By Samsudeen Sarr
Can some one or a dear friend be kind enough to help me make a sense of how the Gambia National Assembly (NA) conducts business? You see, 45 days ago the Justice Minister Hon. Baa Tambadou came to the NA seeking a 90 days approval on the declaration and implementation of a state of emergency. After a protracted debate, fair enough, the NAMs decided to reduce the days to 45.
On Friday Tambadou again returned asking for an extension of another 45 days which failed to pass this time. Moreover, attempts to reduce it to a proposed 21 days was arbitrated unconstitutional, when Hon Halifa Sallah referred to a section that required the minister to withdraw the initial 45 days application first and then reapply for the reduced period-apparently, 21 days-before the matter could be discussed and voted on. Probably, I missed that protocol during the first session where everything about reducing the 90 days to 45 days went smoothly; but frankly speaking, I can’t remember anything about how that was conducted; but assuming that the ritual was observed, how couldn’t the NAMs and even the speaker who were exploring the reduction of the 45 days to 21 days remember the protocol, until Hon. Halifa Sallah reminded them of it by reading the relevant section of that statute? Was it about poor memory or what?
However, if the protocol was not observed and the initial 90 days reduced to 45 days approved without any problem, why should Mr. Sallah, this time around, insist on respecting the rite before tabling the motion to reduced the period from 45 to 21 days?
Going back and forth on the intricacies of the constitution to pass simple but critical motions like this is increasingly becoming a reckless theatrical feat.
I wouldn’t blame the minister if he refused to return especially after his passionate appeal seemed to have all fallen on deaf ears. In one of my articles on the subject where I queried about the significance of 45 days, 90 day or 100 days, I crystallized my expectation to terminate the exercise if the situation improved even at day 10. Now guess what?
Hon. Halifa Sallah on Saturday, May 16 2020, uncovered the constitutional provision tailored to call off a state of emergency by the NA, whenever the situation that warrants it improves or changes for the better. With that in mind, why waste time and energy on debating whether a particular number of days is preferable to another? Why not just declare it for 10, 45, 90 or even 100 days and lift it whenever the situation changes or improves even after day one, using the provision that authorizes it?
Don’t get me wrong, I have no dog in the fight to blame the NAMs for overwhelmingly rejecting the minister’s 45 days extension request.
Obviously, the last time I checked, enforcing the first declaration was a dismal washout with government officials expected to show better examples of the seriousness of the pandemic, flouting all the preventive rules. Indeed, most Gambians behave and talk about COVID-19 as if it doesn’t even exist within our borders.
Hence, I also have solemn doubts in the seriousness of the government to effectively discharge their commitments. Serious nations all over the world are using their national security forces for better results. But in the Gambia I now find it hard to understand who is in charge of our national security obligations. Not the Commander-in-Chief, anyway.