Saturday, November 26

Gambians in Asia furious over closure of Malaysia Embassy

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By Omar Bah

Gambian students and businessmen living in South-East Asia have expressed dismay over the government’s plans to shut down the country’s only mission in South-East, based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

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The Gambia government in July disclosed its plan of downsizing the country’s foreign embassies to minimise costs. The Gambian Embassy in Malaysia unfortunately falls under the category of embassies the government intended to close.

“We are going to close some of them temporarily but when our financial conditions are better, we will even think of opening embassies elsewhere like Japan and Scandinavia,” Foreign Minister Mamadou Tangara was quoted as saying, last year.

Ramzia Diab Ghanim is currently Gambia’s High Commissioner in Malaysia.

But in a letter shared with The Standard, the Gambians living in different parts of South East Asia said: “We write to appeal to the Gambia government to reconsider their decision with regard to the Gambian High Commission in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.”

“We strongly believe that closing the embassy will cause unreasonable detriments to many students and Gambians living in the region. The mission is centred in a strategic location and it is of great significance to the government and more importantly, to the citizens living in Southeast Asia. It is this mission that every Gambian rushes to when they are plunged into trials and tribulations.

“We have undoubtedly recognized the services that the mission is rendering to us. We want to assure the government that, if this mission was of no use to us and the Gambia at large, we would have not wasted our time, ink, and energy to write this letter to the ministry and plead. Part of the responsibilities of a mission is to represent its subjects and fight for the interest of a sending state.”

The letter added: “We have noticed that the mission in Kuala Lumpur has lived up to that expectation especially when it comes to running the day to day affairs of the government and the citizens in Southeast Asia. The mission successfully helps us with immigration issues, passport renewal, provision of marital certificate, recommendation or attestation letters, reaching out to Gambian students in their various universities, helping their subjects in emergency occurrences such as natural death and many other things”.

The Gambians living in the area said the closure of the mission “can be catastrophic and devastating. So, we once again appeal to the government not to close this mission, but rather in essence find a way out in solving the financial problems as stated and look to the interest of the citizens living in this noble and productive region.”

Foday Yabou, a Gambian student of International Relations at the Syarif Hidayatullah State Islamic University in Jakarta, Indonesia told The Standard yesterday it has been two months since they wrote to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs but they are yet to receive any response.

“We want to know whether the government has any plans for us. We cannot afford to be without a representative of our government here. Ramzia Diab in particular has been very helpful to us. I recall an instance where a Gambian woman was caught with drugs and she was about to be either sentenced to life in jail or killed but Diab intervened to save her life. So this and many other things are happening here which our embassy intervenes in to settle,” he said.

The Gambia has 26 foreign missions operating in Sierra Leone, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, Morocco, Algeria, Guinea-Bissau, Mauritania, Ethiopia, France, Turkey, Belgium, Switzerland, United Kingdom, Spain, Malaysia, Russia, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Cuba, India, China, UAE, United States, United Nations and UN office in Geneva.

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