Banjul North NAM on Constitutional Amendments, Dumpsite, Mile 2 Prisons & Condition of Banjul

Abdoulai G. Dibba

Hon. Ousman Sillah, the National Assembly Member (NAM) for Banjul North Constituency, has called for the amendment of Section 91 (1) d of the Second Republic Constitution to enable the legislators to be more independent from undue influence and to make provision to give effect to Section 92 for the recall of ineffective representatives.

The Banjul North NAM made these calls on Monday, 24 April 2017, while seconding the motion on the debate on the adjournment of the National Assembly sine die.

Hon. Sillah said the Constitution as provided for in Section 112 (b) is exhorting National Assembly Members to always allow themselves to be guided in their utterances and actions by conscience and the national interest.

He said Section 112 (b) on the responsibilities of NAMs states: “All members shall regard themselves as servants of the people of the Gambia, desist from any conduct by which they seek improperly to enrich themselves or alienate themselves from the people, and shall discharge their duties and functions in the interest of the nation as a whole and in doing so shall be influenced by the dictates of their conscience and the national interest.”

Hon Sillah told his colleagues that in this legislative period 2017 to 2022, they are expecting reforms to be undertaken to respond to the expectations of the people who voted them into office and, in keeping with the manifesto of the coalition which brought the present executive to power.

“We are expecting constitutional reform, legal reform, administrative and institutional reforms and are therefore expecting the executive to bring these reforms before us for legislation,” said the Banjul North NAM.

In addition to these reforms, Hon. Sillah said he will be advocating for or even championing the introduction of legislation for the amendment of section 91 (1) (d) which allows for a NAM to act in accordance to the dictates of his/her conscience and the national interest but not of partisan or personal interest for fear of losing one’s seat.

He said people are condemning what is called ‘rubber stamp’ parliament but that it is this particular constitutional provision which has given rise to a national assembly whose members would not hesitate to do whatever their party leadership would ask them to do even if this goes against their conscience or national interest for fear of being expelled from the party and thereby losing their seat automatically. “We need to amend this provision in order to free National Assembly Members from any form of direction or control from their party leadership if this is to go against the dictates of their conscience and the national interest,” he said.

The Banjul North NAM also called on his parliamentary colleagues to consider giving effect to Section 92 (b) to empower the electorate to recall them if they fail to deliver.

“I know this may be difficult for the National Assembly Members to do but I also believe that we are all honourable men and women who are always ready to do what serves the interest of the people and nation,” he stated.

The Banjul North NAM said the provision for recall is already in the statutes or constitution and states in Section 92 An Act of National Assembly may make provision for the recall of an elected member of the National Assembly and that such an Act shall (a) “require that a petition for recall shall be supported by at least one third of the registered voters in the constitutency..”. He added that what is left now is for the assembly to come up with an Act to prescribe the grounds for recall and the powers and procedures to be adopted by the IEC after receiving such a petition from the registered voters.

With regard to his constituency, the North NAM said he is a member of the National Assembly representing the whole country but that he comes from a region and a constituency which is Banjul and Banjul North and cannot turn a deaf ear to the problem confronting Banjul as a Capital.

He said there are no good roads in Banjul, no environmental sanitation, no proper sewage system which led to regular experience of blockage.

He noted that one often heard people saying that they do not feel proud to show visitors Banjul as a capital and “ I think something must be done to give the city the necessary face lift that it deserves as a capital.”

Hon Sillah stated that “he will be engaging the authorities as well as the City Council to make Banjul a habitable place to live in”.

The Banjul North NAM stated that Banjul is the smallest region in the country but they have the problem of space and that any time he is coming to Banjul, he either follows a truck loaded with garbage or a truck loaded with garbage will follow him to dump the garbage in Banjul.

He pointed out that the space where they do the dumping is a small place at a swamp very close to the river and that can have negative impact on the marine life. The waste, he said, emits toxic fumes which pose a serious threat to the health of the inmates in the nearby prison and sanatorium as well as those living in the settlement next to it called ‘Ndangaan’. He noted that imprisonment does not mean denial of human rights but restricting one’s liberty.

“ I will engage the authority on this but I will first find out why they are dumping garbage from other regions to Banjul and then look out for ways and means of managing the garbage properly and to consider relocating the prisons which is in close proximity to the site, for the sake of preserving the health of inmates,” he concluded.