The following comment was copied from Dawda Kawsu ( Sanna) Jawara’s Face Book Page and relayed to Halifa Sallah for Comment. This page entitled “Enlightenment Forum” will now be utilised to encourage meaningful debate to assist the public to know the truth by publishing different accounts on matters of National importance to enable interested readers to consider and contrast viewpoints and form an enlightened opinion.
In that regard, nothing could be timelier than a debate on the rejection of a motion to extend the state of emergency for 45 days in May 2020.
The Assembly was split. Some rejected the motion for extension while others supported the extension.
In the following, Sana Jawara (National Assembly Member for Upper Fuladu West) went further than the mere explanation of why he rejected the extension of the State of Public Emergency in May 2020 to challenge the PDOIS members of the National Assembly on the position they took on the same subject. The following is designed to published Sanna’s views and Halifa Sallah’s response, point by point.
THE FIRST POINT RAISED BY SANNA JAWARA
“One thing I respect PDOIS and its leadership for is their principles and unwavering commitment to serve, but this time around, they failed to live up to my expectations by supporting a system that is not working. I won’t resort to the claim that their stance is to support anything against what the UDP supports, that is far fetched for me personally. “
HALIFA SALLAH OBSERVES
Sanna refers to what he deemed as our adherence to principles and our unwavering commitment to serve but argued that we failed to meet his expectation when we took our position in May 2020 on the question of extension of the state of emergency. He said that he would not be led to conclude that we took our position just to oppose what the UDP proposes. If that is not what he wants to insinuate then why alluding to it. It is frivolous to state what one does not wish to attribute to others as an act of bad faith to rebut what one conjures just to give the impression that one does not believe what others are saying in their own quarters.
However, allow me to make it abundantly clear that each PDOIS member of the National Assembly is not dictated by any party caucus or party leader. Each is bound by the directive principles embodied in Section 112 of the Constitution which 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 conscience and the national interest.”
Does Sanna, in particular, or any Gambian, who has been following the National Assembly, have any evidence to show that we have departed from the said provisions and are influenced by parochial partisan interest? We are guided by the dictates of law, conscience and the national interest in all our undertakings in the National Assembly. That is the incontrovertible truth.
THE SEC0ND POINT RAISED BY SANNA JAWARA
Sanna wrote “However, the reason why the National Assembly has a stake in the implementation of regulations under a SoPE is to ascertain equity, accountability, transparency, reason and justification of the affirmed regulations. That was our power but our indifference as a body to stand together on our ground and make the executive accountable is what emboldened the executive to treat us as paper pushers with no substantial power or position. The executive failed in their delivery to enforce the regulations and when they came back to seek an extension of the same, the least we could do was to stand resolute with the recommendations forwarded by the special select committee and, I believed, having first hand play in the whole deliberations, they would have yielded and start working harder to avoid the situation we are in today.”
HALIFA SALLAH OBSERVES
Any careful and informed reader would not be able to understand the chapter or verse that Sanna is referring to when it comes to what happened at the National Assembly in May 2020.
The key point to note is that the Minister of Justice laid a motion for the extension of the period of a State of Public Emergency declared on Wednesday 8th July 2020 for a period of 45 days with effect from 15th July 2020. This was the key and primary matter that was before the Assembly which was brought under the authority of Section 34 Subsection 2 of the Constitution. Sanna Jawara glossed over this matter and jumped to his conclusion without any regard for Section 34 Subsection 2 of the Constitution. This is where his bareness of insight of parliamentary procedures and processes started to surface, with overwhelming thoroughness and I will discharge my evidential burden to prove that his allegations cannot be backed by law or fact. They are grossly erroneous. They are completely devoid of merit and should be dumped into the garbage heap of discredited opinions that should only influence the minds that see truth and refuse to accept it.
What then was the secondary matter that was before the Assembly? The Secondary matter which derived its legal foundation from Section 35 of the Constitution and Sections 3 and 5 of the Emergency Powers Act is about the measures that should be taken under a State of Public Emergency.
