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Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Sillah clashes with NAM over refusal to take oath

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By Tabora Bojang

Tension erupted in the National Assembly yesterday as new works minister and UDP Latrikunda NAM exchanged barbed comments following the minister’s refusal to take an oath before the select committee on monitoring of government projects.

Ebrima Silla led a team of officials from institutions under his purview to brief deputies on the status of ongoing public projects, including OIC roads.

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In his address, Yaya Sanyang, who chairs the committee, reminded the officials that they will be required to take an oath before being allowed to address his committee, saying this is in line with the Standing Orders and the Constitution.

The minister however rejected this proposal and challenged the chairman to show him a section in the Standing Orders which stated that he should take an oath before being allowed to give a statement to the committee.

“I will not allow myself to come here to have a National Assembly member forced me to do something that is not constitutional,” the minister warned.

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Sillah argued that he has taken an oath when assuming office as minister which obliges him to be truthful at all times.

“My position is still very clear. I have taken an oath as a minister and when I appear before the National Assembly, I am obliged to speak the truth, so I am not going to take an oath,” Sillah charged.

NAM Sanyang, who was visibly aggrieved, replied: “Honourable Minister, you are not getting my point. I have said in my opening remarks that every head of institution who is going to address this committee should take an oath. You are not going to take an oath if you are not giving testimony but if you are going to talk here, you must take an oath and if you don’t take the oath, I will call the sergeant of arms [parliamentary officers] to come and drive you out of this building.”

But Minister Sillah angrily countered: “This guy has to check who he thinks he is! You can go ahead and call your sergeant to drag me out and let us see. You don’t have decorum and you are not mature. On what basis will I take an oath? Our role here is to help this committee exercise its oversight functions. The PS is an officer of the state who has taken an oath before his appointment takes effect, a minister so the same thing. So, you expect us to come here and take another oath just because we want to interact with the National Assembly. Show me the section in the Standing Orders that states this.”

These heated exchanges spawned a commotion, with some lawmakers and other officials coming between the two and consoling the minister.

A motion was swiftly advanced by one of the NAMs which saw proceedings pause to calm down the tension in the building.

As the minister and the officials made their way for the cooling break, the minister was heard angrily saying: “You think we are here for a joke? What are you telling us? We have worked all our lives, 40 years all over the world and you want to put doubts in us. Where do you see a minister appear before a committee giving them evidence to help them do their work and you want me to take an oath? Let me put him in his right place. He must have decorum. He must behave himself as a member of the National Assembly. And you cannot even give me proof of that oath. Do you know what you are talking about? You think this is social media?”

Chairman Sanyang, who was adamant, cited that the constitution provides the committee with all the powers, rights and privileges that are vested in the high court in respect of enforcing the attendance of witnesses, examine the witness to oath to affirmation or otherwise.

He insisted that the minister was summoned to appear as a witnesses and give a statement on the status of projects under his ministry.

“You are not summoned here to appear as a minister of the state but as a witness,” Sanyang charged.

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