The maintenance of public order through effective law enforcement is the exclusive purview of the Gambia Police Force including the paramilitary forces.
The military’s mission is to ensure that our national borders remain invaluable by protecting the population against external aggression.
The state intelligence services, on the other hand, are to service the intelligence needs of the executive branch (including the law enforcement agencies) and to supplement, if necessary, the intelligence needs of the military intelligence.
These lines are clearly delineated and it is extremely important that these services stay within their designated lanes. Unfortunately, both the military and the intelligence service stepped outside their lanes and into what was a purely law enforcement matter involving in a disgruntled group of Social Security and Housing Finance Corporation (SSHFC) staff agitating against the new Managing Director of the corporation.
SSHFC registered an operating profit of D82 million in 2017 which is a significant improvement from a D1.5 million loss in 2016 – a turn around achieved despite a strong income headwinds. Investment income i.e. recurring income in 2017 was D23 million better than in 2016 while costs in 2017 were down D88 million as a result of an aggressive implementation of cost management measures in 2017.
While the necessary measures have resulted in improvements in the financial profile of the corporation, they had also caused some consternation and distress among some staff members, resulting in a public demonstration from corporate headquarters to State House during official hours – a serious infraction of staff rules that should have resulted in disciplinary action against the leader and those who took part. Staff on the other hand is accusing the Managing Director of corruption and favoring a certain staff for further studies abroad over other more deserving members of staff.
The stalemate escalated last week when a handful of disgruntled staff took the law into their own hands, once again, by padlocking the gates to the corporate headquarters thus denying staff the staff and the public access to the premises which is a serious breach of the law.
The presence of the Chief of Defense Staff (CDS), Inspector General of Police and the Director General of the State Intelligence Service at the premises of the SSHFC to beg and plead with a group of lawbreakers to stop breaking the law further instead of arresting them for disturbing the peace by blocking public access to a public building. The least the police could have done was to reprimand.
The CDS and the Director General of the SIS should not have taken part in any dispute resolution for reasons cited previously and also because the origin of the dispute was a personnel management matter allowed to degenerate into the chaos that engulfed the corporation. In the future, Boards of Directors of parastatals must be allowed to perform their duties in accordance with law and the relevant Acts establishing them.