For twenty-two years went through suffering of various forms. We had no voice, we could not question anything government did on our behalf, our rights were violated almost on a daily basis. Our political rights did not exist as everything was centralized in the hands of one man and his small group of ‘enablers’. As a natural course, this reached a stage whereat we all saw that the time had come for us to stand up and change the government. Well, we did that, and peacefully.
Today, we have a National Assembly that questions, debates, seeks clarification from the executive and even rejects somethings if they feel it’s not right. This is why I said that I do not see the reason for folks making this such (the brouhaha at the House) a big issue. After all, this is what we fought for. We struggled so that we will have a say in our national affairs. If one studies what goes on in national assemblies in other countries, (Senegal, South Africa, England etc.) one will realize that the fracas between the Speaker and the National Assembly Member for Serekunda, Honourable Halifah Sallah is just the beginning; it is just a tip of the iceberg. That is to be expected.
In my measured opinion, both the Speaker and Mr Sallah overreacted and took the matter beyond what it was supposed to be. Mr Sallah, of course, has the right – no, the duty – to raise questions on issues of the loan, or any other issue, for that matter. But he overreacted to the statement of the Speaker which escalated the problem. The fact that he retracted his statement and apologized was a good thing though.
The Speaker lost her cool which is unexpected, but understandable in certain instances. The other National Assembly Members may be passionate, and sometimes even go out of line, if inadvertently, but the Speaker should be above all that. If she doesn’t, she won’t be able to control them and serve as the just and fair arbiter between them all. True, the laws give her the right to remove ‘any disruptive member’ from the house at a given time, but this must not be resorted to lightly. She must exercise restraint and control her emotions. Detachment. Her party allegiance, if she has any, should never surface during debates. She should try to be as neutral as possible. (Perhaps the law should in future say that we shall have a nonpartisan speaker? A national discourse in needed on this matter).
My opinion in all this; however, is that the person who should be blamed for this brouhaha is Mr Amadou Sanneh, the Minister of Finance and Economic Affairs. His statement that the MPs do not want the Telecommunication Sector to develop was out of line. The MPs are respectable representatives of the people thus the appellation ‘Honorable Member’. When a minister or anyone from the Executive speaks to them, s/he is speaking indirectly to the people who voted them into office. He could have expressed his frustrations in another way rather than accuse MPs of ‘not wanting development’. That was uncalled for.
This is not the first time that a minister of State in this new government has spoken out of line: the minister of Basic and Secondary Education, the minister of Health and Social Welfare, and the minister of Tourism. Mr President, you must tell your Cabinet Ministers to be more measured and cautious when they speak because the Gambia of yesterday is not the Gambia of today.
On this type of occurrence happening in the National Assembly, I think it only shows that our democracy is striding and that we expect more questions raised at the House. Important matters happen in the House and if our MPs are not raising questions and debating issues passionately, it means they are not doing their jobs well. The fact that they do is, in my opinion, a good thing.
It is a process, a journey which we have embarked on and will take along everything so as to reach where we want to be!
Have a Good Day Mr President…
Tha Scribbler Bah
A Concerned Citizen