Abdoulie G. Dibba
Foroyaa has promised to report the debate on the Election Act Amendment Bill as per contribution by members of the National Assembly and have already published, in the last edition, the contribution of the National Assembly Member (NAM) for Basse Constituency, Hon Muhammad Magassy. In this edition, we are publishing the contribution of Hon Fabakary Tombong Jatta, NAM for Serekunda East Constituency and Majority Leader of the ruling APRC party.
Hon Tombong Jatta has supported the passing of the Election Amendment Bill by the National Assembly and called on his colleagues to consider and enact the bill.
Below is the verbatim report on his contribution.
“I thank the Hon Minister for Presidential Affairs for ably tabling before us the Independent Electoral Commission Act Amendment bill 2015.
Hon Speaker, I raised to second the fact that this Hon august body do consider and enact the Independent Electoral Commission Act amendment bill 2015.
Hon Speaker, I must say this that finally this proposed amendment bill is before us. Hon Speaker, this proposed amendment bill has been an un-necessary concern to many who believed that there is a devil government in place that seek to do things that are abnormal in this country.
It would seem as the proposed amendment bill only constituted of two or three things when in actual fact, you have over 30 proposed amendments in this bill but hardly do they talk about it.
During the course of last week Hon Speaker, I was confronted by a group of Journalists asking me what was the cause of the delay in tabling the bill before the National Assembly as it was scheduled and re-scheduled again and again.
I said to them what is your problem and they said the people are concerned and worried that the proposed amendments will not be good for them. I said to them that if the proposed amendments are not going to be good for them, then if it is delay it is good.
Hon Speaker, I also asked them the yardstick they used to gauge the view of the people and why they are not talking about the other 30 proposed amendments entailed in the bill which are positive.
Hon Speaker, as the Hon Minister has said, “this Bill seeks to amend the provisions of the Elections Act, which has been a cause of concern for the Independent Electoral Commission in the conduct of public elections in The Gambia” and some of this concerns emanated from the political parties both APRC and Opposition Parties.
Hon Speaker, as we go through these proposed amendments, we will look at the merits of the proposed amendments.
Hon Speaker, in these proposed amendments, there is proposal that there will be no more transfers. Meaning there used to be queries from the APRC and the opposition parties that people used to transfer voters from one constituency to another or from one region to another. Now this bill seeks to ensure that there will no more be any transfer. Can you talk about that? Is that negative?
Hon Speaker, the withdrawal period for a candidate use to be 20 days before the date of the election. Now it is shorten to allow you time to either withdraw or continue.
This bill seeks to provide on the spot counting. As the Hon Minister has said, the transporting of ballot boxes from one pooling station to the counting center has created endless talks. Now this bill proposed that counting will be on the spot and this has been the concern of all political parties particularly the opposition parties.
And because counting is going to be on the spot, the voting time has to change from 7AM to 8AM opening and closes at 5PM instead of 6PM to give people time.
Hon Speaker, these and many more are the positive things that you can find in the bill. Among the things of their concerns is the D1 Million Deposit.
Hon Speaker, we should not be subjective in the things that we do and we must not be ego-centric at looking at issues.
In our sister country, Senegal, you deposit 65 million cfa which is over 5.8 Million Dalasi. Others may argue that yes in Senegal political parties are given some monies; but where you deposit 5.8 Million Dalasi and you are given 3 million Dalasi where do you get the 2.8 Million Dalasi?
And you see, if you want to create individual political parties you will have problem of funding it. Political parties should be formed and created by people and therefore the people will fund it.
The one million Dalasi as being an outcry and any corner or newspaper you read, they talked about it as if the proposed amendment is all about the one million Dalasi.
Now it has been changed because this government has the concern of its people and I do not know anywhere in this world Hon Speaker where you can find political parties depositing D500,000. In Guinea Conakry Hon Speaker, it is about 2 point something Dalasi and in USA, you cannot be a senate if you are not a billionaire.
Hon Speaker, with your permission, I want us to look at the proposed amendment. Section 12 of the Principal Act is amended by- deleting paragraphs (d) and (e). We want people to understand what this bill said. Section 12 of the Principal Act is qualification for registration and what the bill seek to amend is subsection 2 of section 12. I would read “Notwithstanding subsection (1), a person’s name shall not be entered on a register of voters in a constituency unless he produces any one of the following documents –
(a) a birth certificate,
(b) a Gambian passport,
(c) a National Identity Card, or
(d) a document certified by five elders stating that the applicant is a citizen of the Gambia.
(e) a document certified by the District Seyfo or Alkalo of the village of birth of the applicant stating that the applicant was born in his village or district.
Now what the bill seeks to do is to make sure that (d) and (e) are out.
(d) States that a document certified by five elders stating that the applicant is a citizen of the Gambia. We disagree that this should be out and (e) states that a document certified by the District Seyfo or Alkalo of the village of birth of the applicant stating that the applicant was born in his village or district.
We also disagree that Alkalolu and “Seyfolu” should not attest. Chiefs and “Alkalolu” are public officers and they represent the state.
To be cont.