By Yankuba Jallow
National Assembly Member for Serre-Kunda Constituency, Halifa Sallah has on Thursday slammed the National Assembly including the Speaker for participating in a flawed process. Foroyaa had earlier tried to interview the NAM for Serrekunda on why he did not vote during the consideration of the Supplementary Appropriation Bill but he argued that the paper should follow the proceedings during the adjournment debate for an answer. During the adjournment debate, Sallah summed up his view by asserting that in court as well as in the legislature, process and merit must be considered to make a decision. He indicated that process is considered before merit. According to him, if a process is flawed merit cannot be considered.
In making his presentation, the NAM for Serrekunda said, “There is nothing in the Standing Orders which makes provision for people to raise their hands and be counted. Where do you see that in the Standing Orders? This was what happened here,” Sallah rebutted.
He said that there are different Committees of the National Assembly with their rules of procedure. He said the Committee of supply is not a standing Committee or Select or Special Select Committee which are constituted by The Committee on Selection and governed by rules of procedure established by Standing Order 75. He cited that Standing Order 75 (5) is not applicable to the Committee of Supply which is the Committee of the whole Assembly. He said the rule of procedure which applies to the Committee of Supply and should have been relied on as a voting procedure is standing order 47. According to him, the standing order clearly stipulates what should be done when a division is claimed either in the Assembly or in the Committee of Supply. He cited Standing Order 47 as follows:
“When a division is claimed either in the Assembly or in the Committee, every Member present and entitled to vote shall unless he or she expressly states that he or she declines to vote, record his or her vote either for the Ayes or for the Noes. The Clerk shall enter on the minutes the record of each member’s vote.” This section provides that each and every member present and entitled to vote should expressly state his or her position and the Clerk of the National Assembly shall enter on the minutes the record of each member’s vote.
Standing order 48 adds that “As soon as the Clerk has collected the votes, the Speaker or in the Committee, the Chairperson shall state the numbers voting for the “Ayes” and “Noes,” respectively, and shall then declare the result of the division.”
Sallah pointed out that Standing Order 46 (3) states: “If upon any division the votes of members are equally divided the motion shall be lost.”
“People don’t know their Standing Orders and they want to pass judgment on those who know,” Sallah chided.
He then counseled that it was not his desire to cast aspersions that he fully understands that the National Assembly is a new one and the members should ensure that it is nurtured through sharing each other’s experience.
He went on to question how the members could rely on Standing Order 10 to move to review the Supplementary estimates and bill under the cloak of an emergency. “The procedure was wrong. That is why I said I will not participate in a flawed process. Whether in court or the National Assembly, process and merit must be utilised to make a decision. When a process is flawed, there is no need to go into merit,” Sallah stated.
On the Appropriation Bill that was passed at the National Assembly, Sallah said the house was dragged to consider the estimate as a case of an emergency.
“There is nothing in the Interpretation clause of the Standing Orders that defines emergency. Have you seen it Honourable members?” Sallah stated.
He cited Section 106 (2), stating that the Speaker of the National Assembly does not have original or casting vote. The Speaker does not make decisions in the National Assembly. It is members who make decision.
“So anything to be dealt with as a matter of emergency should have been put and when the question is put, we will decide whether it is emergency or not,” he said.
He cited Section 101 of the Constitution, adding that no bill, other than that mentioned in Subsection (5) which relates to bill to be allocated to a committee, should be introduced into the National Assembly without being published in the gazette 14 days before its introduction.
“Is that what happened with this Bill? It was rushed here under the cloud of darkness. The members of this Assembly considered what has not been provided by the Constitution,” he said.
He said the only exception provides a certificate of urgency from the executive to be presented to show urgency and even there the merit has to be decided by the National Assembly and should not be imposed on the National Assembly.
“The Constitution and the Standing Orders made everything that happened here to be flawed and knowledgeable people do not participate in a flawed process; they are safeguarding their integrity and history,” he said.
He pointed out that the Bill was introduced in the National Assembly to create complication at the National Assembly. He cited Section 153 of the Constitution and Section 29 Subsection (6) and Section 32 of the Public Finance Act. He referenced to the explanatory notes of the estimates and questioned even the merit. This reporter will interview the Serrekunda NAM the merit even though he dismissed the process as flawed.
On the state of the economy of the country, Sallah said the Minister told the National Assembly that budget is 25.3 billion and 13.5 billion out of the sum will be from grants and budget support. He said last year it was 10.2 billion. He added that according to the Minister of Finance, only 1 billion is coming from non-tax revenue and that the National Development Plan requires 1.7 billion dollars.
“The bulk amounts to loans, how are we going to pay when we are relying on taxation? That is inconceivable. We are mortgaging the future,” he said.
The NAM for Serrekunda said the issue can be addressed by building Sovereign National Wealth. He also spoke at length about the mining activities that have been taking place in Batokunku, Kartong and Sanyang. He said the national resources should be utilised to develop the country. He said the government has not done much when negotiating the Fisheries partnership between The Gambia and the European Union. He said the partnership should have considered the issues of the returnees to bargain to secure equal number of Gambian workers and further get fishing trawlers before the expiry of the Contract so that the Gambians on EU Vessels would have Gambian vessels to transfer to by the time the contract expires.
“If we are negotiating, we have to do so in the national interest. If not, it means that we are recycling the whole poverty chain and it will come back to us,” he said.
Sallah asked the following: what is the country producing, what is the productive base of the country and how is the country’s economy growing?
It is argued that NAWEC is producing and will contribute to the GDP of the country but what NAWEC is doing is to depend on Senelec and Karpower for power supply. Those institutions will be building their productive base; their machineries and expanding.
“What would happen to NAWEC? What type of relation will lead to our greater dependency and / or eradicate it. That is the issue,” he said.
Sallah said over 500,000 children will be produced by the school system every 12 years.
“What are we doing to prepare them for the future? It cannot just be based on theory. If we are going to build our agriculture, we cannot give our lands to others to own. All these trainings will be meaningless unless the young people are given the means of production,” he said.
Sallah tasked the government to give the farmers fertiliser, seeds, farm implements and tools as well as operate cooperative Banks where farmers could access funds. The profit made can be shared and poverty will be eradicated, he added.
“Investors are coming and we are not saying they should not come but when they come, they are our partners. They can provide capital, we provide land so that we can have a win-win situation based on equal share and not to alienate our land from us. The same thing goes with the ocean,” he said.
He said the government should ensure that there is equitable investment in the country to make sure that the prosperity of The Gambia continues.
Sallah also talked about the issue of citizenship. He said this should be critically addressed.
Other speakers’ contributions will come in our subsequent publications.
Foroyaa as usual will always ensure that the public is being informed about what is happening at the National Assembly.