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MPs debate ECOWAS poll boycott

Dec 9, 2011, 1:52 PM | Article By: Lamin B. Darboe

There was a heated debate at the National Assembly on Wednesday over what steps members should take regarding the decision by the ECOWAS Commission not to send an election observer mission to the 24th November presidential election in The Gambia.

While almost all parliamentarians on the side of the ruling APRC party agreed to a resolution condemning the ECOWAS President and Commission’s decision not to send its mission, Hon Sidia Jatta of the opposition National Alliance for Democracy and Development (NADD) was of the view that the matter should have been more palatable on the table of the ECOWAS parliament.

Hon. Fabakary Tombong Jatta, majority leader and member for Serrekunda East constituency, who moved the motion, told deputies that the unilateral decision of the President of the ECOWAS Commission was not only misleading and erroneous, but very malicious and deliberately calculated to set The Gambia on post-election violence.

The ECOWAS President’s decision, Jatta added, is completely devoid of any good faith, and thus tantamount to a criminal act of deceit and malice, aimed at pursuing the private and individual goals of some politicians against the supreme national security interest of the Republic of The Gambia.

“There is compelling circumstantial evidence that the President of the ECOWAS Commission did not share his decision or sought approval with either member states, heads of states or the chairman of the Authority of Heads of States of ECOWAS,” Hon. Jatta stated.

Jatta called on the President of the ECOWAS Commission to provide an official explanation and apology for criminally attempting and conniving with private non-state actors to set The Gambia on fire, and for not seeking the approval of the authority of Heads of States and Chairman of the Heads of States before acting against The Gambia.

However, Hon Sidia Jatta, National Assembly Member for Wuli West constituency, had a different view.

Contributing to the debate on the motion, the Wuli West parliamentarian expressed surprise that the motion was tabled before the house, stressing that tabling the motion before the ECOWAS parliament would have been a more interesting debate than tabling it before the Gambian parliament, where there was too much acrimony and anger.

“Legislatures across the continent have a peculiar job to do; our job fundamentally is to contribute towards reconstructing this continent from colonial exploitation. We cannot do that with acrimony; we cannot do that with sentimental anger,” he said.

He told fellow deputies that he who wants to educate cannot be an angry person; he who wants to correct, cannot be an acrimonious person, noting that he who wants to educate people to direct development of a particular country and a continent has to have a sober and sound mind.

“I am surprised that this motion is on the table here for debate. It should have been more palatable on the table of the ECOWAS parliament. We have members of the ECOWAS parliament here; they could have moved this as a motion involving other parliamentarians from all over the sub-region; that would have been a more interesting debate than tabling it here, because I have seen that there is too much acrimony here, there is too much anger here,” Jatta stated.

In Jatta’s view, if one feels that he or she is right, even when he or she is accused, he or she should not be angry, as this could result to guilty and will mean that something is fundamentally missing.

Noting that he considers himself among other people in the world to play the role of helping to shape minds in order for people to perform properly, he said he will not condemn anybody and the National Assembly should have invited the President of the ECOWAS Commission to the parliament.

That, he added, would have been a more interesting and rewarding debate, as members will only talk but there will be no rejoinder from anywhere.

“I’m sure this people are banking themselves on something; that is why it would have been more interesting if you had him before us here. He would tell us why they have decided to do what they have done, but I’m sure they have a reason why they have done what they have done,” he added.

According to him, the President of the ECOWAS Commission did not speak as an individual, but spoke as the head of a sub-regional institution.

“Mr. Speaker, the ECOWAS Commission couldn’t have made this without any basis; I’m sure there was somebody from somewhere in that institution that came here and, at one time, to find out what obtains and probably they were making references to documents that this country and other countries in the ECOWAS parliament also signed,” he opined.

He further noted that as legislatures, they must have an open mind, they must be open to criticisms and they must be capable of defending criticism, but they should never do so with anger and sentiments.

Citing article 2 of the supplementary protocol to the mechanisms to conflict resolution and prevention, Hon. Sidia Jatta opined that The Gambia is the only country in the whole world as far as he know, where one assumes the supreme function of the Republic with only one vote.

“This was brought up by this parliament. What was in the constitution was changed to become what it is now”, Jatta went on, further stating that “when I was being registered here, I was registered digitally. I should have also voted digitally, but I didn’t; I voted mechanically.”