“You have no qualifications to be Speaker” Busumbala NAM Berates Speaker Jatta
By Arret Jatta and Yusef Taylor
During the adjournment debate of the First Ordinary Session of the 2023 Legislative Year, held on 30th March 2023, the Member for Busumbala Constituency, Hon Muhammed Kanteh berated the Speaker of the Sixth Legislature, Hon Fabakary Tombong Jatta, who he says “has no qualifications to obtain” the position of Speaker.
Instead, Hon Kanteh noted that Speaker Jatta’s “only qualification — is [a] PTC” and was rewarded with the Speaker position after he masterminded “forming an alliance with the ruling party,” National People’s Party (NPP).
Hon Kanteh and Hon Jatta have been at loggerheads since the Sixth Legislature was sworn in April 2022. This has been captured in a number of instances with the most recent one coming in the same First Ordinary Session where Speaker Jatta ejected the Independent Representative from the Assembly Chambers.
Speaker Jatta Reads Marching Orders
It all started the previous day when Hon Kanteh and Speaker Jatta locked horns after the Speaker ruled out Hon Kanteh’s question which he deemed substantial. Hon Kanteh raised a question on the July to August 2022 flash floods which he said: “have created a lot of problems and damages to properties. And [similarly] the state demolishing properties of individuals”. The Busumbala representative queried the Minister for Environment to detail the government’s progress in paying compensation”.
Before the Minister could respond Speaker Jatta interjected to say “that is substantial. You can put it in a Parliamentary question for the Hon Minister for later sittings”. This did not sit well with Hon Kanteh who opined that his question was not substantial as it relates to the Hon Minister’s question.
“Hon Member I thought that as a legal-minded somebody, you would have read your standing orders very well to know what is in order and what is not in order. And what the powers of the Speakers [are]” said Speaker Jatta.
“The Speaker cannot abuse his powers” noted Hon Kanteh. At this point, a full-blown disagreement had ensued between the two as they continued speaking over each other. Speaker Jatta couldn’t bear any more of the back and forth as he threatened to send out Hon Kanteh. In response the Busumbala NAM rebutted “send me out, this house does not belong to you”. Upon hearing this Speaker Jatta read his marching orders: “Alright Hon member can you get out please?” Hon Kanteh swiftly complied and exited the Assembly chambers.
Soon after this, the member for Kiang West raised a Point of Order on the Speaker’s statements and the member for Wulli East also raised a Point of Order 21. According to the member for Wulli East Standing Order 21 dictates procedures to guide the Speaker when suspending any member. He urged the Speaker to follow the right procedures which required the Speaker to raise a motion to suspend a member.
Speaker Jatta decided to dismiss the Point of Order claiming that the procedure used by the member for Wulli East to challenge the Speaker was in itself not in order.
Hon Jatta is one of five Parliamentarians nominated into the Sixth Legislature by President Adama Barrow. President Adama Barrow’s NPP has been at loggerheads with his former party the UDP since he fell out with then Vice President and UDP Party leader Ousainu Darboe in 2018. Hon Kanteh on the other hand is closely affiliated with the United Democratic Party (UDP) and went Independent after Momodou Sabally was disqualified from contesting for the same Constituency.
Hon Kanteh Berates Speaker Jatta’s PTC Qualifications
The following day Hon Kanteh drew the Speaker’s attention to Standing Order number 29 (4) of the National Assembly which reads it shall be out of order to use offensive and insulting language about a member of this assembly. He quoted the previous day and condemned the Speaker’s comments against him calling him “so-called legal background”. He noted that he “obtained a degree in Law and subsequently called to the bar of this country. Hon Speaker if someone who doesn’t have his qualifications is you with your PTC”.
“Hon Speaker, you cannot call me a man with so-called legal background. What qualifications do you have to become Speaker? Apart from betraying your Political Party and also mixing the United Democratic Party with Barrow. That is the only qualification that’s why you are seated as a Speaker today. Hon Speaker, it’s unfortunate Gambians can have a Speaker with that low qualification”, said Hon Kanteh of Busumbala.
At that point, the nominated member, Hon Kebba Lang Fofana raised a Point of Order on the statements issued by Hon Kanteh. As the Speaker appeared to rule that Hon Kanteh’s statements were against him, Hon Fofana interjected again, raising another Point of Order that the disagreements have gone beyond the Speaker and Hon Kanteh “this is about the dignity of the House”.
Speaker Jatta also swiftly interjected to rule that Hon Fofana’s Point of Order was sustained and allowed the Busumbala Representative to take the floor. At that point, the member for Busumbala submitted and succeeded the floor.
Another disagreement ensued when Speaker Jatta attempted to explain his statement from the previous day. Responding to the member for Busumbala, Speaker Jatta explained that “so-called legal background” is not an insult to his intelligence “it is to reflect or address a situation at a particular moment. We should govern ourselves with our standing orders and our constitution where needed as that’s what matters here”.
Speaker Jatta and Hon Kanteh continued to throw statements at each other. The matter was eventually addressed after Speaker Jatta made a number of appeals for calm. This was tested after the member for Foni Jarrol demanded that the Speaker take action against the member for Busumbala. However, calm was restored and the proceedings continued as normal.