By Yusef Taylor, @FlexDan_YT
The Speaker of the Gambia’s Sixth Legislature has ruled that unfinished Bills of the Fifth Legislature may be reintroduced by the persons in charge and continue from their previous stage in Parliament. Speaker of the House Hon Fabakary Tombong Jatta made this ruling on 12th September 2022 after a Point of Order was raised by the Deputy Majority Leader and member for Old Yundum, Hon Abdoulie Ceesay. Hon Ceesay is also the Chairperson of the Standing Orders Committee of the National Assembly who should advise Parliament on procedural matters.
Making reference to Standing Orders 18 and 32 Hon Ceesay noted that “the Assembly is confronted with a procedural issue wherein the Standing Orders are silent on it”. Speaking from a prepared statement Hon Ceesay explained that “we are aware that there were several Bills introduced by the Fifth Legislature. However, some of these bills were unable to complete legislative stages before the dissolution of the said Legislature on the 13th April 2022. This Assembly (the Sixth Legislature) is now confronted with a longstanding parliamentary convention that one parliament cannot bind its successor, especially on Bills”.
In an attempt to bring clarity on the way forward with regards to the unfinished Bills of the Fifth Legislature Hon Ceesay invited the “Hon Speaker to invoke [his] discretionary powers under Standing Order 8” to advise how the Sixth Legislature should proceed with unfinished Bills of the Fifth Legislature.
Just before Hon Ceesay concluded his statement he was interrupted by Hon Musa Cham of Serrekunda, who argued that Standing Order 17 (g) stated that “no Member shall, without the consent of the Speaker, bring into the Assembly anything other than papers, books or other documents directly connected with business of the assembly”. However, the Point of Order was quickly revoked by Hon Speaker Jatta.
Ruling on Unfinished Bills
In response to the point of Order raised by the Chairperson of Parliament’s Standing Orders Committee, the Speaker made a ruling which he read from a prepared speech. Speaker Fabakary Tombong Jatta during his ruling took note of “the existence of the parliamentary convention” which he declared should “be adapted to suit our local parliamentary context as follows:”
“a. That the National Assembly adhere to the longstanding parliamentary convention to the extent possible in our local context;
“b. That all incomplete or unfinished government Bills or other businesses of the Fifth Legislature may be reinstated or reintroduced in this successor Assembly (the Sixth Legislature) subject to a motion by the person-in-charge;
“c. That, bearing in mind the convention, the respective persons-in-charge of the unfinished Bills or business must table a motion, with notice, before the National Assembly on each of the Bills or businesses requesting for a carry-over;
“d. That a Bill or business agreed to be carried over would be reinstated or reintroduced in the same form in the next ordinary session, at the same parliamentary stage it was prior to the dissolution of the immediately preceding National Assembly;
“e. That the timing of reinstatement or reintroduction of a Bill or business carried over to a successor National Assembly be decided by the Assembly Business Committee in consultation with the person-incharge;
“f. That the Standing Orders Committee consider reviewing the Standing Orders on the matter with a view to proposing an amendment to expressly codify this convention before the Seventh Legislature to establish a special procedure for carrying over legislation and other businesses from a dissolved National Assembly bearing in mind this ruling;
“Finally, that the Office of the Clerk immediately notify all the affected persons or bodies regarding this ruling.”
Unfinished Bills of the Fifth Legislature
It can be recalled that the first edition of the Gambia’s Parliamentary Newsletter highlights that the Gambia’s Fifth Legislature had approximately 11 unfinished Bills by the end of their term. Below is a list of the Bills which are at various stages at the National Assembly that may be reintroduced by the various Ministers or persons in charge;
- Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Bill 2019
- The Gambia Nationality & Citizenship Bill 2020
- Tourism Offences (Amendment) Bill 2020
- Gambia Anti-Corruption Bill 2019
- International Crimes Bill 2020
- Prevention And Prohibition of Torture Bill 2020
- Labor (Amendment) Bill 2020
- Criminal Offences Bill 2020
- The Gambia Public Procurement Authority Bill 2020
- Force Labor (Amendment) Bill 2020
- Criminal Procedure Bill 2020