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City of Banjul
Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Amending Local Gov’t Act: what is good for the goose is good for the gander

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The first major reform by the National Assembly members when they took over in 2017 was to amend a portion of the Local Government Act, which the former president Yahya Jammeh tactically used to remove sitting National Assembly members.

That section of the Act obliges elected parliamentarians to automatically lose their seat if they cease to be members of the parties which sponsored them. It was a common practice of the former regime to expel elected lawmakers who would eventually lose their seats. It is as if the new National Assembly members knew what would happen as the UDP has already sacked 8 of them who, without the amendment of that law, would have lost their seats automatically.

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Yesterday, the same National Assembly members involved in heated debate over a bill which seeks to prevent councillors and chairs too from losing their elective positions when they are expelled from their parties that sponsored them.

The bill, like section 91(1)(d) of the constitution, “seeks to grant independence to the members of the Area Councils from their respective parties and political leaders, and to further enhance the system of local governance, autonomy, freedom of speech and debate in accordance with section 193 of the 1997 Constitution”.

The objective of the bill is to ensure that council members’ sense of duty, functions and actions are influenced by the supreme national and community interest, and dictates of conscience, and not by their individual political interest or party leaders.

Apparently, most of the lawmakers across all political parties accepted the bill bar the UDP NAMs. This is not surprising at all as the UDP wrestles to remove Sheriffo Sonko as chairman of Brikama Area Council after he lost favour with the party which accuses him of decamping to president Barrow’s NPP.

Since the National Assembly members enjoyed the amendment in 2018, The Standard urges them to do the same for the councillors and chairpersons so that no elected member owes allegiance to any party but to the electorate who voted them in. No party should have the power to remove any elected representative. Only the electorate should have that. It is the moral responsibility of the House to make sure we don’t go into the Third Republic with any bad or discriminatory law.

Besides, what is good for the goose is good for the gander.

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