By Yusef Taylor, @FlexDan_YT
On April 11th, 2017 President Adama Barrow has nominated five National Assembly members (NAMs), initiating the first sitting of the recently concluded elections held on April 6th, 2017. Mariam Jack Denton has been elected as the Speaker of the National Assembly alongside her Deputy, Muhammed Lamin Sanneh. The three nominated members completing the list are; Ya Kumba Jaiteh, Majanko Samusa and Ndey Yassin Secka who is visually impaired.
Being among Gambia’s few female lawyers, Mariam Denton is accustomed to breaking records. She continues her father’s legacy by being one of rare female Speakers of the House. Her father Sir Alieu S. Jack was the first Gambian-born Speaker of the House. Mariam is an executive member of the UDP and the wife of former accountant general Abou Denton. Many gender activists have advocated for more women to be included in the 5 nominated NAMs. The additional three female NAMs nominated by the President will be seen as a very positive move for gender parity in the House of Representatives. This means that the percentage of women in the NA has improved from under 6% to just over 10%.
Majority and Minority Leaders
The Majority Leader was elected from the 33 elected UDP NAMs. Kebba K. Barrow, NAM for Kombo South was elected as the Majority Leader of the House. On the other hand, the Minority Leader was elected after an election was conducted by the Independent Electoral Commission. The results were are follows; Badjie of APRC 5 votes, Kebba Jallow of GDC 5 votes and Samba Jallow of NRP with 47 votes. Samba Jallow the NAM for Niamina Dankunku emerged as the winner. Samba Jallow was also the previous Minority Leader who stood against the recent State of Emergency Bill.
According to a Gainako source at the first sitting, the session began with a request from honorable Halifa Sallah who made the first objection, arguing that the NA meeting was unconstitutional because it was not gazetted. Although, Justice Minister Ba Tambedu did not validate Halifa’s objection, he made note of it. The first sitting was well attended by local and international dignitaries.
Independence of the National Assembly (Editors Note)
One of the topics being debated on social media is the concept of “Separation of Powers”. This concept dictates that the three branches of government should be independent to ensure checks and balances. Currently, the five additional NAMs nominated by the President represents almost ten percent of the House not directly elected by the people. This raises the question “Should President Adama Barrow continue the tradition of nominating National Assembly members?” Legislative Independence needs to be given a closer look in The Gambia.
Another noteworthy point to mention is the importance of section 91 “Tenure of seats of a member of the National Assembly”, which forces any member of the House to resign in the event that they leave their party. This means that Party Leaders have a leverage over their NAMs who will not want to lose their seats. Secondly, the Executive can also influence NA matters through its Speaker of the House and nominated members.
Hopefully, the NA can put in place appropriate reforms to ensure that the House can provide the required checks and balances for the Executive and the Judiciary. Until NAMs don’t have to dance to the tune of their Party Leaders then the independence of the NAMs and inherently the House will not be guaranteed.
Section 91. Tenure of seats of a member of the National Assembly
(1) A member of the National Assembly shall vacate his or her seat in the National Assembly –
(a) on the dissolution of the National Assembly;
(b) subject to subsection
(2), if any circumstances arise which, if he or she were not a member, would cause him or her to be disqualified for election as a member or nomination as a member;
(c) if he or she resigns his or her office as a member;
(d) 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;