On Sunday, 19 March 2023, a ferry departed from Barra fully loaded with people, vehicles and other valuables, but only arrived at Banjul 7 a.m the following day.
“The excruciating journey did not only send waves of fear among Niuminkas who were either onboard the ferry or had relatives and loved ones therein, but also led to a loss of life of a patient who was referred to the Edward Francis Small Teaching Hospital,” Mr Lowe lamented.
The association therefore describes the incident as “totally unacceptable”.
“While we vent our frustration as regards the situation and the line of action to take to amplify the voices of our people and have our cries listened to and our plights carried out, some members of our executive were summoned for questioning,” said a statement by the association.
“This morning, the President of the Association, Alpha M.K. Lowe, was at the Barra Police Station to respond to questions. He had a fruitful tete-a-tete with the leadership of the Station. The police high command at the station intimated that they got information regarding a planned protest for Saturday but could not get further details. As people in charge of protecting lives and property, they thought it wise to engage the leadership of Niumi Hands to further understand the matter. They also emphasised that intentions for such protest may be genuine but outsiders may capitalise on it to cause havoc,” the association reported.
In his response, the Niumi Hands President commended the police for being proactive while highlighting that they are a group of responsible people who are aware of their rights, privileges as well as their responsibilities as citizens.
He stressed that their people are utterly frustrated by the poor delivery of ferry services and, as their representatives and leaders, they would always be there to amplify their voices so long as it is within the ambits of the laws of the land.
He cited that the Niumi Hands Constitution clearly states the purpose for which the association is formed, and expressed their mandate as an Executive.
He also highlighted that freedom of speech, conscience, association, assembly and movement is a guaranteed constitutional right albeit protocols laid down by the Public Order Act.
He added that armed with their mandate, moral duty and legal safeguards, the body is resolved to advancing the welfare of its members and the people of Niumi while holding public officials to account.
Finally, the president and members of the association’s executive told the police that the discussion among their members was still ongoing and once a decision was made, necessary actions would be taken within the confines of the rule of law.
The executive reassured all Niuminkas that it would continue to advance the welfare of its members without fear or favour.