The remarks were made last week at the National Assembly where the lawmakers took part in a five-day capacity building programme being delivered by Dr Rasheed Draman of Africa Centre for Parliamentary Affairs (ACPA).
Among the lawmakers who faulted the public over the unreasonable demands include the deputy speaker of the National Assembly, Fatou Mbye and Lamin Jadama, National Assembly member for Niamina West.
Hon Fatou Mbye said: “The MPs [National Assembly members] in The Gambia do have a different challenge different from involving themselves in the development processes. People’s expectations are unreasonable and the demands are usually very high. They [the people] expect you to deep into your purse to satisfy their food bills, educational bills- I mean, that is another problem- that is another reason why some of them run away from their consequences. We don’t have it! Even as nominated members, we suffer much more than the elected ones.”
In support of the deputy speaker’s argument, Hon Lamin Jadama, member for Niamina West, said: “I think it is being said very well by the deputy speaker, the challenge here for me is mainly about two things; misconceptions about the core functions of parliamentarians and the effectiveness of parliament as an institution. I think when we deal with these two problems, we will solve all these problems because when one says vote for me and I will solve the constituency’s problems, the misconception is that you can only solve their problems from your own pocket but not through your parliamentary functions. And you do contribute to their welfare and development as a parliamentarian through their representation by the nature of your roles and responsibilities. I think the parliament needs to be more effective regarding our core functions and the electorate needs to be more aware of the functions of a National Assembly member and as members find it difficult to explain our functions to the electorate- so may be, the media and the civil society organisations should help in this regard.”
Also supporting the argument, nominated member Hon Seedy Njie said it was also the result of the public’s misunderstanding of their work that they are called a ‘rubber stamp’ National Assembly.
Hon Njie and other national assembly members called for a nationwide civil education programme on the roles of parliamentarians in a bid to dispel the misconceptions.
Dr Rasheed Draman, while responding to the arguments of the lawmakers commented: “I agree that such expectations as receiving gifts from you national assembly members and others are not one of your functions but as parliamentarians, you have to also make sure that you don’t promise your people some of these things on your campaign trail. In Ghana, we have an institution called the National Civil Education Council and that is the job of that institution to educate the citizens on the role of public and elected officials and what they should expect from them. So the parliament has to equip that department as you have it here to educate the public about your roles.”]]>