If I remember my government class lessons from Nasir Ahmadiyya Muslim High School well enough, the colonialist curriculum we used taught us that our system of government is composed of three branches: the legislature (parliament), judiciary and executive. And since we are too comfortable to question anything the colonialists tell us, we obediently accepted their definition on how a government is supposed to be structured. Ergo, we claim that our government is made up of three branches, and all three branches play a significant role in the success or failure of the government as a whole. None of the three branches of government can effectively function without the cooperation of the other branches. But let’s focus on parliament, one of the branches that directly represents us, the people.
The word “parliament” is said to be derived from the French word“parle”, which means to “talk” or speak. As in, parliament is where the people’s representatives go to talk or speak on behalf of the people. Since we claim to have a representative democracy, we can safely say that our parliamentarians represent us and our interests. We’ve had this parliament since 2017, and it goes without saying that the coalition government cum Adama Barrow government, could not have done much of anything, good or bad, if this parliament didn’t somehow enable him. So if we think our government is failing us as a people, should we seek answers from all the branches of government or should we just focus on only one branch? If the other branches bear no responsibility in how terrible our roads are or how high data costs in The Gambia, then why do we have them? If we think that Barrow and executive are the ones responsible for all government failures or successes, then do we even need the other branches of government? What was the role of parliament in the failure of the Barrow government we are witnessing? Since our government is made up of three equal branches, should the ineptitude of one branch derail the ability of the other branches?
In government class, we were taught that while the major decisions are made in the executive branch, the judiciary and parliament are supposed to ensure that these decisions are not only lawful but importantly, that these executive decisions are in the best interest of the people. When the executive makes decisions that are inimical to the interest of the people, parliamentarians have a responsibility to stand against such a decision and refuse to support it. If the parliamentarians, through their inaction, allow the executive to subvert the people’s interest, then parliamentarians bear some responsibility in the mess and It will be disingenuous to blame the government, but somehow absolve our parliamentarians. They are part and parcel of the government and part of any failure especially where we have no record of their efforts to hold the executive accountable.
When people complain about the Barrow Government and its terrible track record, especially on corruption and mismanagement, the question should also be asked of everyone in parliament: What have you done about the mismanagement and corruption? What have you done for your people that sent you to represent them in parliament? How did you protect your people from the lack of accountability in the Barrow Government?You can’t be part of a government and somehow absolve yourself of all the failures of that government! What have you done to ensure the success of that government while in parliament? I know dictatorship conditioned us to helplessness but that still does not absolve our inaction today. At the very least, Mr Honorable, who have you summoned to address the chronic power shortage? Did you see Malagen’s investigative reports? What have you done about them? How about women dying in childbirth? It wasn’t long ago that my buddy was asked to buy gloves so his son can be delivered! Are we saying that our parliament cannot do anything about our challenges? If they can’t, perhaps they should return those lands and pickups given to them and we should turn the parliament building into a venue for Tanabirr. At least we will get some funds out of that I presume.
I think we focus too much on the executive and yes, while the buck ultimately stops with Barrow, his mismanagement does not necessarily absolve those who are charged with ensuring his actions do not hurt the people. So I ask again, what have our parliamentarians done for us in addressing the rot within the government which they are very much a part of? Our ancestors did say that “If you pick up one end of the stick you also pick up the other”.