Hamad Omar Sallah
The National Assembly is a coequal branch of government. It makes the laws of the land and by implication, has sole, unfettered ability to whip the Executive into shape especially when it acts in a shockingly wayward manner, as was recently demonstrated by President Barrow in the unconstitutional sacking of Ya Kumba Jaiteh.
Interference with a duly constituted National Assembly member by the President, even if he appointed her, without following due process is a shameful act of unprecedented executive overreach and should warrant censor. The National Assembly should use its legislative powers to clip the wings of the Presidency with a view to deter any occupant of the office, here on, from overzealously acting in a manner inimical to the principle of separation of powers.
By this action, it is very clear that President Barrow had broken the bounds of normalcy and has started to reintroduce what was synonymous with Jammeh’s administration. Such an overreach is not what we expect in our young experiment in democracy; it is unheard of anywhere in high-minded democratic societies. It is very heartening to see the National Assembly register its discontent over President Barrow’s intrusive overreach and fanaticism to control the machinery of government.
The action of the NAMs to call him out in that bipartisan manner, at the door steps of Parliament, was the appropriate and proper thing to do. By doing so, Parliament did not only assert its independence but also made it abundantly and loudly clear to President Barrow that unlike previous Parliaments, this parliament is no pushover. Indeed, without a syllable of doubt, passing the resolution right on the heels of the firing incident says a lot about this Parliament. From now on it is very clear to all that this Parliament has an uncanny ability to quickly see eye to eye in matters that adversely affect its members directly. I hope it will find the same zeal and vigour in reaching a consensus on this issue to also deal with the many burning issues (healthcare, education, jobs, environment, etc.) that confront The Gambia.
Having said that, I would like to state, categorically, that the National Assembly should not just end the feud with the president on just passing the resolution. In my view, President Barrow must be made to suffer the full consequences of his unwarranted assaultive behaviour on the legislative arm of government. The National Assembly must punish him by reining him in through the legislative process. In other words, Parliament should show him who the boss really is.
Such a move would be good for Parliament, good for the Presidency and good for the country and its experiment in democracy. It will, for example, break the long standing tendency of Parliament to act too cosy, too complacent and too willing and ready to go along with the dictates of the President’s office which is how we create dictators. In the unlikely event that it becomes necessary, the NAM should support Hon Jaiteh and refer the matter to the Supreme Court.