By: Kebba AF Touray
The National Assembly has moved a motion for the Fisheries Minister, James Gomez, to provide them with the Fishing Agreement between Banjul and Dakar.
The motion came following Minister Gomez’s response during his appearance before the legislature to provide an update on the state of the sector, after reports emanated that huge chunks of fish were seen littered on the Tanji Fish Landing Site on Friday 28th June 2021.
During the question and answer session with the Minister, he told the assembly that the said agreement was not ratified by the Gambia. He said during consultation on the matter, he was told that the said agreement has been signed since in the first republic and continued in the second republic, saying it is just a continuation and not a new agreement.
This sparked a bitter argument in the legislative chambers, with some members requesting for an urgent halt of the execution of the agreement, whilst others requested the Minister to provide the agreement before the lawmakers for scrutiny and consideration.
Musa Amul Nyass, member for Foni Kansala, moved that the minister provide the assembly with the said agreement and all the fishing agreements between Gambia and Senegal, as a matter of urgency. He said the current state of the agreement is illegal and that they cannot continue watching what is illegal to continue happening, emphasizing that the minister’s statement indicates that it is exploitative and they should not allow it to continue.
“The legislature has powers to summon those documents to come before them and scrutinize them and either they ratify or reject. So that is why we are saying that whatever is happening now, must be put into a temporal halt and summon the ministry to bring the document before the national assembly,” he said.
Sidia Jatta, member for Wuli East, said the motion should be as a matter of urgency, to bring the said agreement to the assembly for ratification, adding the legislature has authority to accept or reject anything that comes before it. He said at the time of the debate, nothing was tabled before them as per the agreement and that what they are demanding is for the agreement to be brought before them for ratification as a matter of urgency.
Yakumba Jaiteh, nominated member, said it is a contempt of the assembly for agreements not to be ratified, saying agreements need to be ratified if they are to come into existence. Otherwise, she asked the minister to stop implementing the agreement until it comes before the national assembly.
Alhagie Mbow, member for Upper Saloum, said what is proper is for them to ask the minister, as a matter of urgency, to provide the said document to ensure that they know its content and thereafter consider and ratify the agreement.
Fatoumatta Njai, Member for Banjul South, said the minister told the assembly that the said agreement is illegal and is not ratified. She also said the agreement be put on halt because it is not legal and must not be allowed to continue.
She recommended that the implementation of the said agreement be ceased until it is brought before the assembly and ratified by the lawmakers.
Ousman Sillah, member for Banjul North who seconded the motion moved by the member for Foni Kansala, supported that they ask the minister to bring the agreement before the assembly immediately for ratification or otherwise.
Alhagie S Darboe, member for Brikama North, shared the view that they should not cross their fingers and allow something illegal to continue. He said if they allow the agreement to continue and ask the minister to bring the agreement back for the assembly to ratify, it would mean that they are allowing something illegal to continue.
Dawda Kawsu Jawara, member for Upper Fulladou West, said any agreement that is implemented and is illegal should stop with immediate effect as it contravenes section 79(2).
He said the agreement is illegal because it has not been ratified by the legislature and that since the minister confessed to them that the agreement has not been ratified, he should apologize to the assembly and immediately stop implementing the agreement.
Sainey Touray, Member for Jarra East, said the best the assembly can do as per the issue is to have the agreement for necessary ratification.
Member for Busumbala, Saikouba Jarjue, said “this is a bilateral agreement” and that there is an error in it. But that since it is a bilateral agreement, he said there could be a breach of contract, and should the assembly ask for the urgent halt of the agreement, “it can bring implications on the side of the Gambia.”
He thus suggested that they ask the minister to provide the agreement, so that they know its content, after which, they can decide whether it should be stopped or continue, depending on its interest to the citizenry.
Speaker Mariam Jack Denton said from the answer provided by the Minister, the said agreement is not ratified, which means that it is not law.
She said since the agreement was not brought before the legislature, the current legislature cannot suspend the agreement.
“So, can we suspend that”, Speaker Denton quizzed.
She added that probably what she would have expected, as a matter of urgency, was for the Minister to bring the agreement to the legislature for ratification and that if it comes before the assembly, then they can make a decision.
The assembly finally supported the motion to ask the minister to present before the assembly, as a matter of urgency, the fishing agreement between the Gambia and Senegal.