By: Kebba AF Touray
The National Assembly of the Republic of The Gambia, on Friday 3rd April 2020, rejected the 90 day extension request by the Attorney General and adopted a resolution extending the President’s Proclamation of a State of Public Emergency to 45 days, to be effective 3rd April 2020.
According to the Attorney Genital and Minister of Justice a proclamation of a state of public emergency by the President was first made on 18th March 2020, but no extension was sought from the National Assembly before the lapse of seven days as provided for by the Constitution. A second proclamation was made after the lapse of seven days, on 26th March 2020 according to the Gambia Gazette.
On 2nd April, 2020, the Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Aboubacarr Tambadou, tabled a Motion at the National Assembly for the Extension of the State of Public Emergency to ninety days. Consequent to a motion initiated by the Member for Serrekunda, Halifa Sallah, the Motion tabled by the Minister was referred to the standing committee on human rights and constitutional affairs for review. On the following day, 3rd April, 2020 the committee presented its recommendations to the Assembly, which included the adoption of a resolution extending the state of public emergency by 45 days instead of the 90 days requested by the executive. A lengthy debate then ensued which took more than 12 hours, ending with the passing of a resolution extending the state of public emergency for 45 days.
During the debate most NAMs expressed concern that the regulations linked to the proclamation should seriously consider the livelihood and human rights of the people. One concern that attracted the attention is that expressed by the member for Serrekunda, Halifa Sallah. He was concerned that the procedures adopted took cognisance of the separation of powers which has constitutional and legal foundation.
Justice Tambedou while moving the ‘Extension’ motion said it will help strengthen social distancing as well as enable Government to make proper planning and organization for the implementation of the immediate, medium and long term precautionary and preventive measures.
However, his motion set the stage for a heated debated a the Legislative House between the Member for Serrekunda Halifa Sallah and the Justice Minister himself.
According to Sallah, the objective of his motion was to know whether Justice Minister Tambedou’s ‘Extension’ Motion in connection with a second proclamation after allowing the first proclamation to lapse is not setting a precedence in giving unrestrained power to the president to issue proclamations without approval for extension by the National Assembly , ; whether there are any regulations published in the Gazette in association with the first proclamation and whether those regulations continued to be enforced after proclamation lapsed after the seventh day and whether the regulations are reasonably justifiable in a democratic society.
Sallah moved a Motion for the National Assembly to refer and commit the Justice Minister’s ‘Extension’ Motion to the Human Rights and Constitutional Matters Standing Committee of the National Assembly. Halifa’s Motion which was finally voted for by thirty six Deputies saw the Justice Minister’s ‘Extension’ Motion referred and committed to the Human Rights Committee of the National Assembly.
The Committee held an emergency engagement with the Justice Ministry on the 2nd of April 2020 to properly and thoroughly scrutinize and consider the Minister’s ‘Extension’ Motion.
Suwaibou Touray, the Vice Chairperson of the Committee and Member for Wuli East, tabled the Committee’s report on Friday 3rd April 2020 before Deputies.
In tabling the report, Touray mentioned among other things that the Attorney General did say that they did not bring the first proclamation to the National Assembly for extension because they did not know that the Assembly was in session. They did so after the second proclamation to remedy the situation. Touray further said the Committee made among other recommendations during their discussion with the Minister, that the ninety days be reduced to forty five days; that the Justice Ministry work with line Ministries such as Health, Trade and Transport, to come up with compensatory mechanisms in the form of providing relief for the most vulnerable during the period of restriction.
After several hours of heated debate on the Committee’s Report, Members agreed to extend the period but were divided on the number of days but the majority accepted the recommendation of the Committee and extended the emergency to forty five days noting that subsidiary legislation imposed restrictions on the enjoyment of fundamental rights and freedom.
However, during the debate, Finance Minister Mambury Njie confirmed to the Deputies that there was no compensatory mechanism as at that period but they will be looking into the issue.
This according to the Lawmakers indicates that the welfare of the people during the State of Emergency is not guaranteed and as such, ninety days might impact adversely on the lives and livelihoods of the citizenry.
They adopted t a shorter period so that they could monitor the impact of their decision.
Thus the National Assembly adopted a forty five day extension period effective 3rd April 2020 with the ultimate objective of preventing the further spread of the Corona virus in the country.
Follow Foroyaa Newspaper for the interventions of Lawmakers on the debate on the Justice Minister’s ‘Extension’ Motion debate in subsequent editions.
Sittings continue today Monday 6th April 2020 at 10:00am prompt.