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The New National Assembly – A Prescription For Chaos?

Demba Ali Jawo, Former Minister MOICI

By D. A. Jawo
With his five nominees to the National Assembly, President Adama Barrow seems to have clearly demonstrated that he is more concerned with protecting the interest of his party and administration than that of the people of the Gambia. There is virtually no other reason for selecting those that he nominated to fill the five positions in the National Assembly than to serve as ‘bouncers’ for his regime. Otherwise, their nomination would hardly add any value to the advancement of democracy or any other national interest in this country.
Of course, while President Barrow has not violated any law in making his selection, but everyone expected him to put into consideration ethics and morality as well as the advancement of national cohesion. The spirit of that section of the Constitution giving the President the power to nominate five people was to give him/her the opportunity to select people to represent the interests of certain marginalized groups such as the disabled, women, youths and in the case of this country, members of the minority Christian community. However, when we look at the list of his nominees, hardly any of that seems to have been considered by him when he was doing the selection. His main interest, it appears, was to re-enforce the presence of his partisan interest in the National Assembly regardless of the consequences to the general national interest.
We were witnesses to the negative roles that both the new Speaker, Fabakary Tombong Jatta and his deputy, Seedy Njie played during the political impasse in 2017 which almost plunged this country into a civil war. Fabakary as Majority Leader in the then National Assembly was the one who tabled a motion that imposed a state of emergency and prolonged former President Yahya Jammeh’s tenure despite him being voted out of office. Therefore, what he did was treasonable and morality demands that such a character should never have again been allowed anywhere near that noble institution let alone become its leader and the third personality of the state. It is just like rewarding a traitor who did everything possible to plunge this country into chaos.
We also saw Seedy Njie’s own role in the 2017 impasse when as Jammeh’s information minister, he vowed that President Barrow would never be sworn in this country and that former President Jammeh would not step down. Therefore, left to Seedy Njie alone, President Barrow would never been president of this country.
As for the nomination of Fatoumata Jawara, it certainly borders on ethic and morality. Here is someone who contested for elections and was decisively rejected by the voters of Tallinding Kunjang Constituency only to be brought back through the back door as a representative of the people. Certainly, it is quite clear to everyone that she does not represent Gambians but instead she is representing President Barrow’s own partisan interests.
We are all aware of the animosity and personal acrimony that seems to exist between Fabakary Tombong Jatta, in particular, and most of the newly elected National Assembly members and imposing him as leader of that institution has the tendency of sowing seeds of discord in our National Assembly. It is quite hard to see how some of those members would treat Fabakary with any degree of respect as most of them see him as a traitor who does not deserve such a noble position. We can therefore anticipate quite a chaotic National Assembly for the next five years which will certainly not augur well for the advancement of our nascent democracy or even the national reconciliation that we all yearn for.
We have been seeing chaos and violence in legislatures in other jurisdictions and we have always prayed that such situations do not happen here. However, bringing such divisive characters to the National Assembly is definitely a prescription for such a scenario. We should therefore only hope and pray that the members on both sides of the house would exercise maturity and avoid such ugly scenes that we have been seeing in other countries.
On another issue, many people who witnessed or watched the swearing-in ceremony of the new members have expressed concern about the quality of representation in the new National Assembly, considering the demeanor and comportment of some of them during the ceremony. If just reading that simple pledge was seen as such a challenge to most of them, then one should be worried about how they would adequately express themselves in English in the National Assembly during debates. It appears that the bar was too low in selecting the candidates in many of the constituencies, with very little consideration that English is the official language and that members should have some minimum level of proficiency in the language before being selected to contest. Therefore, we should all brace ourselves up to hearing words like ‘Consequency’, Antony General, Polotiks, and other ‘Gamlish’ terms. In fact, even the new Speaker himself was heard saying ‘Consequency’ instead of Constituency.

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