By Bakary Ceesay
National Assembly members in Banjul on Monday have suspended the session requesting the appearance of the President or Vice President on the debate on the President address to the nation which was held Thursday 19th September.
According to Section 77 of the Gambian Constitution which reads: “The Vice-President shall answer in the National Assembly for matters affecting the President, and the President shall be entitled to send a message to the National Assembly to be read on his or her behalf by the Vice-President”
On Monday, Hon. Sidia Jatta , National Assembly Member of Wuli West tabled a motion for the assembly to suspend session until the Vice President or the president appears in the National Assembly for the debate on state of nation address and the Assembly stand down waiting for the appearance of the Vice President or President.
After the break, three ministers appear on behalf of the president for the session to continue but Hon. Sanna Jawara, National Assembly of Upper Fulladu raised a point of order, drawing the attention of the Assembly to Section 77 of the Constitution which reads: “The Vice-President shall answer in the National Assembly for matters affecting the President, and the President shall be entitled to send a message to the National Assembly to be read on his or her behalf by the Vice-President”
Hon. Halifa Sallah, National Assembly member of Serekunda stressed that “President in this National Assembly, it is only the vice president who is authorized and mandatory to represent the President. What we also know that all members of cabinet may also come to this National Assembly shall also be requested to appear to deal with any matter dealing with their Department of State. That’s what the Constitution says,”
The veteran lawmaker said: “Hon. Speaker we need to put an end to this practice of having a minister absent or a vice president absent and the session has to be suspended. The Constitution is very clear on the absent of minister or vice president the section 270. They are acting appointees; anybody who appoints a person can also appoint any other authority to act on the behalf of that person. And we must begin that trend in this country”
Sallah further explained that they have abundant, the principles of good governance. What is important is that anytime any minister goes abroad, the president should appoint an acting person from any of the other ministers and simply publishes in the gazette. And that person can appear on behalf of the minister on behalf of the vice president.
“This is what should start. If we are going to continue to proceed, we can’t on the basis that the ministers are simply representing their offices and their department, but not representing the president here”.
At this juncture, Speaker of National Assembly Hon Mariam Jack-Denton requested for the members to vote for or against the motion of the assembly to continue in the absence of the vice president or president or continue without the president or vice since there was different views on the issue.
The Assembly then proceeded with voting, 28 voted for the Assembly to suspend session for the President or Vice President to appear while 11 voted for the session to continue.
Going by the votes the session was suspended until a request is sent for the President or the Vice President to appear on a later date for the debate on the Speech of the President on the State of the Nation Address to commence.