Lack Of Quorum Hinders National Assembly Proceedings

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By: Kebba AF Touray

Barely less than a week after the Speaker of the National Assembly, Fabakary Tombong Jatta, frowned on the absenteeism of Ministers to the National Assembly, the third Arm of government could not proceed with their sittings on Thursday, caused by the lack of a quorum. 

The lack of quorum continues to take its toll on the legislative sessions of the First Ordinary Session of the 2023 legislative year.

The trend continues to confront the sittings of the legislature, since the onset of the said ordinary session of this year’s legislature of the Sixth Legislature of the Republic of the Gambia.

During the session, as indicated in a presser issued by the Clerk’s Office, important matters of the state will be discussed by the lawmakers, but on the contrary, meeting the parliamentary quorum (required number of lawmakers) to commence proceedings, is threatening the current session of the legislature.

Currently, sessions commence at 11:00 am as opposed to 10:00am prompt as indicated in the agenda of the assembly, all of which is mainly attributed to getting a quorum, making some lawmakers and journalists to wait for sometime (in some situations 30 minutes) before the sittings would commence.

The sitting for Thursday 9th March, 2023 has not been spared by the menace, as it has been hit hardest so far to the extent that sitting of the day was adjourned to Monday.

This decision came following hours of waiting in anticipation to get the required quorum, despite all the efforts made to get the required number of lawmakers.

As per the agenda for Thursday, the lawmakers were supposed to deal with the Local Government Bill tabled by the Minority Leader and Member for Brikama North, Alhagies S Darboe, but after a long wait, the speaker eventually had to adjourn to Monday.

Adjourning the sitting to Monday, Speaker Jatta informed the lawmakers present in the chambers that it has come to his attention that since 10am they have been unable to get the required quorum to commence business.

“I am sure the various leaders have done their best, but we still don’t have the quorum necessary to commence business. In this circumstance, in accordance with Standing Order 12(2)(B), I will adjourn the session until Monday at 10:00am prompt,” he said.

Shortly after the adjournment of the session, this reporter sounded out the views of some lawmakers and this is what they had to say.

Amadou Camara, Member for Nianija Constituency, described the incident as quite unfortunate, which he attributed to some members travelling for other legislative errands.

“Unfortunately, many members are not present today for reasons best known to them. I don’t blame anybody but this is not expected of us as dignified members of the national assembly, especially on a very important sitting like this on a bill which is premised on the fact on which there is a court ruling on,” he said.

He emphasised that the lack of quorum was very unfortunate and advised his fellow lawmakers to be more serious and responsive to their legislative work, and to also have respect for the purposes they were voted to serve in the third arm of the government and do their work accordingly.

Lamin J Sanneh, Member for Brikama South, reiterated “The incident is very unfortunate for us to come up to the assembly and we were unable to proceed with our activities as a result of lack of a quorum”.

He added that this has not happened in the entire Fifth Legislature, but that currently he believes a lot of the lawmakers have travelled to attend international engagements, but that notwithstanding the team here should be able to form a quorum and proceed with the proceedings.

“This is becoming a norm right now. I want to believe that. We need to take other criteria that will avoid this type of embarrassment where exactly we will come with clear cut criteria that will define our role and even access to some of the benefits that we are entitled to so that the elected representative can take things very seriously,” he said.

He said it is unfortunate for a member to be elected by an overwhelming majority from the respective constituencies, and refuses to execute one’s job at the assembly.

“Some of the excuses are flimsy. I don’t take them anymore. To be very honest with you, I am not comfortable with this. I want to believe that this is a job that they don’t force the members to contest and become a parliamentarian. Once you have chosen this as a job you have to leave up to expectations,” he said.