By Yusef Taylor, @FlexDan_YT
Members of the Sixth Legislature of the Gambia’s National Assembly approved two Bills yesterday 1st November 2023 tabled under a certificate of urgency. The two Bills tabled focus on implementing the Gambia’s Transitional Justice process are the Victims Reparations Bill 2023 and the Ban from Public Office (TRRC) Bill 2023.
Parliament convened a two-day Extraordinary Session which started yesterday after members attended a five-day retreat with the Ministry of Justice to discuss the Bills that have been tabled. So far two of the four Bills have been approved by Parliament after a marathon session which went late into the night.
Both Bills were fast-tracked and passed the first, second and third readings on the same day. Some of the members questioned the urgency of the two Bills. Members argued that given the importance of the Bill, it should have gone through the normal process of Committee Stage where victims and experts are invited to provide recommendations.
A more detailed explanation of Parliamentary proceedings is described in the link below.
The normal procedure of Parliament is that after a Bill passes the first and second reading, it is then committed to a Parliamentary Committee. After the Committee meetings and findings on the Bill, a Committee Report is submitted to Parliament, which is debated and adopted by Parliament with or without amendments. Parliament may also recommend more work be done by a Committee.
The next stage features the Committee of the All where the Speaker vacates his Chair to become a Chairperson and a clause-by-clause review is conducted on the Bill. After the clause-by-clause review of the entire Bill, the third reading is put to a vote to be approved or rejected by Parliament. Parliament may adopt a Bill with or without amendments noted during the clause-by-clause review.
The Certificate of Urgency Effect
In this instance, given that the Bills have been tabled under a certificate of urgency, both Bills have been fast-tracked to be passed within a day. After Parliamentarians debated the merits of the Bill the Minister for Justice provided some clarification to some of the comments raised around the urgency of the Bill. Hon Dawda A Jallow told Parliamentarians that his Ministry has been working “with the National Assembly Service for quite a while and it was through a long consultation that we deemed it necessary that we needed an extraordinary session”. He stressed that the decision “was not just done by the Executive it was done by a thorough consultation with the National Assembly Service because the next Ordinary Session that you say you’re going to have in a couple of weeks is usually and traditionally concentrated on the Budget, the National Budget”.
Justice Minister Jallow admitted that the Executive wanted to fast-track the Bills and not go through “the regular normal administrative process”. Hon Jallow reminded Parliamentarians that his Ministry “expended more resources also to take [Parliamentarians] to a retreat to make sure we go through all the Bills clause by clause and then all concerns are taken on board”.
Minister Jallow added that the terms of Office are for five years with the option to extend for another five years. He also explained that he does not know the entire cost of the Commission but highlighted this would be the work of the Commission which will come up with a database of victims and an objective criterion of identifying victims and their amount of Reparations.
After the Minister’s clarification, the Victims Reparations Bill was read for the Second and Third time with amendments and approved by Parliament. After this, the Ban from Public Office (TRRC) Bill was also passed after it was read for the Second and Third time and approved by Parliament.
Gambia Parliamentary Newsletter will continue to follow the debates and publish more articles highlighting some of the amendments done to both the Victims Reparations Bill and the Ban from Public Office (TRRC) Bill.