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Monday, October 2, 2023

Gambian parliament is under threat

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Sheriffo Sonko, a prominent political activist and youth supporter of the opposition UDP, has warned that the current legislature is at risk under Speaker  Fabakary Tombong Jatta and his deputy Seedy Njie.

In a write-up shared with The Standard after Wednesday’s altercation between the Speaker and NAM Touma Njai, Sonko said carefully digesting developments in the assembly from the SONA to the extraordinary session on the AKI outbreak, made him lose confidence in the sixth legislature. “The power being usurped by the Speaker is limiting the functions of some members. The inexperience of some members on subject matters of discussion and ignorance of the powers of the democratically elected representatives is hampering them from effectively raising and pushing forward their interest in the national Bantaba,” Sonko said.

He further observed that a few members have a good understanding of the subject matter during SONA. “Because of these lapses, the Speaker is exercises his experience and understanding of dictatorial clauses that he mastered as the author of the 1997 constitution to silence or control the members during sittings. I am urging assembly members to engage in research more and follow parliamentary proceedings in countries like Senegal, South Africa, Ghana, Nigerian among others. The Speaker has no excessive powers other than a mere chairman with no voting right,” he said.

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He accused Speaker Jatta of intimidating  elected members  with threats of expulsion which is impeding the less experienced ones from  expressing their opinions. “This act should not be allowed by members. They should not be controlled by a person who is nominated. They are the ones elected by the citizens to represent them and discuss on the welfare of their constituencies,” he said.

He said what is more disappointing is that some members are wasting the taxpayers’ money by  limiting themselves  to praising the president for personal recognition, forgetting that their responsibility  is to hold him accountable.

 Sonko alleged that even the question-and-answer sessions with ministers are often interrupted by ‘Dictator Speaker’ Jatta who is part of the key drafters of the dictatorial laws that still remain as the Gambia’s constitution.

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“The minority caucus lacks unity because some of them are wolves in sheep’s clothing. Finally, I cannot but wonder how some members could fail to stand for the country instead of pandering to powers at time when the population lost 70 young souls to government negligence and incompetence,” Mr Sonko concluded.

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