Ministers must attend adjournment debates
The theory of separation of powers in a democracy is for there to be checks and balances. The three arms of government; the Executive, the Judiciary and the Legislature are supposed to hold each other to account. This is to ensure that no arm of government has unlimited power to abuse the power that they have. This is quite important and must be taken seriously. The National Assembly Members are supposed to ask questions which concern them, their constituencies and indeed the whole nation.
This can only be done if the relevant ministers are available to answer questions and shed light on issues which have to do with their ministries.
It has become common that some ministers will not attend these debates but would rather assign colleague ministers to step in for them. Obviously, this can be acceptable only on special occasions when the concerned minister has something very urgent to attend to and will not be able to be in the House. This past adjournment sitting was attended by only the minister of Justice and that of Energy.
Hon. Sidia Jatta of Wuli East raised this concern and vowed never to speak about any issue if the minister responsible is not available. This is understandable as, if the minister is not present whatever is said is likely to be just repeating formulas and the purpose of the debate is defeated. Whichever minister is deputizing for an absent one has his own things to take care of and may not be able to answer all questions posed by the members at the time. This is why five questions were posed in a sitting and only one of them could be answered.
The adjournment debates happen three times in the year. Deputies have fifteen minutes each to ask questions, raise concerns and seek clarity from the line ministers. Naturally, having the schedule of the sittings should enable ministers plan their schedule in such a way that they will not necessarily miss the sittings. It is of extreme importance for them to submit themselves to the National Assembly Members to answer their questions.
We voted for a change, not only of government, but of the system as well. Ministers must understand that they have a duty to the nation, a duty that they must hold sacred. The National Assembly Members are the representatives of the people and have been mandated by the Constitution, among other things, to hold the Executive to account. Thus, the Executive arm of government must cooperate with them so that we can rebuild our country. The disregard of procedure of the previous government which all but crippled our economy must not be repeated by this one. Let us fulfil our duties and responsibilities.
From disability to inclusion as a human right
By way of introduction, my name is Karamo Kebba Keita, a retired civil servant of the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare after working as a Prosthetic/Orthotic Technician at the Department of Social Welfare in 2005. Working as the first Gambian in that capacity and heading the disability unit which I started in December 1975 after completing an Orthopaedic technician course (Diploma) with the All Africa Leprosy Secretariat in Freetown, Sierra Leone.
My first days of work in that position took me to Mansakonko Health Centre with the Leprosy/TB program primarily to work for the rehabilitation of leprosy patients. The unit was gradually developed when it was later moved to the Royal Victoria Hospital in 1981 as a policy decision that the unit cannot function without a hospital to maximise its potentials.
At the RVH, new cases started emerging as the demand for our services increased with time to address new challenges from the Surgical, Medical and Paediatric units of the hospital. Access to these services was also very demanding from other nationals of the Sub-region where such services were paid for. The inter unit and sector collaboration to serve the needy was a way of learning issues confronting Persons with Disabilities and how to appropriately respond to their individual concerns for inclusion. These demands include how school children with daily challenges of exclusion can be included thus paving way for a working relationship with the Special Needs Education Unit of the Ministry of Basic and Secondary Education.
Serving people from all walks of life with disability was challenging, especially where a very few will be concern with the diverse nature of a hospital setting. For many within RVH it was comparing budget allocation for essential hospital services against the provision of mere wheelchairs, artificial limbs and other rehabilitation services for a very few as the national disability prevalence rate was low although there were no reliable data on the scope.
My perception of disability was rehabilitation focus and the rest of all was for the service recipients to address their own ways for inclusion. This did not change until recently when I started looking at the bigger picture of disability as a developmental issue. Working in development made it possible for me to look at people’s needs holistically; I am convinced that there is a need to have a society for all since we cannot build a Community for Persons with Disabilities. The answer to these concerns will be an Inclusive Society for All.
Disability inclusion is globally considered as a developmental term for Persons with Disabilities although some key stakeholders are struggling to interchangeably use some words in disability. In my approach, I will focus mainly on Standards International definitions and terms not to hang myself with definitions that are more individual our group generated.
In my next publication, I will try to give definitions on basic concepts in disability related issues and their sources for readers in a bid to bring all to the same level of understanding.
Karamo K. Keita
Disability Rehabilitation Practitioner