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New Ecowas parliamentarians defy court order

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By Tabora Bojang

Lamin J Darbo, lawyer representing three National Assembly Members who filed a lawsuit at the Banjul High Court against the Clerk of the National Assembly and the Attorney General for “illegally” removing them from the Ecowas Parliament, has hinted that the Clerk may be summoned and contempt proceedings preferred against him for failing to comply with a court order halting the removal of his clients from the regional parliament.
Counsel Darbo also expressed “extreme disappointment” with majority leader of the National Assembly Bilay Tunkara who was among lawmakers inaugurated at the Ecowas Parliament in Nigeria yesterday, for saying “no injunction can stop them” from being sworn in.
Lawmakers Fatoumata ‘Touma’ Njai, Kebba Barrow and Samba Jallow, all in their second terms in the National Assembly, filed a motion for the high court to issue an interim order restraining the clerk and the attorney general from removing them from their positions in the Ecowas Parliament pending the determination of a motion on notice they filed for the court to declare their removal “unconstitutional, null and void”.
High Court judge Justice Jallow-Sey made a ruling Wednesday restraining the clerk and the AG from removing the three lawmakers. However, members selected to replace them Alagie S Darboe of Brikama North, nominated member Maimuna Ceesay-Darboe, Amadou Camara of Nianija, Sheriff Sarr of Jeshwang and majority leader and member for Kantora Bilay Tunkara were sworn in yesterday in Abuja, Nigeria.
Contacted by The Standard for reaction to the development, Counsel Darbo stated: “When you are given a court order whether you are a National Assembly or a person, the rule of law requires that you respect the decision of the court until further development. But they [the National Assembly] were served [with an interim order] and they refused to do anything. In fact, the majority leader [Tunkara] says somewhere that the applicants should try harder because no injunction can stop them. This is a disappointing statement. You cannot say we are not complying or we have no intention of complying. A responsible leader will say we will comply and resolve the matter in court. That is the best point to approach the matter but he cannot talk like that. It is wrong and extremely disappointing to come from a majority leader of the National Assembly of The Gambia.”
Darbo continued: “Right now there is a restraining order and I think responsible political leadership, in this case the National Assembly, should stop the Gambian delegation [at Ecowas] from being sworn in because that shows preference and respect to the judiciary as a co-equal branch of The Gambia Government. That is how you act in civility and decorum as a responsible political leader until the matter is finally resolved. They are in violation of court order and we can take the Clerk of the National Assembly before the court for contempt because he was served with the court order.”
He said the case will be heard today where the first and second respondents, the clerk and the attorney general, will have the opportunity to respond to the motion served to them for the judge to decide.

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