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‘Future of Gambia’s progressive politics lies in the hands of parliamentarians’

Mar 8, 2022, 12:13 PM | Article By: Ismaila Sonko

The speaker of the National Assembly has spoken highly of the role of parliamentarians in any meaningful development, saying the future of Gambian progressive politics lies in the hands of parliamentarians.

Mariam Jack Denton was speaking recently, while making her farewell statement to the fifth legislature’s last sitting at the National Assembly chambers in Banjul. 

Speaker Jack-Denton therefore wishes the in-coming Legislature and members all the best in the great task that lies ahead.

She said the National Assembly has witnessed the transition from virtually the dominance of one-political party to a more pluralised Assembly with multi party representation.

She said that the most important procedural document which sets out parliamentary structures, procedure and processes is the Standing Orders of the National Assembly. 

“However, the Fifth Legislature with support from the Office of the Clerk and the CPA-UK, undertook a major review of its Standing Orders from August 2018 to September 2019 when the new Standing Orders were adopted.”

She continued; “Some of the key changes in the new Standing Orders includes: the legislative process, for example, a minimum nine-day period was imposed before a Bill can pass all its stages, where previously bills would usually be considered and voted on by the Assembly within a day.” she noted. 

According to her, this was a huge achievement for the country’s parliamentary democracy since the dawn of the democratic dispensation in 2016, adding that it was the first comprehensive review of the Standing Orders since 2001. 

“We are proud of the high degree of satisfaction with the Standing Orders which were revised in 2019 following a thorough review exercise to bring the Assembly’s procedure in line with international parliamentary standards and practice.” she said.

She indicated that the stewardship of the various Chairpersons and the invaluable support of the Office of the Clerk, the performance of our legislative oversight and accountability functions as enshrined in the 1997 Constitution and the Standing Orders of the National Assembly were exceptional and encouraging in a fledgling democracy.

“During the course of proceedings of the Fifth Legislature, Parliament was able to consider, scrutinise and passed numerous legislation that touch on the lives and livelihoods of the people and the nation in general.”

According to their records, about fifty-three (53) Bills were enacted from 2017 to February 2022, including the annual Appropriation Acts.

“Prominent among these legislations are: National Human Rights Commission Act, 2017; Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission Act, 2017; Constitutional Review Commission Act, 2017; Forest Act, 2018; Maritime Zones Act, 2019; Women Enterprises Fund Act, 2020; Petroleum Commission Act, 2021; Persons with Disabilities Act, 2021; National Assembly Service Act, 2021; National Health Insurance Act, 2021; and most recently the Public Service Pensions Act, 2022.”

Madam speaker said, Parliament during the Fifth Legislature witnessed the tabling of the Constitution (Promulgation) Bill, 2020 (in other words the CRC Draft Constitution) by the Hon. Attorney General and Minister for Justice in 2020. However, the document stalled in Parliament at the Second Reading Stage. Notwithstanding the setback, the Government may decide to come back to Parliament to continue the process of promulgating a new Constitution for our Republic.

The Legislature, she added also witnessed the tabling of three (3) Members’ Bills; enacted two of them whilst the other one tabled failed to pass through the second reading stage.

This, she noted, is unprecedented in the history of the National Assembly as only one Member’s Bill was ever introduced and passed in the National Assembly.

“Parliament has also facilitated and confirmed appointments to the National Human Rights Commission, the Office of the Ombudsman, and the Judicial Service Commission.”

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