By Omar Bah
In a historic decision last week, National Assembly Members vetted and rejected Babucarr Suwareh’s nomination as Ombudsman of The Gambia.
Suwareh was nominated by President Adama Barrow in consultation with the Public Service Commission. His nomination was put before lawmakers on 18 December who then passed it to their Public Appointment Committee for scrutiny. The Committee, which is chaired by Samba Jallow concluded that Suwareh doesn’t meet the requirements for the job.
Majority of lawmakers agreed to the committee’s recommendations which were handed to Vice President Isatou Touray, who was present during the session.
Samba Jallow, the NAM for Niamina Dankunku said though the laws said an ombudsman must have substantive administrative and professional qualifications, any appointment to the role must consider a person’s knowledge in law and investigations.
“The entire work of the Ombudsman deals with investigation and complaints; it deals with legal work. That is why we think a person who should be appointed as an ombudsman should have a legal mind. That is common sense. This is not about rejecting for the sake of it. We want the President to nominate the right person,” he added.
The Member for Wuli East Suwabou Touray also supported the disapproval of Suwareh’s nomination.
“We should pick somebody who will do justice to the position. What we actually need is a trained judge, magistrate or legal practitioner. The person’s independence and impartiality should not be questioned and the person should be able to follow due process,” he added.
He said an ombudsman should be somebody who will speak truth to power. “We should stop putting people in positions they are not trained for,” he added.
In his contribution, the NAM for Jarra East Sainey Touray said the provision which talks about the appointment of the ombudsman clearly states that the person should be well versed with a proven record of administration with no political affiliation.
“Gambia is a global village, we all know each other. It doesn’t require much intelligence to know whether someone is apolitical. This position is calling for someone who is 100% non political or someone who will not display his political allegiance in public. It doesn’t call for people who will pose themselves as poster boys or girls for the President,” he added.
He said the Presidency put the cart before the horse in Suwareh’s appointment.
Sidia Jata, Member for Wuli West said the committee should be applauded for the good work they have done.
However, the veteran politician said section 164 (2) says the person to exercise the role of ombudsman should have substantial administrative experience but not legal.
“There is nothing legal here. Legality is not a requirement to be an ombudsman; you only need to have substantial administrative experience or professional and I consider Suwareh as a professional. So those are not the issues that disqualified him but there are many issues. The Office of the Ombudsman is very critical and a person running that office should not be tainted with any parochialism, caught up in any social web or owe any obligations to anybody,” he said.