23 December 2017

Gambia: NAMs Protect Themselves Against Their Vulnerability

The passing of a Bill by the National Assembly yesterday repealing section 91(1)(d) of the Constitution is significant. According to section 91(1)(d) of the Constitution

"A member of the National Assembly shall vacate his or of her seat in the National Assembly if he or she ceases to be a member of the political party of which he or she was a member at the time of his or her election."

Many APRC members of the National Assembly lost their seats under the former regime through the application or misapplication of this provision. In short, the former President, Yahya Jammeh, was empowered by the APRC Constitution to expel a member of the party, and when an APRC member of the National Assembly was expelled from the APRC he or she lost his or her seat by the Clerk invoking section 91(1)(d). For this reason APRC NAMs feared that they would lose their seats if they did not support the then government in the National Assembly. They therefore became praise singers of that government and supported whatever the government brought to the National Assembly contrary to the requirements of section 112 of the Constitution which stipulates that,

"... all members shall regard themselves as servants of the people of The Gambia, desist from any conduct by which they seek improperly to enrich themselves or alienate themselves from the people, and shall discharge their duties and functions in the interest of the nation as a whole and in doing so shall be influenced by the dictates of conscience and the national interest."

The repeal of section 91(1)(d) will pave the way for the NAMs to freely express themselves in accordance with section 113 of the Constitution which reads:

"There shall be freedom of speech and debate in the National Assembly and that freedom shall not be impeached or questioned in any court or place outside the National Assembly."

The Bill will be sent to the President and upon his assent it shall become law. The President in his Election Manifest has said: "To strengthen parliamentary oversight under a coalition government, efforts shall be undertaken to amend Section 91 of the Constitution so that any member of parliament who is dismissed by a party would automatically be an Independent candidate."

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