In addition to the motion for the extension of the period of the State of Public Emergency, the Minister of Justice made a motion for the affirmation of the regulations that they had put in place as measures to deal with the threat identified as follows:
“In accordance with Section 5 (2) of the Emergency Powers Act, for the regulations to continue to have effect during a period an emergency proclamation is in force, they must be affirmed by a resolution of the National Assembly.” These were the very words of the Minister to again confirm that an emergency proclamation is one thing and the regulations are indeed mere offshoot of the primary matter. This is the law and the fact.
Hence a mature member of the National Assembly would consider each of the motions on the basis of its merit, irrespective of their consolidation by the Minister.
Now let us look at the primary motion from the standpoint of law and fact to make a sound judgement possible.
First and foremost, the National Assembly members were being asked to extend the period declared as a State of Public Emergency. Each National Assembly member should have asked what he or she was being asked to extend.
Section 34 Subsection 1 of the Constitution states:
“The President may, at any time, by Proclamation published in the Gazette, declare that
(a) a state of public emergency exists in the whole or any part of The Gambia;
(b) a situation exists which, if it is allowed to continue, may lead to a state of public emergency.”
A state of Public emergency is a situation that poses existential, grave or monumental threat to life, peace, property or the environment.
The Minister of Justice told the members of the National Assembly that between 18th March, when the first proclamation of a state of Public Emergency was made, and May, when he was seeking extension, WHO has put the total number of those who tested positive globally as13 Million with 570000 recorded deaths from the virus. He said in the Gambia the number of persons tested positive had increased from 1 to 64 and the deaths from 1 to 3. The Minister alerted the minds of National Assembly members to the gravity of the situation as follows: “It has been forecasted by health experts that the Gambia will face its peak infection rates around the end of July and the recent spike of cases in the country serves as an ominous sign of what is to come.”
On the basis on these facts, he called on the members to extend by 45 days the period during which COVID 19 would be considered a threat. The four PDOIS members of the National Assembly that Sanna mentioned, for reasons best known to him, concurred, without any consultation among themselves, that COVID 19 would pose an existential threat for the period mentioned by the Minister. They voted accordingly and would do so again if the same circumstances arose. Every Gambian should ask Sanna whether he was not convinced that COVID 19 would pose an existential threat for a period of 45 days as of 15th May 2020. If his answer is in the positive then why did he refuse to support the obvious fact that COVID 19 would pose an existential threat for 45 days and even beyond to address the primary matter and then deal with the secondary matter, the regulations, as they should have been dealt with by the powerful Committees of the National Assembly.
THE THIRD POINT BY SANA JAWARA
Sanna wrote:“What difference does it make whether we extended the same weak administration of the SoPE or the president declares one. None whatsoever as it is evident today. I respect Uncle Halifa, Uncle Sidia, Uncle Sillah and Uncle Suwaibou, but I am of the view that they would have acted differently and reject what was wrong if they had to do it all over again. If not, then I stand assured more today than ever, that even they, with all their good intentions, can be wrong too.”
HALIFA SALLAH OBSERVES
Sanna has fully confirmed that he was not guided by Section 34 of the Constitution, conscience and the National Interest when he was asked to consider whether or not COVID 19 would continue to pose an existential threat for a period of 45 days from 15th May 2020. He has also demonstrated his total disregard of the powers given to the National Assembly that makes it an Independent and powerful umpire. According to him, whether an extension is given by the National Assembly under the situation which prevailed at the time or the President continues to declare a state of emergency, the same results would be achieved.
Since Sanna did not allow law and fact to guide him to make a mature judgment, he allowed misconstrued paltry conceptions to misguide him and thus could not distinguish the unique role of the executive from the unique role of the National Assembly as neatly delineated by Section 34 of the Constitution and buttressed by Section 35 and the Emergency Powers Act which he should have digested before voting. He thus contributed to reducing a powerful institution into a powerless and helpless observer by the making of its own members, yet the gentleman still remains impenitent. This is why he merits indictment and the proffering of evidence to convince him that he was wrong in his judgment and not entirely free from trying to play a political game with his constituency in the way he dragged the PDOIS members of the National Assembly in his summation.
