By Alagie Manneh
Two Gambian national assembly members on Sunday left the country to take part in an annual seminar in the UK designed to enhance their knowledge and understanding of parliamentary procedures.
The Westminster seminar on effective parliamentarians, a five-day forum, is a place where relatively new parliamentarians and clerks come together to share experiences and develop skills essential to their parliamentary roles, according to the Common- wealth Parliamentary Association (CPA), the organisers of the event.
“It will provide parliamentarians and clerks with an opportunity to explore parliamentary democracy, practice and procedure, and to share their experiences and challenges faced in their parliamentary work. This is the 71st year of the CPA UK run seminar and is a unique opportunity to hear viewpoints from a wide variety of different individuals,” the CPA said on its website.
Banjul North representative Modou Lamin B Bah, and Basse NAM Saikou Bah are attending the CPA flagship event.
Annually, it is attended by around 70 delegates from every region in the Commonwealth.
Speaking to The Standard from the UK yesterday, Modou Lamin Bah said of the significance of the seminar: “Looking at the status of the current parliament, you realise that almost 60 percent of the members of the sixth legislature are new to parliament. Therefore, building their capacities absolutely key, particularly in terms of understanding the procedures of parliament and introducing best practices in terms of the way we do our deliberations. It will enhance our ability to effectively scrutinise, represent, and deliver oversight functions. It’s an opportunity to widen our horizons. We will come back and make sure all the good practices learned are shared with other members, and are used as tools in our deliberations in parliament. This training will also strengthen our relationship with the Commonwealth.”
Mr Bah said as commonwealth parliamentarians, the UK government ought to do more in ensuring smooth facilitation and receipt of their visas, complaining of bureaucratic bottlenecks which prolonged the process for securing travel documents.
“I believe it is important for the UK to start considering Gambia and the others by giving them free visas for entry. As parliamentarians, it was a big struggle when we applied even with our diplomatic passports. It took us six weeks. And our passports were sent all the way to the UK for clearance. Why that burden? Why do we have to go through that if we call ourselves a Commonwealth country. This is something that I really want to see changed,” Mr Bah said.