By Nelson Manneh
Lawmakers at the National Assembly today, the 23rd of September 2019, suspended sittings and demanded for the appearance of the President or Vice President.
The lawmakers were to debate on the speech delivered by the President on Thursday, the 19th of September 2019. They said they cannot continue with the session in the absence of the Vice President or the President who were the right persons to appear before them.
Hon; Sedia Jatta the National Member for Wuli West said “focal persons don’t speak at the National Assembly”.
“The constitution stipulated that the person who can speak on behalf of the President is the Vice President, and we are to debate a speech made by the President. Am not saying other sectoral Ministers should not be here to respond to questions raised by the Members, but the key person is the Vice President,” he said.
Hon: Jatta said in the absence of the Vice President, the president can send somebody to represent him/her (President).
He then moved a motion for the Assembly to stand down for a moment and the responsible authorities to be contacted to come and appear before them.
Majonko Samusa a nominated Member supported the motion for the session to be stood down pending the appearance of the said members of the executive.
“Somebody must come from the executive to represent them. We cannot debate on this document while neither the Vice President nor a representative of the executive is present,” he said.
The speaker of the National Assembly Mariama Jack Denton granted the motion saying they will step down for one hour and come back to continue with the business of the day.
After the break, two Ministers were seen in the Assembly. Speaker Denton reminded the Members that a motion was moved by the Hon; Member for Wuli West to adjourn the session for an hour to enable the members of the executive to be present so that they can hear the issues raised in connection with the Presidential address.
“I am happy to report that the Honorable Minister who is responsible for National Assembly matters is here with us and also the Minister for Youth and Sports. The other Ministers are on the way coming and will join us later,” she said.
Halifa Sallah the National Assembly Member for Serrekunda said the Assembly should proceed in a way that will defend the integrity of the National Assembly. He said it is only the Vice President who is authorized and mandated to represent the president in the Assembly.
He said they also know that all members of cabinet may also come to the National Assembly if they are requested to appear, to deal with any matter regarding their Department.
“The reason why I raised my card is because of the need to put an end to this practice of having a Minister absent or a Vice President absent. The Constitution is very clear under section 227. There are acting appointments; anybody who appoints a person can also apply any other authority to act on behalf of that person and we must begin that trend in this country, the principles of good governance,” he said.
He continued: “What is important is that anytime any Minister goes abroad, the President should appoint an acting person from any of the other Ministers and simply publish it in the gazette and that person can appear on behalf of the Minister or on behalf of the Vice president.”
The MP for Serrekunda continued saying, “This is what should start. If we are going to continue to proceed, we can on the basis that the Ministers are simply representing their offices and their department, but not representing the President here.”
Majority of the MPs who were present in the Assembly supported the motion for the President or the Vice President to appear before the Assembly.
The session was then adjourned to Wednesday, the 25th of September 2019 at 10 am.