What should be as clear as noon day is that Section 34 of the Constitution simply requires both the President and the National Assembly to accept full responsibility for alerting the nation that a threat exists as long as it exists or that it could exist if certain things are not done, as long as the situation warrants such a declaration.
A rational person would accept that once a threat exists, it should be acknowledged even if nothing is done about it. What exists does exist independent of our will or actions. Sanna Jawara, however, is saying that if nothing satisfactory is done by the executive, the National Assembly should not accept that a situation exists that poses an existential threat. Common sense does not permit such illogical deduction.
The logical thing to do is to accept what is a fact based on the requirement of the law and then proceed to gauge the gaps in the measures adopted and recommend remedies for the shortcomings.
The incontestable fact is that Section 34 Subsection 1 empowers the President to declare the existence of a State of Public Emergency. Subsection 2 provides for the extension of that declaration by the National Assembly. Subsection 3 empowers the President to revoke a declaration. Subsection 4 makes it mandatory for a declaration that is extended to be in force only within the period specified by the resolution for extension. Subsection 5 provides for renewal of extension by the National Assembly and the power to revoke any extension at any time the Assembly deems necessary.
In short, even if the Assembly were to extend the declaration by ninety days, it could revoke its resolution at any time before the expiry of the ninety days.
It is therefore incontrovertible that Sanna has misled himself and is trying to mislead his constituency to think that extending the period of a State of Public Emergency amounts to an endorsement of the measures adopted by the executive to deal with the situation.
The fact that all the Assembly members, more so the PDOIS members, had shown their dissatisfaction on one measure or the other or the implementation process, Sanna makes it difficult for me not to believe that he is engaged in face-saving theatrics to give the impression that others were giving a clean bill of health to the government after all their blunders in judgment.
There was another method under law and our standing orders to challenge the gaps in the regulations and in their implementation. Sanna Jawara is just pretending to be a pioneer of a process he has little understanding of.
Standing Order 80 makes it mandatory for all subsidiary legislation to be scrutinised. The whole country witnessed the challenge I posed to the Minister of Justice emphasizing to him that the regulations were required to be reasonably justifiable for dealing with the threat they seek to nullify and would have to be subjected to scrutiny.
Furthermore, I am duty bound to convincingly show how Sanna’s lack of grounding in the Standing Orders led to his missteps which he is now trying to legitimize. Let us go to his fourth Point to prove my case.
SANNA JAWARA’S FOURTH POINT
“The recommendations of the committee was not to reject the extension of the SoPE, but rather to make it more effective which the AG and Minister of Justice’s motion did not entertain. I played a critical part in this process and I know exactly what transpired during the exercise of our mandate in the first 45 days, thus no one can distort the truth by promoting a different narrative to me.”
HALIFA SALLAH OBSERVES
Here again, the impenitent Sanna has inadvertently amplified his demonstrated incapacity to understand his role as a National Assembly member or a member of its Select Committee. The facts will now prove that knowledgeable National Assembly members saved the National Assembly from embarrassment if it was allowed to put the cart before the horse.
First and foremost, it is not the role of the National Assembly to declare a state of emergency. That is the exclusive role of the Executive.
It is not the role of the Executive to extend a period of Public emergency. That is the exclusive role of the National Assembly. The Executive could only allow declarations to lapse and then make new declarations.
Suffice it to say, the National Assembly cannot extend what has not been declared. Hence, an extension of a state of emergency must ride on the back of a declaration of state of emergency.
How then could the National Assembly make a decision on an extension before the motion of the Minister of Justice for an extension is considered? This would be putting the cart before the horse.
Secondly, if Sanna knew the standing orders he would have moved for an amendment to the motion of the Attorney General under Standing order 58 7 and 59. I dare say that he did not move any amendment nor did he consult with people with knowledge of the processes and procedures to know what to do.
His assertion that the motion of the Attorney General did not entertain their endeavours to make the measures during the emergency more effective is, at best, a fairy tale and, at worst, utter fabrication. The AG was humbled by the criticism and openly pronounced his readiness to entertain any review of the regulations by the National Assembly. This is the second point.
