Lawmakers of the fifth legislature of the Gambia yesterday, Thursday, 21 December, 2017 voted overwhelmingly to repeal the controversial Section 91 (1) (d) of the 1997 Constitution which rendered elected National Assembly members vulnerable to removal from office by their party leaders.
Hon. Samba Jallow, Minority Leader and National Assembly Member (NAM) for Niamina Dankunku, sponsored a private members bill which sought to amend Section 91 (1) (d) which states that member of the National Assembly shall vacate his or her seat in the National Assembly “if he or she ceases to be a member of the political party of which he or she was a member at the time of his or her election:
Provided that nothing on this paragraph shall apply on a merger of political partiesat the national level where such where such merger is authorized by the constitutions of the parties concerned.”
The Niamina Dankunku NAM wanted to amend section 91 (1) in paragraph (d) by substituting it to read “if he or she, by the notice under his or her hand to the Speaker, voluntarily joins another political party from the party which he or she was a member at the time of his or her election”
According to the reasons and objects advanced by Hon. Jallow, the mover of the motion, the Bill “is to grant independence to National Assembly members from their respective parties and political leaders, and to further enhance the freedom of speech and debate as enshrined under section 113 of the Constitution.
Some NAMs argued that what needs their urgent attention now is for the Assembly to give effect to Section 92 which empowers the people to recall their representatives before the end of their tenure if they fail to represent them effectively.
After a lengthy and passionate debate, almost all the NAMs from all the political parties and the Independent, who took the floor, spoke in favour of a repeal of this section which was described as obnoxious and a fetter to their independence in representing the interests of the electorate who voted them into office. It was only the NAMs from Lower Baddibu, Sanimentereng and Jeshwang who opposed the repealing of this section.
The lawmakers, after the rephrasing of the amendment by the mover of the motion during the Committee stage of the proceedings, finally voted for the total removal of section 91 (1) (d) without any substitution.
It could be recalled that this was the second private member’s bill since the 1997 Constituion came into being, following the first one sponsored by the former NAM for Sami Constituency, Hon. Edrissa Samba Sallah which brought law banning smoking in public places.