‘Concerned Dockworkers’ Petition National Assembly

Lang Balla Sawo

By: Kebba Ansu Manneh

More than 140 members of the Gambia Dock and Maritime Workers Union have submitted a petition to the National Assembly public petitions committee.

In a copy of the petition seen by TAT from those calling themselves “Concerned Dockworkers”, the petitioners claim that Lang Balla Sawo said to be the current president of the union, is a retired dock worker and, therefore, he is no longer eligible to occupy the position.

However, his executive committee still needs to set in motion the processes for handing over to a successor body.

Consequently, they are calling for the resignation of the current union executive led by Sawo.

“We no longer have trust and confidence in Lang Balla Sawo’s leadership, and the same goes for all other executives in administering the day-to-day activities of the union.

Hon. Suwaibou Touray, chairman of the petitions committee at the National Assembly, told TAT that he was aware of the petition filed by the “Concerned Dockworkers.”

He said it is still with the Clerk of the National Assembly, who will determine the admissibility or otherwise of the petition.

Usually, petitions filed to the assembly are perused by the office of the Clerk, who has the technical know-how, before being sent to the petitions committee.

Touray added that his petitions committee still needs to receive the Dockworker’s petition.

When contacted to respond to the allegations in the petition, Lang Balla Sawo dismissed the allegation of any financial misappropriation as mere speculation orchestrated by certain Dockworkers.

After persistently failing to pay their membership dues, he said these people are no longer union members.

Sawo also said he was elected to serve as the president of the Dockworkers union for a five-year term. Until that term expires, he will not resign from the position.

He asserted that it is not stipulated anywhere in the union’s constitution that a retired Dockworker cannot be elected to the presidency.

Sawo also described as “false” the claim that the union’s accounts were not being audited and added that the union has its own auditors mandated to audit all its accounts.

The petitioners say they have written several times to the national authorities to help address their concerns, “to no avail.”

In their petition, the “Concerned Dockworkers” say they wrote a series of letters making known their grievances to the management of the Gambia Ports Authority, Office of the President, Officer Commanding Seaports Police, SIS Officer Seaport and the Gambia Dock Labour Company Limited.

They turned to the National Assembly public petitions committee “for redress.”

In the copy seen by TAT, the petitioners state their suspicion of mismanagement of the union’s funds.

“All efforts to ensure financial transparency in the union’s activities have been hindered by the present executive, which has blocked the auditing of the union’s accounts from 2017 to date.”

The petitioners claim the “misappropriation” of more than D9 million, related to D14 million meant for purchasing shares in the new Gambia Dock Labour Company Limited.

Out of the D14 million, only D9 million was deposited with the company, and they added that the balance needed to be accounted for.

They also suspect the “mismanagement” of funds generated from the operations of three tractors owned by the union, and they want an investigation into this matter.

“Since 2017, Lang Balla Sawo and his executive failed to allow any external independent financial auditing exercise to be conducted on the union’s funds.”

In their petition, the “Concern Dockworkers” further alleges that the three tractors were donated to the union by ex-president Yahya Jammeh.

They were taken to Lang Balla Sawo’s village, Marong Kunda in Baddibu, and operated for commercial purposes; however, to date, there has not been any trace of the funds generated from this venture, which have not been accounted for to members.

There is also reported expenditure on the maintenance of the tractors in Marong Kunda to the tune of over D2 million, which needs explaining and showing receipts to members to justify the reported spending.

The petition further states that members of the “Concern Dockworkers” who raise these matters have been victimized.

“It is, therefore, against this backdrop of the above that the Petitioners petition the Petitions Committee of the National Assembly to get redress.”


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