By: Kebba AF Touray
The National Assembly Members of the Gambia on Friday 17th July 2020, passed the Local Government Bill 2020, after it was read for a third time.
The amendment sought to give Area Council officials greater autonomy, freedom of speech from their respective parties and party leaders.
The Bill was tabled in the Assembly on the 2nd July 2020, by the Member for Lower Badibu, Alagie Mbowe.
He said the sole aim of the move was to delete section 19(1) paragraph (G) of the Local Government Act. The Act made it possible for elected Council Officials to lose their offices in case of expulsion from their parties. This law subjected Council Officials to control by their various parties in the exercise of their Council duties.
The Assembly debated on the general merits and principles of the Bill on the 6th July 2020 and referred it to Committee of the Whole House of the Assembly for consideration.
The Whole House of the Assembly, on Monday 13th July 2020, in accordance with Standing Orders 70-73 considered the Local Government (Amendment) Bill 2020 without amendment.
The debate on the Bill was concluded on Monday 13th July 2020 and the third reading was held on Friday 17th July 2020, and after that it was appointed for the third reading in accordance with Standing Orders 73 (4) and 75.
On the appointed day for the third reading(Friday 17th July 2020), the deputy speaker invited the mover, Member for Lower Badibu, Alagie Jawara to move a motion for the third reading of the bill.
This move was obstructed by a point of order raised by Nominated Member Yakumba Jiateh, who argued that the Standing Oder raised by DS Sanneh, dealt with consideration stage of the bill.
She referred the House to section 71 of the Standing Orders, which deals with the resumption of the Assembly, which she read as thus “at the conclusion of proceedings of the bill in committee of the whole assembly, the Chairperson shall announce that the Assembly will now resume and the person in charge of the bill, report on the committee’s stage and any amendments as the case may be”.
She said: “That was done by the honorable member and he reported that we went through committee of the whole assembly without any amendments”.
She continued to say, “section 71 (2), on a report being made under assembly under paragraph 1, the person in charge of the bill, may, move a motion without notice that consideration stage of the bill be taken forthwith or on a specified date”.
She added the honorable member did not move a motion that the consideration stage be taken on that day forthwith or on a specified date.
She continued to say that section71(2) further said that if no such motion was moved, the bill shall stand referred to the Assembly Business Committee for the scheduling of the consideration stage.
Jaiteh added: “With all due respect, today should have been the consideration stage. You cannot jump third reading without going to consideration stage. I want the Clerk to bring clarity on this matter”.
Member for Wuli East, Suwaibou Touray, responded that Honorable Jaiteh quoted section 73(2), which states that when the bill has been reported from the Committee of the Whole House, the Assembly may proceed to consider the bill as reported upon a motion that the report of the Committee of the Whole Assembly be adopted.
He maintained: “That is the stage we are. The Business Committee has referred the bill to the committee of the whole house and the process is now to move to the third reading and that is the stage that we are in. So it is right at this stage, that the Speaker announced that the mover of the bill, to move a motion for us to go to the consideration stage”.
Halifa Sallah added that the bill was committed to the Whole House for consideration stage and maintained that what is clearly stipulated in Standing Order 66 is what the Assembly has done.
Deputy Speaker Sanneh at this stage suspended the sittings for 10 minutes and made necessary consultations with his technical experts.
Sanneh, who took into consideration the fact that the amendment procedures were held in accordance with the dictates of the relevant Standing Orders; overruled the point of order raised by Yakumba Jaiteh, and ruled that the third reading of the bill be continued.
Subsequently, Sanneh invited the mover (Alagie Jawara) to move the motion that the objects and reasons of the local government bill 2020 be amended. The motion was seconded by Member for Basse, Muhammed Magassy.
The motion for the third reading and passing of the Local Government Amendment Bill 2020 was seconded by the Member for Wuli East, Suwaibou Touray.
The Bill after barely two weeks of intensive and meticulous legislative scrutiny, consideration and adoption, with strict observance of due processes of the Legislature, finally earned parliamentary blessing and henceforth, Area Council Officials are independent and freed from the controls of their respective parties.
This means an elected Area Council official will not lose his/her seat if he/she is expelled by his political party.