Thirdly, Sanna has not mentioned the number of days they recommended because he did not want to be ridiculed. In short, the National Assembly cannot stop a state of emergency from being declared for a period of seven days when it is in Session or 21 days when it is not in Session. Why would the Executive come to the Assembly to be given 21 days extension which it could automatically have when the Assembly is not in Session? Section 34 Subsection 5 envisages a 90-day extension. The National Assembly initially gave 45 days to tighten the screws for stringent scrutiny. The Special Select Committee was set up to monitor the implementation of the regulations and provide a report at the end of its mandate lasting 45 days. This was done. Instead of extending the state of emergency and oversee a review of the regulations by the various committees of the National Assembly by relying on the core findings of the committee, inexperience and overzealousness led to the derailing of the whole exercise. One may wonder whether I am being very measured and fair in my comment.
His personalisation of the crucial role he played would allow me to question his motive of having Press interviews before the report of the Special Select Committee was delivered in gross violation of Standing Order 100 paragraph 8 which states:
“The evidence taken before a Committee and any documents presented to, and any proceedings of such Committee shall not be published by any member thereof or by any other person before the report of such a Committee has been presented to the Assembly.”
Why did Sanna make allegations of all sorts in the Press before their report was laid and when the Auditor General has all powers to audit, surcharge and call for prosecution for any alleged financial misconduct?
Hence, in dragging the PDOIS National Assembly members into this game of trying to fabricate narratives, one must again ask: What is Sanna’s motive?
SANNA JAWARA’S FIFTH POINT
He wrote: “Imagine what could have been the case if the National Assembly stood together and made the executive implement our recommendations. I bet The Gambia would have been a safe haven today as no additional case would have been imported to infect us and those infected would have been identified, isolated, treated and the virus contained. Everybody would have been out and about doing business and the economy would have been stronger.”
HALIFA SALLAH OBSERVES
The Committee was set up to have a life span of 45 days and could not have come up with any comprehensive measures that took into consideration the policy on COVID 19 or the lack of it, institutions in place or required, strategic plan crafted or needed, the human, material and financial resources available in the short medium and long term or the gaps to be filled in order to achieve the high goals that Sanna has set in his concluding remarks. The enlightened members of the National Assembly could easily identify the gaps in the report such as the lack of featuring of the educational response to COVID 19 and therefore recommended for its adoption to be suspended so that the report and recommendations could be referred to the relevant committees for scrutiny, consideration and advice on the way forward for the Assembly and its committees in engaging the executive and the people to fight, contain and defeat COVID 19.
I must conclude by discouraging National Assembly members from being gripped by what I call the shylock mentality. As long as the shylock mentality prevails which compels people to demand their pound of flesh or nothing else, the price will continue to be paid by indecision, stagnation and retrogression.
As long as the Assembly is unable to move three- quarters of its members to support extension and members like Sanna retain the view that it is better to leave the Executive to declare emergencies rather than give them extensions for more than 21 days, the National Assembly members would continue to twiddle their thumbs while Gambia burns.
He wrote: “It is human and sincere to accept wrong when one is, and not resort to blame games as if we know no better.”
HALIFA SALLAH OBSERVES
Hindsight and foresight are the guiding light of the insightful leader. When a leader is robbed of foresight and hindsight one must grope in the dark.
The elementary truth that Sanna should deduce from this exercise is political theatrics is that wrong and right, in this instance, is determine by law and fact. He has only opinions to give. He can neither refer to law nor fact to back his allegations against us.
Wisdom dictates that one does one’s home work before engaging in seriously meant debate on the fundamentals in parliamentary procedures.
I hope this exchange could continue and that those who proffered allegations against us regarding the Local Government Amendment on the issue of losing seats as a result of dismissal from their parties and people like Madi Jobarteh, who claims that I was wrong in announcing the plan to summon the Vice President to the Assembly to answer questions on the state of emergency, would put their arguments in writing for review.