Sait Matty Jaw, Political Science Lecturer, UTG
By Buba Gagigo
Sait Matty Jaw, a political science lecturer at the University of The Gambia, has defended his comments about the vehicles purchased by the National Assembly for its members. He said that the vehicles are needed, relevant, and necessary to ensure a functional National Assembly in The Gambia.
Jaw made these comments during his appearance on Kerr Fatou’s weekly show, The Brunch, last Saturday.
“For me, I want us to look at it from a bigger picture than just the cost. Yes, the cost is important, but then what is the cost of running a vehicle? It’s not just the purchasing what you’re using to buy the vehicle, but, you know, talking about five years, but also talking about the good that can come from that vehicle. Today, we are talking about representation. There is a problem of representation in this country, and I think that is also what the National Assembly Service is trying to address here.
“So, but of course, with the current situation and what we have seen as a level of distrust between MPs and the citizens, you can see this debate coming up. But I am saying that for me, I feel like these vehicles are needed, they are relevant, and they are necessary in terms of ensuring that we have a functional National Assembly, and that is the position that I am taking. Because why? Today, people are just seeing this happening, but they have started deducting since last year. These National Assembly Members already met these things been discussed in the National Assembly,” he said.
He also gives background on why he took that position about the National Assembly vehicles.
“I also want to give a background to why I am also coming from this position because sometimes is not like what I just want or anything else, but it has been the fact that I have also been working with the National Assembly since 2017, not like a member or staff, but because of the research and the work that we do, you can see the challenges of the National Assembly. And those challenges for many times when I have trainings with National Assembly Members, and what I kept telling them was that you are responsible for your conditions because you are responsible for approving budgets.
“Go to the National Assembly today; there are members that don’t even have office space. How are they going to function if they cannot do that? As a National Assembly institution, people also need to understand that they are elected members, but within the National Assembly we also have what we call the National Assembly Service Commission, and the duty of the National Assembly Service Commission is to ensure that any member that is coming, their stay within the National Assembly is conducive, and that they are able to deliver their function properly,” he said.
He said it was the National Assembly Service Commission that thought of this through its strategic plan and investment plan.
“So, for them, it is not only about strategy—changing the face of the National Assembly—but also investing in the National Assembly to an extent that they will be able to function as an institution. And why are they doing that? Today, the National Assembly is autonomous. Before, they used to go to the executive to get money for committee meetings and all those things, but today they have their own budget. They are in control of their own budget, but they also realize that they have to manage that budget, and how are they going to manage that budget? And this is part of that. And this is where the conversation is, and I want people to expand it so that we will not just say it’s expensive,” he concluded.
The Gambia’s National Assembly members were met with widespread criticism after they purchased vehicles estimated to cost D2.5 million each. The purchase was seen by many as a wasteful use of public funds, especially at a time when the country is facing economic hardship.
Sait Matty Jaw was one of the few voices who defended the decision. He argued that the vehicles were necessary for the parliamentarians to effectively carry out their duties.