By Lamin Njie
Tension broke out again on Monday at the National Assembly after UDP NAMs attempted to stop the contentious local government act amendment bill from being discussed.
Duo UDP NAMs of Sanna Jawara and Ya Kumba Jaiteh instituted an all-out offensive against the bill as soon as the clerk of the house read it out for discussion by all the lawmakers.
“It has been brought to my attention Honourable Speaker that this particular bill has not fulfilled the obligatory requirements or processes, that it should in fact not be entertained in the house,” Upper Fulladu NAM Sana Jawara blasted as soon as the clerk finished reading the item for discussion.
He blasted further: “Simple reason is Section 63(2) [of Standing Order] says that if a bill is a member’s bill, then in addition to and in contemporaneously, the provisions in paragraph 1, a statement of the general nature and objects of the bill shall be published in at least one newspaper circulating in The Gambia.
“The second one is [Section] 63(3): if the bill contains a clause or clauses intended to affect or benefit some particular person, association or corporate body, then in addition to provisions in Paragraph 1, such bill shall contain a clause saving the rights of the president of the republic and successors in office, all bodies politic and all others except those as are mentioned in the bill and those claiming by from or under them.
“So you will see that basically we all saw the reasons and objects of the bill. It’s claiming to give the councillors independence from their political parties and leaders. And Section 63(3) is trying to address that, that anybody affected, in favour or adverse, should actually contain a clause saving the rights of those particular persons or bodies.”
House deputy speaker Momodou Sanneh who presided responded to Mr Jawara by saying, as those supporting the bill heavily hit the table in their admiration of him: “Honourable Member for Upper Fulladu, Standing Order 63(2) bill has been met as I was made to understand. It has been published in The Point, Standard newspaper [and] Foroyaa newspaper.”
“Honourable member for Upper Fulladu, this bill cannot be retroactive. As a result, it will not favour or it will not affect any person’s rights,” Sanneh added.
Ya Kumba Jaiteh then quickly joined Sanna Jawara in the fightback by saying: “Honourable Speaker, am just rising on Point of Order 32, 1(A). It says, ‘by raising a question on a point of order when proper procedures have been followed’. The decision whether this bill would affect the right of political bodies, corporate bodies or political parties or associations, it would be a one quite subjective and I would advise the Honourable Speaker to actually seek legal interpretation of this provision.”
Halifa Sallah in an attempt to take the floor from Ms Jaiteh then bellowed in his microphone amid huge noise in the background: “Honourable Speaker, Point of Order, Point of Order.”
Ya Kumba Jaiteh who wasn’t interested continued: “I am rising on a point of order, if I complete my point of order…”
A relentless Halifa Sallah bellowed again as he raised his constituency tag: “Honourable Speaker, Point of Order. Honourable Speaker, Point of Order. Honourable Speaker, Point of Order.”
“I am rising on a Point of Order,” Ya Kumba Jaiteh fired back.
Halifa Sallah then insisted: “I am also saying what is being said, there’s a Point of Order. That statement itself, I am objecting, is a Point of Order. Honourable Speaker, I want to rise to a Point of Order.”
Intervening, the Speaker said: “Honourable Member for Serrekunda, a note has been taken on your Point of Order but allow her complete her statement then you will be called upon, please.”
“Honourable Speaker, there is a Point of Order by virtue of the statement but it’s left to you. I accept your ruling” Mr Sallah standing down, fired back.
Member for Kantora then drew the ire of the speaker when he told the speaker Mr Sallah was making a Point of Order.
“There is a Point of Order, you cannot allow her to proceed when there is a Point of Order,” Billay Tunkara told the speaker.
A frustrated speaker Sanneh then slammed him: “Honourable Member for Kantora, I made a ruling for nominated member to continue. Please don’t disturb the proceeding of the house.”
Ya Kumba Jaiteh continuing said the bill that was before the lawmakers was clearly affecting the rights of political party as she read out Section 63(3) of the house’s Standing Order which frowns at such a bill.
“And the bill in question clearly doesn’t contain a saving clause in regards to those rights. This is my interpretation and I would advise that we suspend this sitting, get the interpretation because this is a mandatory provision,” Ms Jaiteh insisted amid huge noise which she said wouldn’t distract her.
Halifa Sallah was at this point give the floor but he took a completely different direction.
He said: “Honourable Speaker, while respecting the motion which is put without even being seconded and there is continuation of a debate on it, but because we must respect the deep concerns of people. Honourable Speaker, we’re departing from procedure which is Standing Order 66 which tells us the stages of the bill.
“Honourable Speaker, we cannot lecture people on procedure when we are departing from procedure. So my and really Honourable Speaker, I am alone. I have no support, I am seeking no support in what I am saying in this parliament. Honourable Speaker, the procedure is for us to have a motion seconded before you even talk about a debate.
“And Honourable Speaker, you the speaker you’re the authority and there is permissible interruption and you’re speaking and somebody interrupted you, Honourable Speaker and we still remained calm. Honourable Speaker, I don’t need to give a lecture. Please Honourable Speaker, take charge and then let’s move according to procedure.”
Ya Kumba Jaiteh then provoked fresh commotion when she said she was to speak again on a Point of Order.
“Mr Speaker, we must respect the procedure, you cannot allow somebody to go ahead when you [didn’t] give he or her authority,” a enraged Majanko Samusa said amid repeated ‘Point of Order’ yelling from Brikama North MP.
“Come rain, come sunshine this bill will go,” Banjul Central Muhammed Ndow could be heard saying.
The speaker the ruled that the bill be discussed at the committee level of the louse comprising all the lawmakers. The bill was then adopted even as some changes were made in it.
The lawmakers will meet again on Friday when sponsor Alhagie Jawara will read it for the third time before it proceeds to a vote.