The PDOIS Secretary General Halifa Sallah while discussing several issues at a press conference at his party’s bureau on the 12th April, said the coalition has a series of agreement regarding legal and institutional reform which include 2 terms limit of 5 years for presidency.
“The objective of the Coalition in the National Assembly is to reform the Constitution and to humble the executive which President Barrow has agreed to,” he said to journalists.
He said the reforms would put the 2 terms of 5 years for presidency as well as putting up the legislative agenda. He added that they also agreed that there will be security of tenure to the Independent Electoral Commission in terms of the appointment by the President as it happened before. He argued that this will prevent the full control of the executive to appoint the members of the IEC.
“The same reform should be done in the judiciary because security of tenure is of paramount importance to the coalition as far as the manifesto is concerned,” he said.
Sallah said security of tenure for the National Assembly themselves is another agreement they made as a coalition as the previous government had been removing the members through the back door by simply expelling them from their parties by exploiting a particular provision of the Constitution. He said the chiefs are very vulnerable and the local government needs re-evaluation to ensure that decentralization process will actually be a reality. According to him, this will prevent the local authorities from being subjected to any form of dictation by the executive in any manner.
“There are key legislative packages and also key issues of how to ensure greater participation of women at the level of the cabinet, in the National Assembly and in the Councils. That debate is unfolding between the inter-party committee and the political parties and the government,” he added.
He said the first humbling of the executive would have been to concede the 3 year term which will require Constitutional amendment where it will be introduced in the 1997 Constitution a provision that will assert that upon resignation or vacation of the seat of the Presidency for any cause the Vice President will act for 90 days thereafter the presidential election shall be held. According to him, that provision is not in the Constitution therefore as its stands the President has a 5 year term. But if it is injected, it adheres and agrees to the agreement then he would be able to resign after 3 years and presidential elections would be held.
PRACTICES IN THE NATIONAL ASSEMBLY NEED CHANGE
Meanwhile, he said there are several cultures in the national assembly that should be changed because the house is a prestigious place. He said he observed that anyone who attempts to change those cultures the person is termed as ‘pompous or someone who consider himself more knowledgeable than others. He said there was clapping and he raised a point of order that there should be no clapping in the National Assembly and later the Speaker advised on clapping in the house.
He continued: “The National Assembly members were summoned to its first session after the election to be sworn in on Tuesday. As far as PDOIS is concerned we have not started on the right footing. Our fundamental objective was to put to an end to impunity and governance without respect for Constitutional provisions. Section 97 of the Constitution states that the first session of the National Assembly after the general election shall be held in a place in the Gambia as the President may by proclamation appoint.”
According to him, on Tuesday, the Chief Justice who is empowered by the Constitution to preside over the National Assembly sitting before the election of the Speaker did indicate that he was there by virtue of the proclamation made by the President for the meeting to be held.
“I raised a point of clarification on whether that proclamation was before him because I have sought to get the proclamation since nobody has the power to invite me for the meeting of the National Assembly. It is only the law that should summon me to a meeting as a representative of Serekunda and no proclamation was read by me which should be a public notice to all,” he expressed.
“So it’s just an announcement that the National Assembly should do so I sought clarification from people who have the competence to give me the fact and I will not mention who unless I am challenged because it is not necessary.
He said the proper authority was asked and as far as he knew he was promised that something was to be done as quickly as possible and that was not done.
“I raised the point that the session was unconstitutional because there was no publication so there was no law ordering us to be at the National Assembly and of course I have to take the innocence of the Clerk who is not a lawyer. The National Assembly should have its own legal adviser and the executive the same. That is the position of the law and section 11 of the Interpretation Act made it very clear because proclamation is what we call subsidiary legislation,” he said.