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Deputy Speaker says former presidents bill will end impunity

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By Omar Bah

The Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly, Seedy Njie, has said the Former Presidents’ Bill which was passed on Monday will discourage impunity in The Gambia.

The controversial law was passed with the majority of the opposition members walking out.

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The bill would establish an office of former president, which shall exist during the lifetime of the former president from the date of his or her ceasing to be president.

A few days before the bill was passed, political and human rights activist Pa Samba Jow said the bill would encourage impunity in The Gambia.

But according to Seedy Njie, in his contribution during the consideration of the bill, the new law will discourage sitting presidents from amassing ill-gotten wealth or fearing to leave office.

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“The NAMs that passed the bill will go down in history for deciding to entrench democracy and encourage the rule of law because this bill will ensure that holders of the Office of the President will no longer fear, among other things, that once they leave office, they will become destitute, beggars, and their living conditions will become unbearable,” he said.

He said the bill will also ensure that sitting presidents serve the country with distinction and honor.

“It will ensure that leaders will not fear that once they leave office, they will be left alone to manage to put food on the table. All these things contribute to teach leaders how to manage the affairs of the state as well as prepare and make them not to believe that the Office of the President is a personal entitlement that they could hold on to for eternity,” Seedy Njie added.

He said the bill is not drafted to benefit one individual, but any Gambian who has the opportunity to become president. He argued that all government officials, including members of the National Assembly and judiciary benefit from the state when they retire.

“We are not doing this for the president, and that is why, as responsible members of the National Assembly or responsible officers of the state, whatever appointment we hold, we must discharge our duties to the best of our ability and serve with diligence for the interest of the country,” he said.

Commenting on the opposition walking out, Njie said NAMs should at all times put matters of national interest before partisan, regional, or personal interest.

“We are either elected or nominated to serve the Gambian people; we are given that chance to speak for others because you cannot bring the whole Gambia into this building to discuss issues. When I had intelligence that the UDP NAMs would walk out of the sittings, I said no, they would not walk out, but my informant told me they would walk out because they didn’t want this government to take credit for these bills. Imagine that we are discussing and considering an issue that would end impunity in this country, and you decided to walk out,” he asked.

He said all countries around the world have created incentives for their former presidents.

Seedy Njie said the bill benefits former presidents who served with good track records.

“The current president wants to ensure that every future Gambian president will be in a hurry to leave office because of the benefits that are put in place for a former president,” Njie concluded.

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