Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Banjul Tourist Market : Round One goes to the women

These women work harder than those Gambia Revenue Agency (GRA) agents.  These women are, certainly, more honest than those very same agents who use bulldozers as weapons to intimate ordinary law-abiding citizens, women, no less.

The bulldozer has become a weapon of choice of this regime.  It is from these small stalls that they make an honest living, put food on the table and provide education for their children. Yet, they have become the soft target of a regime ravaged by corruption and incompetence that has resulted in government bankruptcy.  A regime that will stop at nothing to extort from unsuspecting and hard-working citizens.  These gestapo-styled tactics must stop.

Yesterday, we reported on the horrifying incident when agents of the regime stormed the Banjul Tourist Market and threaten to bring down stalls for non-payment of income tax, covering the period 201- -2013. This allegation was disputed by the women who claimed to have paid all of their obligations to the state, in the form of license fees and rent.  They claim to have been making payments to the Gambia Tourism Board (GTB).  At no time were they assessed for income tax.

The stall owners were taken to HOLGAM facilities in Kanifing to be interrogated about the incident and also the claims that they owe income tax which they were asked to pay immediately or have their stall bulldozed.

When they arrived at HOLGAM, their cell phones were taken away from them.  You can tell, this is a very insecure regime.  Why take away their cell phones?  The phones were returned to them to place calls to family to post bail on their behalf but not before the Minister warned the agents  against the use bulldozers.  It was not clear whether the Minister in question was Finance or Tourism who took the decision.  The same Minister also instructed the agents not to proceed to the other Tourist Markets in the Greater Banjul Area, according to our sources.

Despite all the apparent concessions from the side of the regime to the stall owners, they were still assessed D 3,500 each, the basis of which is nebulous and arbitrary at best.  They could not have determined the annual turn-over of these women to base their assessment.

All the same, realizing the explosive nature of this and similar incidences of the past, further concessions were made to the stall owners by suggesting that their Market Committee will represent the entire group instead of requiring the entire group to be present in negotiating terms and conditions of the payment of the D 3,500.

This regime failed to realize the anger and frustration that have been building over the 20-year dictatorship.  It will take just a spark to get the entire population rise up against a tyrannical, corrupt and incompetent regime. People are tired, and we believe the Minister who stepped in to step on the fuse realizes that to allow the problem to fester will result in bigger problems for this regime.

We will continue to follow developments in this and other cases.