By Omar Bah
The National Assembly on Friday approved the extension of state of public emergency across the country to 45 days instead of the 90 days proposed by government as measures to contain the spread of Covid-19 in the country.
When the motion of extension was first tabled before deputies last Thursday by the Minister of Justice, Abubacarr Tambadou it was referred to the standing committee on human rights and constitutional matters for further review.
However, on Friday the committee presented its report and recommended that the 90 days be reduced to 45.
It took the lawmakers fifteen hours to debate on the proposal before the Speaker Mariam Denton controversially put it to vote where the majority agreed on the committee’s proposed 45 days.
The Speaker ignored point of order calls from the likes of Halifa Sallah, Omar Ceesay, YaKumba Jaiteh and host of other lawmakers to put the bill into ‘Aye’ and ‘No’ vote.
Even after the vote the likes of nominated member YaKumba Jaiteh were heard chanting: “Honourable Speaker we are disputing the votes” as some other members chanted, “They want to hijack the whole process.”
“We are not all in support of the 45 days.Others want 30 days,” Omar Ceesay member for Niamina East screamed.
But the Speaker who ignored all the queries went ahead to close proceedings and adjourned the sitting to Monday.
Meanwhile, the Justice Minister Abubacarr Tambadou clarified that the restriction of essential commodities was to protect Gambians at minimum from opportunists, who would hike prices of basic commodities that the citizenry will need to survive.
He said the measures taken by government will surely affect every sector of society.
“We have heard you for the 45 days. We will leave with that, but what we want is to buy time to stop the spread of this virus. If 45 days is going to be enough for us, we will take it. If it doesn’t when we get there, we will cross the bridge,” he said.
Minister Tambadou clarified that they were not proposing a lockdown, because they understood the competing interest between the need to prevent the pandemic from taking hold in the country and allowing people to live with minimal disruptions to their lives.
“That is why we are calling for this state of emergency to be extended. It will allow the government to put the restriction in the form of regulations, which in our views are the dearest minimum that the government can provide to protect the people from getting the pandemic,” he argued.