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Saturday, September 24, 2022

Taking an oath before NA Committee is a constitutional requirement

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All citizens are required to respect and uphold the dignity of the National Assembly and its Members because they embody the collective will, power and sovereignty of the Gambia. This is why parliamentarians are called ‘honourable’ members simply because they are worthy of honour for being NAMs. This means each and every member of the National Assembly should also conduct himself and herself with dignity and honour, at all times.

In this regard, the President, Vice President and Cabinet Ministers should, beyond and above everyone else, respect and be seen to respect the National Assembly to which they are answerable according to the Constitution. Therefore, the refusal by the Minister of Works Ebrima Sillah to take an oath before a National Assembly Committee yesterday was gross misconduct that tantamount to contempt of the National Assembly as per Section 110 of the Constitution.

Minister Sillah should be reminded that both Section 109 of the Constitution and Section 101 of the Standing Orders of the National Assembly have given power to National Assembly Committees to administer an oath to anyone who appears before them.

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This is the language of both sections 109 of the Constitution and 101 of the Standing Orders,

“For the purpose of effectively performing, its functions, each of the committees shall have all of the powers, rights and privileges as are vested in the High Court at a trial in respect of-

1. enforcing the attendance of witnesses and examining them on oath, affirmation or otherwise;”.

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Furthermore, Section 103(7) of the Standing Orders went on to state that, “An oath or affirmation taken or made by any witness shall be administered by the Chairperson of the Committee, or by the Committee Clerk.”

It must be noted that anyone who appears before a National Assembly Committee for whatever reason, in whatever portfolio or capacity, such a person is a witness and therefore these relevant sections apply. Therefore Hon. Yaya Sanyang was completely right to request Minster Sillah to take an oath before his Committee.

It is therefore utterly concerning and totally disrespectful for a Cabinet Minister to ridicule and attack a National Assembly Member on the floor of a Committee session when the National Assembly is only seeking to enforce the law. This misbehavior perpetrated by Ebrima Sillah is setting a dangerous precedent that will make other Ministers as well as any citizen to also refuse to submit to the authority of the National Assembly. Such misconduct is therefore a direct threat to both the Constitution and the good governance of the country that must be nipped in the bud.

The Speaker should therefore, under Section 77(4) of the Constitution, summon Minister Ebrima Sillah before the full house of the National Assembly to reprimand him severely to apologize and henceforth exercise decorum and humility when in the National Assembly and sitting before NAMs otherwise face sanctions. National Assembly Members have powers under Section 75 of the Constitution to discipline or sack any Minister for violation of the Constitution, misconduct, or underperformance including for contempt of the National Assembly.

It is high time NAMs utilized their full powers and tools in the Constitution and the Standing Orders to discipline members of the Executive. The President and his Cabinet members should be individuals who always embody and manifest respect and humility simply because they hold public office. Public office is an honour because it is an opportunity to serve one’s people who pay you for that service anyway. Therefore, there is no space for arrogance and disrespect when you are holding public office.

Madi Jobarteh

Kembujeh  

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