Tuesday, May 28, 2024

On the Realities of our Current Situation: Letter to my President (Part 11)

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Your Excellency,

I resume this series with great sorrow and deep pain. I had thought you had made the worst of your mistakes and therefore there could be no further errors warranting my penning of other epistles in this series. I just felt I should give you some breathing space and tone down my criticisms so you may focus better on your job. 

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Unfortunately, my assumptions were wrong and right now your government has manifested signs of multiple-sclerosis.

Your government has demonstrated the worst leadership failure in our generation and you are clearly aware of this insidious tumour that has pervaded your somnolent Administration. 

The coronavirus pandemic is spinning out of control and the failure lies at your own doorstep. We know that this is a global crisis but here at home, you and your health Minister have caused too much unnecessary suffering and probable loss of lives due to your inefficiency in the handling of this pandemic.

You have failed to give us a clear direction and ditched your responsibility to communicate with us in a credible and consistent manner. Your health minister  has also failed to provide the necessary working tools for frontline workers and not only refused to pay the critical response staff on time, he went ahead to throw them under the bus in broad daylight in his alleged attempt to cover up his own procurement malpractices. This is too sad to bear Mr. President. 

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I was shocked to learn that even the ambulances recently bought for use in the coronavirus fight had to remain unused for more than a week due to the laughable  excuse that the paperwork at the police was not done and there was no fuel for their usage due to arrears owed to Riders for Health. And while those ambulances remained stationary and idle, hundreds of coronavirus patients remained in the communities because of lack of ambulances to pick them up for treatment. How can this situation be justified knowing quite well that your Finance Minister already butchered our budget by the amount of a billion Dalasis ostensibly for COVID-19 related expenditure. 

Your Excellency, your people are sick and tired; completely fed up and angry with you and your ministers and unless something drastic is done, the consequences might be too unpalatable for you and your government. With both your office and the main referral hospital being regarded as active transmission centres of the coronavirus, where are we heading as a nation?

In a recent interview with the Fatu Network, I shared some thoughts on our current situation and I deem it fitting to present them to you in this missive:

People need to adhere to expert advice on the coronavirus containment measures and the government needs to communicate better and set the right examples in social distancing and wearing of masks.

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I am against a heartless and senseless lockdown of the country being proposed by some privileged classes who may have enough food and backup water and power supply sources in their homes.

How can you lock down a country whose government has failed to provide basic food support for the poor and vulnerable almost 6 months into this coronavirus crisis?

The timing of a possible lockdown could not have been worse as the month of August is known to be a period of hunger since it is the lean season in our food production cycle.

My message to The Gambia Government is to fire the clearly incompetent health Minister. 

Government should provide the much needed equipment for the frontline workers as well as provide adequate and timely payment of allowances to them.

Weddings, parties and other social entertainment events should be banned with immediate effect. We can live without those luxurious gatherings.

Government has failed wonderfully in communication. The President and health Minister need to come forth and personally tell us their health situation in televised messages. Hiding information during this period is going to feed the rumour mills and further erode whatever little confidence the public has in government authorities.

Government has to take the lead with credible and consistent communication with the public. State officials must walk the talk when it comes to regulations and recommendations. We cannot see our President publicly take off his mask to address an open gathering when there is already state instruction for the mandatory wearing of masks

Mr President, Our religious leaders are still the most reliable sources of conveying information that is likely to be adhered to. Your government has virtually neglected this very important crop of leaders in our communities in the fight against COVID-19.

Better late than never, you need to talk to our religious leaders as a matter of urgency and urge them to appeal to their flock to obey the COVID-19 control measures with a clear message about the obvious consequences of failure to adhere to expert advice. It is better to engage them through moral suasion than to take them to court and fine them for leading their flack in prayers. This is evidently counter-productive. 

Sir, the curfew you have imposed on the public has raised more questions than answers. Among these questions are the following:

1- How many people are outside between 10pm to 5am?

2- How does this measure help in suppressing the spread of the virus? 

3- Is it the case that the virus only spreads at night? 

Or is it that something needs to be done outside within these curfew hours; something so sinister that you don’t want the public to see? 

Your Excellency, the main problem with your government’s approach to the fight against COVID-19, is that there is not much original thinking going on in your administration. A lot of your measures are clearly copied from other countries whose situations are clearly not the same as ours. 

And also, the decision to reduce the operating hours of our markets to be limited to 2pm as closing time is counterproductive in terms of social distancing. By this measure, you are actually causing people to flock together to the markets en masse in a mad rush; whereas the normal operating hours with enforced social distancing would have been better and ideal in trying to achieve your goals. 

And finally Mr. President, we are aware of the fact that your health minister is in quarantine; information we got late because your government divulged this information under duress from social media pundits.

Now my question is, who is the Cabinet minister currently overseeing the portfolio of the Health Ministry? It is standard practice in Cabinet that once a particular minister is not available to effectively perform his or her duties, another Minister is identified  to carry out those duties and responsibilities as overseer. Have you identified anyone in Cabinet to step in for your health minister? If so why is that minister not at the frontlines coordinating the fight against the coronavirus and directly addressing a public that is in panic mode? 

I am sorry Your Excellency but things are not looking good at all so you need to immediately reboot your operating system and call in all competent hands and minds to forge a coalition of patriots regardless of political affiliation so that we can fix this problem together. The earlier you act on this advice the better. 

Good luck and may Allah guide and protect our country. Amen.

Momodou Sabally 

Former S.G and Head of the Civil Service 

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