Says Ousman Sillah, Former Banjul NAM
“Political representation is all about serving the interest of the people. Gambia is a republic where the people are sovereign. A republic means people owning the country and the sovereignty is emphasizing their ownership,” said Hon. Ousman Sillah, the former National Assembly Member for Banjul North, in an interview with Isatou Keita of GRTS.
As the Day of Parliamentarianism is celebrated the world over on June 30th, every year, to mark the anniversary of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), which was established by a United Nations General Assembly Resolution in 2018, the former Banjul North lawmaker highlighted the role and importance of the National Assembly and the duty of parliamentarians to serve the citizenry.
Hon. Sillah of PDOIS said since not all the Gambians can serve in elective office at the same time, there must be some among the people who would be elected and entrusted with the responsibility to serve everybody. He emphasised that this is what elected representation is about at all the three levels of representation, namely the Presidency, National Assembly and Local Government Councils.
“They (elected representatives) are given the mandate and entrusted with the power to represent the people,” he added.
He emphasized that the population are the tax payers and the tax they pay is entrusted with the executive (president) to manage, at the level of the central government, and the councils, at the level of the local government, and it must be ensured that those resources are ploughed back to benefit the people (tax payers) in the form of services.
“The National Assembly’s role is to ensure that those resources are utilised in such a way that they benefit the population,” said Hon. Sillah.
He emphasised that the National Assembly Members perform oversight functions on the processes and institutions of the state, in addition to approving budget allocations.
The former lawmaker noted that it is not only the National Assembly Members who should know the work or responsibilities of elected representatives but also the electorate who gave them the mandate to serve. He added that in order to ensure effective political representation, the people should know what their representatives are supposed to do in serving them or promoting their collective interest and welfare.
“It is not only the National Assembly Members who should know what they are supposed to do, but the people or electorate as well; those who gave them the mandate must know what the National Assembly Members should do in representing them and which should not stop at giving them the mandate and it ends there,” said the former Banjul North NAM.
He added that if the elected representatives are not coming back to their constituency to consult with the electorate, it is the duty of the electorate to invite them.
On the issue of representation, the former Banjul North lawmaker said the elected representatives must bear in mind that once elected into office they are obliged to put aside partisan interest and serve everybody, irrespective of party affiliation, as the people are the ones paying the taxes that are sustaining them and paying their salaries. “This is the unfortunate part of it. Once you are elected, you continue serving your party interest,” he added.
Hon. Sillah implored the electorate to be vigilant in taking their representatives to task by engaging them at all times to serve.
“The electorate must be vigilant. They must know what representation is all about and take their National Assembly Members to task. If they don’t perform, challenge them, and at the end of the term when they come back for stock taking and you feel that they have not served you, it is your right and prerogative to remove them and put somebody else who you believe can serve you better, as elections is all about stock taking,” said Hon. Sillah.
The theme for the 2023 commemoration is Parliaments for the Planet, indicating a timely focus for climate action. The celebrations would allow lawmakers to gauge progress made by parliaments, the world over, in achieving predetermined goals for sustainable development.