Gambia: Minority leader sponsors bill to repeal law used by ex-dictator to control Parliament

Samba Jallow, the minority leader of the National Assembly, has sponsored a bill that aims at repealing a law introduced by former president Yahya Jammeh to control the lawmaking body.

The law, which was very controversial at its tabling, was enacted in the early 2000s by the APRC-controlled National Assembly designed to prohibit cross-carpeting by lawmakers.

“I want to change the law because it places a restriction on our freedom. We want to serve the supreme national interest but this law has made that impossible. Because of it, one has to follow the party line or lose your seat,” the NRP lawmaker for Niamina Dankunku said.

The Section 91 (d) was for Jammeh an internal control mechanism that he used to control the lawmakers of his party.

The law gives party leaders and members the power to fire a lawmaker by just expelling them from their party, thus compromising their loyalty to the interest of the electorates.

The section states that a “member of the National Assembly shall vacate his or her seat in the National Assembly if he or she ceases to be a member of the political party of which he or she was a member at the time of his or her election”

Jallow wishes to amend the section to state that a “member of the National Assembly shall vacate his or her seat in the National Assembly if he or she, by the notice under his or her hand to the Speaker, voluntarily joins another political party from the party which he or she was a member at the time of his or her decision”.

With this amendment, expulsion from a party can’t make an individual lose a seat, except if one makes a conscious decision to resign voluntarily.

Though it remains unexplained by the bill if an expelled member from the lawmaking body will automatically become an independent since the person still has the mandate of the electorates.

Thanks to Section 91 (d), Jammeh could fire anyone from the National Assembly by firing him or her from his APRC party.

Several people have been victimized by the statute including APRC’s Cherno Cham, Borry Colley and more recently Pa Malick Ceesay who now works with National Reconciliation Party.

Other top politicians in Gambian politics who have fallen victim of the law includes Sedia Jatta, Halifa Sallah, and Hamat Bah after the registration of the defunct coalition NADD party in 2005.

The political parties that formed the NADD have had their members automatically expelled from the National Assembly.

“The objects and reasons of the Bill is to grant independence to National Assembly members from their respective parties and political leaders, and to further enhance the freedom of speech and debate as enshrined under section 113 of the Constitution,” Jallow stated in the objectives of the bill.

“The Bill also seeks to ensure that members’ duties and functions are influenced by the supreme national interest and the dictates of conscience and not by their individual political party interest or leaders.”

The time for the tabling of the bill is yet to be declared.

Jammeh was defeated in an election last year after opposition parties united to form a coalition to kick him out of power. Jammeh is now in exile in Equatorial Guinea and his party lost its majority stake in Parliament.

The United Democratic Party won an absolute majority in April’s legislative elections, a much-needed backing for new President Adama Barrow to pass most of his bills supporting his administration’s policies.

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