By Yusef Taylor, @FlexDan_YT: Dated 20th March 2019
The issue of Nominated National Assembly members is one which has raised allot of eyebrows especially in the wake of the recent replacement of one nominated member. Currently the constitution allows the President to nominate up to 5 National Assembly members which include the Speaker of the House.
“(i) Composition of the National Assembly: it’s currently made up of 53 elected members and 5 other members nominated by the President.” – CRC Issues Document, 8
In my layman understanding this contradicts the principles of ‘Separation of Powers’ as such vested powers allow the President to dictate sittings in the National Assembly, via the Speaker of the House who can also suffer the same fate of the recently replaced nominated member. This needs to stop as it goes against democratic principles, the National Assembly must be the undiluted voice of the people, untainted from interference from any other branch of government, capable of fulfilling its duties to provide unbiased oversight and if necessary impeach the President.
In the CRC Issues Document dated October 2018, Section 8 – The Legislature and National Assembly, the question on the need for a Nominated National Assembly Member was raised. Also in this section is the question asking if nominated membership should be vested in the President and which other Mechanism can be employed for nominated membership.
“(i) Should the National Assembly comprise purely of elected members or should space still be allowed for nominated membership?” – CRC Issues Document, 8
There is a genuine need for nominated membership to create a National Assembly which truly represents society. Historically, there are groups which have been under-represented in the National Assembly such as the differently abled, women and youths. If the new constitution does not allow for nominated membership our National Assembly could exclude such marginalized groups in society. This in my view is the real reason for nominated membership and not to allow the executive the ability to interfere in the National Assembly.
Besides such marginalized groups is the genuine need to consider the functions of the National Assembly which includes passing and repealing laws, providing oversight and ratifying trade agreements, loans and the likes. Such agreements have an economic impact on the entire nation. If the new constitution does not allow for nominated membership our National Assembly could exclude a much needed expert in trade and economy which would leave our National Assembly without the required skills to ensure Gambians benefit from future trade agreements.
“(ii) If nominated membership of the National Assembly is to be maintained, should that power still vest in the President or is there another mechanism that should be employed?” – CRC Issues Document, 8
Allowing the President the power to nominate National Assembly members goes against the principles of “Separation of Powers”. How can a nominated member provide oversight and if necessary impeach a President who has nominated them and still retains the right to nominate another National Assembly Member to replace them at their discretion? The new Constitution should empower National Assembly Members; to only show loyalty to the Gambian people and impeach the President if the need arises. Not allow the President to dictate sittings in the National Assembly via the Speaker of the House and other nominated members.
“(iii) If another mechanism for nominated membership is to be employed, what is that mechanism and how is it envisaged to work in a democratic fashion?” – CRC Issues Document, 8
A democratic mechanism which can be used for nominated membership is to first start off by identifying marginalized groups of society such as the differently abled groups and much needed expert skills to fulfill the functions of the National Assembly such GCCI and the trade community. These groups of society can nominate their ‘Champions’ to advocate and represent the interest of marginalized groups and the economic interest of the entire nation.
This could be done via an election process conducted by the IEC after identifying the appropriate groups to participate in such an election. Possible groups to consider include; the National Youth Council and nationally recognized youth groups, the National Women’s Society and similar Women’s groups and any other segments of society categorized as marginalized and underrepresented in the National Assembly.
This way nominated members can also be recalled by their groups the same way that elected National Assembly members can be recalled.