By Momodou Darboe & Mafugi Ceesay
The Local Government Amendment Bill 2020 has been referred to the National Assembly Business Committee.
The Speaker of the National Assembly Tuesday paved the way for a parliamentary debate on the merits and otherwise of the Local Government Amendment Bill after a stiff resistance from some opposition law-makers to that effect.
The amendment bill was privately sponsored by the parliamentary representative for Lower Baddibu constituency, Alhagie Jawara, on July 2nd but it generated an acrimonious debate yesterday when parliament could not find a common ground as whether to subject it to a debate or not.
Speaker Mariam Denton however ruled that the parliament proceed to dissect it.
Supporters of the bill took turns to argue that it would empower local governments through enhanced service delivery, autonomy, accountability among others.
Nominated Member Majanko Samusa argued that the discussion over the amendment bill should not protract even for an hour and accused its opponents of double-standards and devoid of faith.
Majanko reminded deputies of the previous amendment, regarding age-limit (vice president) that was ‘unanimously’ okayed by the Parliament.
For Nominated Member Samusa, this smacks of hypocrisy, self-centredness, parochial partisan interest and lack of faith.
“It is a political suicide to say no to the bill because councillors are the grassroots. Rejecting this bill will cost you your political life. It is a big shame for anybody who voted for the independence of National Assembly Members to reject this bill,” he vociferously argued.
To Kaddy Camara of Foni Bondali, the attempt to block the passage of the bill by some parliamentarians is a vindication of the former ruling APRC party because, according to her, Jammeh had been vilified for ushering in bad laws to disempower local authorities.
The sponsor of the private member bill, Alhagie Jawara, said The Gambia must enjoy good governance and that the country must go forward. The bill, he argued, seeks to grant independence to area councillors and chairpersons from their political parties, ensure that sets of duties are dictated by conscience not for political reason among others.
Nominated member Ndey Yasin Secka said collective national interest should override partisan interest, wondering how parliamentarians could pass a bill to shield themselves and not a bill to protect local authorities and their electorate.
“I will say there is regime change and no system change since we are still advocating for party interest and not the country’s laws,” she maintained.
The member for Serekunda, Halifa Sallah, pointed out that laws that make elected representatives lose their positions after being sacked from their parties undermine their independence.
But in his contribution to the debate, Madi Ceesay of Serekunda West maintained that politicians would always owe allegiance and loyalty to their parties and wondered why Majanko Samusa should brand the opponents of the amendment infidels.
“We are all here for the interest of our people. So, voting against this bill does not make anybody Kafir. Politics is not religion. We cannot take pride by saying that by voting for this amendment, we are empowering our people,” he further maintained.
Another opponent of the bill, Nominated Member Ya-Kumba Jaiteh asserted that the amendment bill has been triggered by UDP’s decision to remove BAC Chairman Sheriffo Sonko from its membership roll.
See our subsequent publications for more on the NA July 6 sittings.