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Opposition warns against politicisation of state of nation address

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By Tabora Bojang

Opposition parliamentarians have warned that they would not accept the politicisation of today’s state of the nation address by President Barrow.

This followed what they called attempts by NPP and APRC elements to politicise the event by holding meetings at the National Assembly which they said is unlawful. A source said the opposition could even walk out if people turn up at the Assembly in party colours.

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Sulayman Saho, the NAM for Central Baddibu criticised the Speaker Fabakary Tombong Jatta who is also the leader of the APRC for allowing NPP and APRC supporters hold meetings in the Assembly Monday in preparations for President Adama Barrow’s state of the nation address.

According to Saho, who is the opposition whip of the Assembly, former KM mayor and APRC executive member Yankuba Colley, led a team of women groups and supporters of the president to visit the National Assembly and convened meetings with their allies in one of the committee rooms.

“This is a violation of the Assembly’s ethics. Yankuba Colley is not a NAM. Why would he be allowed to lead a group of Yaay Compins to hold a political meeting in the National Assembly? Yes, party members are allowed to hold caucus meetings but those meetings can only be attended by party National Assembly Members not the Yaay Compins or Yankuba Colley. We saw a good number of women and they were given one of the committee rooms to hold their meeting. We [opposition NAMs] want to warn the Speaker to ensure that such a thing never happens in the Assembly. It never has happened under Mariam Jack Denton as the Speaker. So, we are warning him to talk to his party militants not to use our parliament as a forum of political gymnastics or entertainment. If he continues such it would be very difficult for him to govern the parliament because all of us belong to different political parties,” Saho warned.

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He said even though members of parliament are political representatives, political activities must not be entertained in the Assembly.

“We have our [political] bureaus let us do our political activities in our bureaus but not in the parliament. The State of the Nation Address is a national matter and not a political jamboree. If that happens it will defeat the purpose and we are not going to accept it,” he added.

Saho said he and other members met the Clerk of the National Assembly over the matter, who said he was not aware but promised that his office or staff will never be used as political tools.

The Standard sought reactions from the Clerk of the National Assembly Momodou Cise through telephone calls and a visit to his office but declined to comment on the matter.

The Majority Leader Billay G Tunkara denied any knowledge of such a meeting, saying he is not part of the organising committee for the SONA. He promised to investigate and get back to us.

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