.

MBAI: The army spokesman Major Lamin Sanyang was contacted yesterday and he said payment of allowances is not part of their operational mandate and you are telling me that they are entitled to be paid allowances, whose story should I take?

AMADOU LAMIN SAMATEH: No, no, let me correct that, let me correct that, I say if it is in the response structure, there are security forces that are part of the response structure, these people you are talking about, I don’t know if they are categorized as part of that response structure. Now, if the ones who go to the market, who are overseeing the activities in the market are not classified under that response structure, that is a different thing and these people, the list is actually from the security forces themselves, the list of the people, who got the allowances came from the security forces, it was not imposed, If it is edited, the people who participated or who are participating in the COVID response. Now, I did mentioned to you that the ones, who are supposed to be doing the patrols, there are some honoraria that are being given to them, that is what I am aware of, when they did their proposals, and some honoraria was supposed to be paid to them, which was a daily kind of amount, which was supposed to be for their upkeep, I am aware of that. So, I think the important thing before we speculate, is to get to the facts, so, I get to know which group is complaining and which group is entitled as to what, before we can authoritatively comment on that. Yah.

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