By Yusef Taylor, FlexDan_YT
Soon after President Adama Barrow delivered his 2022 State of the Nation Address on Thursday 15th September 2022, the Speaker of the National Assembly, Hon Fabakary Tombong Jatta, continued to chair the Assembly proceedings and ask all delegates in attendance to remain seated as the President vacated the Assembly.
As the Speaker was about to wind down proceedings and adjourn the next Parliamentary sitting to Monday 19th September 2022 which would feature Parliamentarians debate on the President’s 2022 State of the Nation Address, Hon Sulayman Saho of Central Badibu rose to table a Point of Order which would see the President attend the debate if granted by the Speaker.
After making some attempts to gain Speaker Jatta’s attention Hon Saho who managed to get re-elected in April 2022 via a United Democratic Party ticket started his deliberation by thanking “the President for fulfilling his constitutional mandate. Under point 24 clause 2, I want to use your humble office [in addition, the Assembly may request the President to attend a sitting of the Assembly for the discussion of a matter of national importance.]”
After quoting Standing Order 24 (2) verbatim Hon Saho proceeded to request to the Speaker: “I want you to use your office to request for the President to attend our debate if it is possible with him. As we are trying to promote democracy. The first time in our history [the President to attend the SONA Debate] for Parliamentarians to debate, the President will be present, we will love that. If you can make that request thank you?”
However, his request was summarily dismissed by the Speaker of the Sixth Legislature Hon Fabakary Tombong Jatta who first tried to dismiss the Point of Order as a “suggestion or a comment”. This sparked some tense exchanges between the Speaker and the Hon member for Central Badibu.
Speaker Jatta: “Thank you, Hon Member. It’s unfortunate that was not a point of order”.
Hon Saho: “It’s [a] point of order. Points of Order are usually raised on issues or procedures”.
Speaker Jatta: “Hon Member a point of Order is stated if one is doing something contrary to the Standing Orders or the Constitution. You are making a suggestion or you are making a comment”.
Hon Saho: “No am not making a comment. I’m making a point of Order”.
Speaker Jatta: “Hon Member your Point of Order is ruled out”.
Hon Saho: “Speaker!”
Speaker Jatta: “Hon member please sit down!”
Some more tense deliberations continued as the President looked on. As the Hon member for Central Badibu continued to demand that the Speaker addressed him politely and the Speaker continued to order him to sit down, the Hon member for Central Badibu eventually took his seat after the Speaker asked him to “please sit down”.
It must be noted that the Gambia’s 1997 Constitution provides for the President to appoint the Speaker of the House, the Deputy Speaker and three other Parliamentarians. Five seats equate to 8.6% of the total 58 Parliamentary seats.
The President’s nomination of the Speaker may influence the Speaker to reject any Point of Order or Motion which may be perceived as exposing the President, his “Boss”.
Below is an image of the page containing the Point of Order raised by the Hon member for Central Badibu reproduced under the sub-section “Rules of Debate – Attendance of the President”.
Watch the four-minute video clip below of the Speaker overruling Hon Saho’s request.
* An amendment has been made to this article changing the word Appointment to Nomination in the following sentence; The President’s [nomination] of the Speaker may influence the Speaker to reject any Point of Order or Motion which may be perceived as exposing the President, his “Boss”.