By Madi Jobarteh
If anyone understands the nature of a democratic republic one will not be in any doubt to realize that the destiny of the Republic lies primarily in the hands of the National Assembly. This is why the Constitution provides all the necessary powers and tools to the National Assembly in order to ensure the accountability of all organs of the State. It is the National Assembly that checks and disciplines the Executive, creates or amends the laws, and approves or disapproves appointments, budgets, agreements or loans. Hence the life of the country lies squarely in the hands of the National Assembly.
Therefore, if the Gambia, as a democratic republic fails there is none to blame other than the National Assembly. Similarly, if the Gambia succeeds there is none worthy of credit than the National Assembly. The health and strength of our democracy and governance hence national development lies squarely in the hands of the National Assembly. The destiny of our nation is intricately intertwined with the effectiveness of the National Assembly. This is the importance and value of the National Assembly that each and every NAM as well as each and every citizen has to understand and appreciate.
Yet, after 30 years of Jawara, 22 years of Jammeh and now 3 years of Barrow this country is still not on the right path? Why? Because the National Assembly and its Members have always refused to exercise their full powers to discipline the President and Ministers for violations of the Constitution, for misconduct and for poor performance! This is unacceptable.
For far too long the President and Ministers would openly violate the Constitution without National Assembly calling them to order. The NAMs can do this by passing a vote of no confidence or impeaching the President or by dismissing the Vice President or a Minister through a vote of censure. These powers are clearly spelt out in the Constitution. Without the use of these powers there will be no accountability hence these violations and under performance shall continue, which is impunity. The purpose of these powers and tools are to restrain the Executive to ensure that they abide by the rule of law and perform their functions efficiently and effectively.
If NAMs fail to use their full powers yet allow the Executive to continue to misconduct and underperform then we will be forced to conclude that indeed it is these very NAMs who are now aiding and abetting abuse of power by the President and his Vice President and Ministers.
The only time a vote of no confidence was passed on the President was either in the late 80s or early 90s by the leader of the opposition then NCP, the late Sheriff Dibba against the PPP Government. That is the kind of parliamentarians we need. It is not enough for NAMs to say the right things on the floor of the Assembly only to have the Executive have its way as they like. For the past three years, this Executive has had its way without any obstacles. After so much talk and delay on the floor of the National Assembly, in the end the Executive would have its way in full or at least by half. This does not help this country.
Our NAMs must bear in mind that every year this country increases tax and takes more loans and receives more grants yet all the time the people become poorer, while basic social services get more erratic and cost of living becomes more expensive.
The gap between the poor and the rich continues to widen more and more. This is unacceptable. The purpose of the Government is not to produce more poverty and misery, rather it is to produce more prosperity, more freedom and more happiness for citizens. The purpose of the National Assembly is to make this objective become attainable in our lifetime!
NAMs must bear in mind that public officials have mastered the practice of elite capture. They have perfected the art of going around the law and to circumvent accountability institutions and mechanisms just to plunder public wealth. They do this by creating wild rationalizations and false narratives that are intended to raise them above scrutiny. We have seen an example of that when last week the Minister of Finance attempted to hoodwink NAMs about the issue of virement just to dodge accountability. Hence the time has come for NAMs to employ their full powers to use the tools available to them in the Constitution to protect the national interest.
For example, if the Public Finance Act is in conflict with the Constitution or gives unlimited powers to the Finance Minister to play with public funds as he likes then what we expect is the NAMs to amend that law. NAMs got to be aware that these laws we have today were created or amended during the period of Dictatorship with the sole purpose of giving the Executive a freehand without any control to play with public funds. Hence NAMs must be prepared to identify those weak laws and change them ASAP! They must not only be complaining about them rather they must indeed change them, now. This is why they are National Assembly Members!