By Aji Fatou Faal
Halifa Sallah, the National Assembly Member for Serekunda yesterday clashed with Speaker Mariam Denton who ordered him out of the House. When Sallah refused the Speaker’s order, she instructed the sergeant-at-arms to escort him out of the legislative chamber. The police officer went to where Halifa was seated to ask him to leave but he waved him to go and sit down. The hapless officer kept standing not knowing what to do. At that juncture, the majority of the Assembly members stood up to show solidarity with Mr Sallah, saying if he leaves they would go with him. The Speaker said the session would not proceed without her order being respected.
This is how the drama unfolded:
Finance Minister Amadou Sanneh: I am presenting this loan on the back of your rejection of a framework agreement between the government of the People’s Republic of China and The Gambia on this loan agreement. I am not sure that Members understand the consequences of this or what the loan implies for The Gambia. Let me come up with the motion for this broadband agreement network. You voted for reasons which I am not privy to but this broadband network is a loan that this government had entered into to uplift the IT sector in this the country….
Cabinet approved and we went into the negotiation. During our trip we signed this loan agreement. This is what will move the sector… I am surprised, I don’t know your reason but you don’t want to move The Gambia’s telecommunication sector forward. For what reason, you know better… We fought for this loan with conditions from the IMF and World Bank that the country cannot go for it but we said no this is a project that is a cross-cutting, has value for yourselves… You will answer to your own constituents.
Halifa: We all know that there should be decorum. The issue is about decorum in this National Assembly. We have not even voted for this yet he is trying to convince us to support the loan. I do not think anyone has said they will not endorse the loan that he is proposing but it seems that the minister is alleging that we have thrown out something and he is really making accusations, I do not think that is proper
Speaker: I am not aware of any accusation but….
Halifa: Hon Speaker, he is directly doing that… we are respectful of you
Speaker: And you are talking about decorum?
Halifa: That’s exactly…
Speaker: You are not behaving.
Halifa: You are not behaving yourself!
Speaker: Can you please order him out of this Assembly!
Halifa: Can you do that? You better behave. We are respecting you, can you respect yourself.
Minority leader Samba Jallow intervened and asked the Speaker to move a motion to suspend the House but the Speaker insisted that her order must be respected before she would address any other issue.
Halifa: Hon Speaker, I think as a woman we have given, and I in particular, have given you tremendous respect. You must bear that in mind. It is not in my character to demean. We wish to give you the respect that is due and consequently we want this House to move. We want to do our job. I spoke about decorum you said I am not showing it. Yes I have withdrawn my own statements and expressed my own apology. Could we now proceed?
There was applause and the sitting proceeded.