Lawmakers describe absence of justice minister at Assembly as disrespectful

By News Desk February 10, 2022

Dawda A. Jallow, Attorney General and Minister of Justice

The Attorney General and Minister of Justice Dawda A. Jallow, conspicuous absence at the National Assembly to table three land bills has been described as disrespectful by law makers. Jallow was supposed to appear before the members of the parliament for a consideration of three bills tabled by his ministry, which are Labour Amendment Bill 2020, Force Labour Amendment Bill 2020, and Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Bill.

But the minister made the members of the Assembly to meet at the parliament on Tuesday, 08 February 2022 and disrespectfully failed to appear and didn´t give any prior notice. This is not the first-time ministers and vice president has been treating the parliament with such disregard and contempt.

Hamat Bah Minister of Tourism and Culture have being running away from the parliament for almost two years now. But it looks like the members of the parliament had enough of this erratic behaviour of the cabinet members. The speaker has issued a statement by asking the government to take parliamentary business seriously.

“The National Assembly of the Republic of the Gambia has called on the Hon Attorney General and Minister of Justice to tender a letter of apology to the Assembly for his failure to attend to businesses under his charge in Parliament, without prejudice to the right of the Assembly to take any further action.

The Assembly was compelled to arrive at this decision upon notice that the Attorney General was out of the jurisdiction and was not able to attend to his businesses as scheduled on Tuesday the 8th of February 2022. The Speaker of the National Assembly, Hon Mariam Jack Denton indicated that both in the Approved Agenda of the Session and on Order Paper, the Hon. Attorney General and Minister for Justice was scheduled to appear before the Assembly for the various businesses under his responsibility.

“However, I regret to inform this Assembly that the Hon. Attorney General is currently out of jurisdiction and will not be able to attend to his businesses as scheduled. This fact was just made known to the Offices of the Speaker and Clerk this morning as we were about to enter the chambers for business”, the Speaker informed the session.

“As Presiding Officer, I am very concern that Parliament will not be able to proceed with business due to the unavailability of the Attorney General without any prior formal communication to my Office or the Office of the Clerk.” Given the seriousness of the situation, the Speaker requested the Assembly Business Committee (ABC) to urgently convene a meeting to look into this matter and review the conduct of the Hon Attorney General in accordance with sections 74, 75, 77 and 110 of the 1997 Constitution of the Republic and the various provisions of the Standing Orders of the National Assembly.

The ABC Committee is expected to advise the plenary of the Assembly for any possible further action. Speaker Jack Denton used the opportunity to reiterate and remind all Hon Ministers and Government of the Assembly’s resolution at its sitting of Tuesday 22nd June 2021 on the same subject matter, “…THAT henceforth, Hon Ministers shall be required to appear in person before the Assembly as scheduled to answer to businesses under their charge, or officially notify the Assembly in good time the overseeing Hon Minister instead.” By this resolution, Hon Cabinet Ministers and government by large is reminded to take the business of Parliament very seriously and attend to their schedule accordingly, failure of which the Assembly will be left with no option but to charge defaulting Ministers of contempt to Parliament.

The session was then adjourned until the following day for continuation with other businesses as scheduled”, the Assembly wrote. But this is not all as various members of the parliament expressed disappointment. Sedia Jatta member for Wuli West told The Progress Newspaper “I think this time The National Assembly will take a stand. The engagement of the National Assembly takes precedent over all other engagements.

Even the president, if the National Assembly call him, he should stop whatever he is doing and answer the Assembly that is the rule. We are dealing with issues under their purview and how can we know about those issues without appearing in parliament? Permanent Secretary cannot appear on their behalf.”

“The Assembly are not happy with Ministers failing to turnup in parliament, consequently we came up with a resolution, saying if a particular Minister could not appear before the parliament for whatsoever reason, should communicate to Assembly. He or she can also delegate his fellow cabinet minister.

But if the person couldn´t come and failed to inform the Assembly making the whole members to come to the house only to realise that they cannot proceed with their setting that would result to a contempt of the National Assembly.

And in his case, he didn´t show up and didn´t inform the Assembly, that is somehow disrespect for the Assembly. As a member of Assembly Business Committee (ABC) we will look into modalities as to what appropriate action we will recommend against the Minister”, Suwaibou Touray MP Wuli East told this reporter.

Madi Ceesay, MP for Serrekunda West who was absent from the setting, reacting to the information, “This is quiet unfortunate, Ministers suppose to answer to the parliament, to respond to issues of national interest. Particularly this important bill, members of the parliament were aware of it and I am sure the minister was also in the picture.

But I think it is right time the members of the parliament to be firm and serious, the parliament cannot be a toothless bulldog. We have laws, and the Ministers can be punish for contempt of National Assembly. But we have never put those laws to a test that´s why they are behaving like this.

 It is unfortunate and he is not the only minister, but the parliament has to take itself seriously in order to be respected by others. These are some of the issues holding the National Assembly from executing it duties”, Mr Ceesay disappointingly told this reporter.

Saikou Marong MP for for Latrikunda Sabiji also weighed in “The issue now is, ABC are going to sit over the issue and review it and get back to the Assembly”. When ask about his general feeling about the issue, Mr Marong said, “I didn´t think it should have happened. If a minister is served with a notice to appear in parliament, should appear regardless of what. But that´s why I said we should review it to know whether the minister got the notice on time or whatsoever.”

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