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Saturday, July 13, 2024

Judicial officers remuneration bill rejected

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By Omar Bah

The controversial judicial officers remuneration bill was yesterday thrown out by members of the National Assembly who voted 21 against 18 to ditch it.

Last week, the government tabled a bill seeking to make provisions for the enhancement of the salaries, allowances, and pension entitlements of judicial officers. It also seeks to regulate the conditions of service of judges of the superior court and judicial staff.

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The bill, which was tabled yesterday for a second reading, generated public debate and anger, with many observers saying that “following the executive and legislature, it is now the turn of the judiciary to rip Gambians off their hard-earned tax money”.

Moving a motion for the bill’s second reading yesterday, Minister Jallow said the bill has been tabled pursuance to Section 142 of the 1997 Constitution, which states that a judge of a superior court shall be entitled to such salary, allowances, and, on retirement, such gratuity and pension as may be prescribed by an Act of the National Assembly.

“This is similar to that of the National Assembly, which is provided for under Section 95, which says remuneration and allowances of National Assembly Members, the Speaker, deputy Speaker, and other members of the Assembly shall receive remuneration and benefits, including retirement benefits, as an Act of the National Assembly. So, honorable Speaker, when the constitution came into being in 1997, the Assembly passed the Act to provide for their conditions of service,” he said.

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He said the judiciary does not still have its own Act of National Assembly like the parliament and the executive.

“So, the judiciary is the only organ of state that does not have an Act of Parliament to determine their condition of service,” he said.

“The judiciary plays a very pivotal role in administering justice and maintaining the rule of law and is a critical player in the realms of democracy and constitutional development,” he said.

He said the judiciary has a key role as one of the three pillars of state components, and that is what necessitated the need for the bill.

NAMs’ reaction

Responding to the bill, the National Assembly Member for Banjul North, Lamin Bah, tensely said, “I am not going to support this bill. Period.”

A handful of NAMs initially called for the bill to be referred to a committee for further scrutiny, but the NAM for Foni Bintang Bakary K Badjie said referring the bill to a committee will insinuate that “we have an intention of passing it”.

“We are not going to accept this bill. We are here to defend the interests of every Gambian. How many times have I stood here and complained about the poor remuneration of teachers? What has been done about it? Scammers can scam, but it cannot be from the National Assembly. Who said a retired judge could not be employed? You can be a farmer or a fisherman. If you are talking about a democratic country, we are talking about a country that defends the interests of its people,” he said.

The NAM for Lower Fulladu West Gibbi Jallow, described the bill as an economic coup.

“This bill should die here because it is not in the interest of the country or its people. These people (judges) are not better than the teachers or other Gambians who are receiving small salaries in other sectors,” he argued. At the end of the session last night, 21 NAMs voted for the bill to be ditch against 18 who supported it.

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