By Yusef Taylor, @FlexDan_YT
Gambian President Adama Barrow nominated Hon Fabakary Tombong Jatta and Hon Seedy Njie as Speaker and Deputy Speaker of the Sixth Legislature shocking supporters of the Draft Constitution and stakeholders of the Truth Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC).
The swearing-in ceremony for the sixth legislature took place at the New National Assembly Building on Thursday 14th April 2022 just days after the 9th April 2022 National Assembly elections in which some 53 National Assembly members (NAMs) were sworn in and another 5 nominated NAMs. The Majority Leader, Deputy Majority Leader and Chief Whip were all decided on the same day however the United Democratic Party (UDP) failed to declare their Minority Leader.
Hon Fabakary Tombong Jatta is the current leader of the Alliance for Patriotic Reorientation and Construction (APRC) after taking over the leadership of the party from former President Yahya Jammeh. Hon Jatta was the majority leader for the APRC in the 4th Legislature and is well remembered for tabling the Bill that triggered the State of Emergency which led to a Political Impasse in January 2017.
This was after President Jammeh lost the December 2016 Elections to current President Adama Barrow. The State of Emergency extended the term of President Jammeh and by extension, the term of the National Assembly.
The Speaker of the House presides over Parliament, directing Parliamentary proceedings and deciding which members may speak. The speaker is also responsible for maintaining order in Parliament and may even punish members who break Parliamentary Rules and Regulations known as the Standing Orders. Most importantly the Speaker is third in line to lead The Gambia after the President and the Vice President.
Hon Seedy S. K. Njie was appointed by former President Jammeh as the Minister of Information for less than two weeks. Minister Njie took this role after his predecessor Minister Sheriff Bojang fled to Senegal.
After becoming the Minister of Information Hon Njie spearheaded Jammeh’s media campaign, declaring that former “President Jammeh will not step down” after losing the elections. Minister Njie even fled to Equatorial Guinea with former President Jammeh who has since remained there in exile.
The other three Nominated Members are Hon Kebba Lang, Hon Fatoumatta K Jawara and Hon Maimuna Ceesay. Hon Fatoumatta K Jawara lost her re-election bid for the Tallinding seat after she defected from the UDP to President Adama Barrow’s National People’s Party (NPP). She lost her seat to UDP Candidate Hon Musa Badjie.
On the same day, a press statement from the Office of the Clerk noted that Hon Billay G. Tunkara of Kantora Constituency is now the Majority Leader and Hon Abdoulie Ceesay of Old Yundum is now the Deputy Majority Leader.
The statement published on the National Assembly Official website explains that “the Majority Leader is the leader of the party with the largest number of seats in the National Assembly. — Similarly, the Minority Leader is the leader of the party with the second-largest number of seats in the National Assembly”.
The NPP won 18 seats in the 9th April 2022 Elections while the UDP won 16 seats in Parliament making them the two parties with the most seats in Parliament. The statement from the National Assembly notes that “the Majority or Minority leader is selected or elected by his or her party at a caucus”. Although “both NPP and UDP have been notified by the Office of the Clerk to hold caucus meetings for the selection of their leadership” only NPP sent their selected Majority, Deputy and Chief Whips to Parliament.
The Chief Whip for the sixth legislature is Hon Omar Darboe of Upper Nuimi. The Chief Whip organises members from their party and their party’s business in Parliament.
All three NAMs have won re-election for a second term in office. Their first term was won under a UDP ticket in 2017, however, this changed after President Barrow fell out with UDP Leader Ousainu Darboe.