By Yusef Taylor, @FlexDan_YT
The Gambia’s Justice Minister Hon. Dawda A. Jallow is set to table the Constitution of the Republic of The Gambia, 2020 Bill on Monday 14th September 2020 at Parliament for the first reading. Three days later, Thursday 17th September 2020, President Adama Barrow will take centre stage to deliver his State of the Nation Address to lawmakers. This is according to the National Assembly’s Agenda for the “third ordinary session of the National Assembly in the 2020 Legislative Year”.
The session is scheduled to run for two weeks (excluding two Fridays) with Parliamentarians scheduled to deliberate on three main issues, including the Women Enterprise Fund Bill, 2020. A busy Monday will see two Bills tabled as “the Gambia Women Enterprise Fund Bill, 2020” will also be tabled in Parliament for the Consideration stage of the Bill.
The next two days [15th and 16th September] will feature the Second Reading of the Constitution Bill, 2020 when debates will commence on the “General merits and Principles of the Bill”. Besides the usual Prayers, Correction and Approval Record of Votes and Proceedings of the previous day, both Tuesday and Wednesday appear to be dedicated to these two Bills.
National Assembly members (NAM) will then take a break from the Constitution debate and give their undivided attention to President Adama Barrow for his State of the Nation Address. No National Assembly sitting has been scheduled for Friday 18th September with the next scheduled sitting taking place on Monday 21st September 2020 (three day weekend).
The following Monday, 21st September, the Women Enterprise Fund Bill, 2020 will be tabled again in Parliament for its all-important Third Reading, where it’s expected NAMs will vote to approve or reject the Bill. The second agenda for Monday is a debate on the State of the Nation Address delivered by the President. The debate on the President’s speech is expected to dominate the week’s National Assembly sittings, which is set to conclude on Thursday 24th September 2020.
It’s expected that the National Assembly will vote at the end of the Second Reading after their debate on the Bill before them. According to provision 226 (2) (b) of the 1997 Constitution for the Bill to progress it must be “supported on the second and third readings by the votes of not less than three-quarters of all the members of the National Assembly”.
Presently there are 52 elected National Assembly members due to the untimely death of Hon. Demba Sowe of Nimina West and an additional 4 Nominated NAMs with voting rights (Speaker is not a voting NAM). Three-quarters of 56 Voting NAMs comes to 42 NAMs, meaning that at least 42 NAMs must vote in favour of the Constitution 2020 Bill or it will not proceed to the all-important Third Reading.
If the Constitution Bill, 2020 does proceed to the Third Reading, three-quarters of all NAMs must again vote in favour for the Bill to be “referred by the Speaker to the Independent Electoral Commission and the Commission has, within six months of such reference, held a referendum on the Bill”. This is according to provision 226 (4) (d) of the 1997 Constitution.