The lessons should be clear
The President of the Republic addressed the National Assembly on Thursday 19th September. The National Assembly met on Monday 23rd September 2019 to debate on the presidential address. However, the proceedings were suspended to allow the executive to be represented at the highest level to witness the debate. This makes good sense since the executive would be able to take note and respond.
The media houses are still interested in knowing why the members suspended the proceedings to wait for the executive to be represented at the highest level. All Gambians should know that rule of law is not possible unless members of the executive, the legislature and the judiciary make effort to talk and work on the basis of the law. Section 76(1) of the Constitution makes the President the executive. It reads:
“The executive power of The Gambia is vested in the President and, subject to this Constitution, shall be exercised by him or her directly or through the Vice-President, Minister or officers responsible to him or her.”
In the exercise of executive power subsection (3) provides that
“The President shall be responsible for making due provision for the execution of Acts of the National Assembly.”
This is precisely the reason why section 77 provides for the ways the National Assembly should interact with the President in particular and the Ministers he or she appoints to carry out his executive duties. Section 77(1) obliges the president to address the National Assembly at least once a year. Furthermore, Section 77(3) states
“The Vice-President shall answer in the National Assembly for matters affecting the President, and the President shall be entitled to send a message to the National Assembly to be read on his or her behalf by the Vice-President.”
Hence it is clear that only the Vice President could speak on matters dealing directly with the President. No other person has the mandate to do so.
It is also worth noting that section 71 of the Constitution empowers the President to appoint Ministers as follows:
“There shall be such number of Ministers, including the Attorney-General, as the president may consider necessary.”
Furthermore, the ministers exercise the functions provided for under section 72(1) of the Constitution. It reads:
“The Vice-President and Ministers shall be responsible for such departments of state or other business of the Government as the President may assign to them. In making such assignments, the President shall have regard to the desirability of ensuring that such responsibilities are entrusted to competent persons with relevant qualifications or experience.”
This is the dictate of the Constitution. This is why those ministers are also accountable to the National Assembly and may also appear before the National Assembly to deal with matters related to their ministries. Section 77(2) provides for such state of affairs. It reads:
“The Vice-President or a minister shall, when requested by the National Assembly, report to the National Assembly on any matter concerning a department or other business of Government committed to his or her charge, and shall be entitled to attend and speak in the National Assembly whenever any Bill or other matter concerning such department or business is being debated.”
Hence it is clear that it is the President who should appear or in his or her absence the Vice President should appear on his behalf to deal with matters affecting the office of the President; and other ministers should appear before the National to deal with matters affecting their ministries.
Suffice it to say that since the President has exercised the mandate to address parliament, the vice president should appear to listen to the response of Parliament. If he fails to appear and is not represented by the Vice President Parliament has power to request under section 77(2) for him to appear or the Vice President on his behalf. Section 77(2) states:
“The National Assembly may request the President to attend a sitting of the National Assembly for the discussion of a matter of national importance.”
Foroyaa will therefore follow the proceedings of the National Assembly today to find out whether this impasse in parliamentary proceedings would be overcome.