By Tabora Bojang
The speaker of the National Assembly Thursday refused to entertain a question from Latrikunda Sabiji NAM Yaya ‘Menteng’ Sanyang, who wanted Interior Minister Seyaka Sonko to name the person who gave orders for the police to release an NPP woman who was under police custody after being accused of releasing an audio disparaging the Jola tribe.
The woman, who was identified as Fanta Jawara, a resident of Latrikunda Piccadilly, was reportedly held at the Bundung Station last month after she was heard on audio that went viral warning against the election of a Jola in KM.
The audio was released a few weeks before the local government election, which was highly contested between the ruling NPP and its nemesis, the UDP.
Supporters of the opposition believed the woman disguised herself as one of them in order to turn Jolas against the party and thereby ensure they vote for an NPP candidate in KM.
Ms Jawara was later detained but released by the police without being charged.
Following her release, UDP Latrikunda lawmaker Sanyang, who reported the matter to the police to end what he calls a ‘barrage of political mudslinging’ that has become common in Gambian politics, took to his Facebook page to express displeasure over the police’s inaction.
When Interior Minister Sonko appeared before lawmakers Thursday to respond to queries on the failure of the police to bring down organised criminals engaged in cattle theft in URR, the dissatisfied lawmaker Sanyang renewed his call for justice and challenged the interior minister to clarify.
NAM Sanyang claimed that while at the Bundung Police Station, an instruction came from “the top”, and he heard a voice instructing the station officer to release [Fanta Jawara] or face the consequences.
“Honorable Minister, was that voice you or the Inspector General of Police, IGP?” Sanyang strenuously asked However, his question was met with instant laughter from fellow NAMs, the speaker, and the minister, with others appearing to heckle.
In response, the speaker ruled that the question was a ‘million miles’ away from the Standing Orders of the National Assembly, but he did not provide any specific provisions to back his ruling.
As the laughter continued on the floor, Speaker Jatta asked Minister Sonko if he was comfortable answering the question, but the minister was seemingly in denial of the whole episode sparking more disruptions. But before the minister even responds, Speaker Jatta rules: “Honorable member, to be honest with you, your question is too personal and is out of the whole fabric of the questions and the response of the minister.”
No adjournment debates
For the first time, the current parliament also declined the opportunity to address salient national issues after voting in favour of a motion to close current sessions [sine die] without debate.
The motion was moved by independent Banjul South NAM Fatoumatta Njai (Touma), who claimed everything that members were to debate was basically deliberated through SONA and subsequent ministerial answers to oral questions.
“We all know that parliament work can never be exhausted, and we have had a very extensive session with the State of the Nation Address (SONA), where everything was basically debated, and yesterday’s session when ministers addressed their various departments. I want to move a motion that we adjourn without debate,” Njie submitted, with her motion seconded by Nianija lawmaker Amadou Camara.
However, the member for Central Baddibu, Sulayman Saho, who wanted a debate before adjournment, attempted a counter motion, which was unsuccessful and ensued disruption among members.
The speaker then moved and put the motion to a vote, which saw 20 NAMs vote in favour of adjourning without debate with 12 voting against it.
It is the first time under the 6th Legislature that members refused to conduct debate in line with parliamentary laws.
The adjournment debate gives NAMs opportunities to discuss and draw the government’s attention to issues affecting their constituencies and other national issues.