‘Our Security Should Not Be Taken for Granted
Friday, June 22, 2012
For 47 years after independence, Gambian deputies decided to make a change of time for the conduct of business at the parliament.
“This is a colonial legacy,” the Majority Leader and Member for Serrekunda East, Fabakary Tombong Jatta, said.
He was referring to the tradition of commencing business at parliament at 5pm.
As he prevailed on his colleagues into commencing parliamentary sittings by 2pm instead, Jatta said his proposal was in conformity with international and regional best practices.
“We do realise that our current sitting schedule of 5-8p.m. does not only pose challenges to parliamentarians and ministers, it is also a serious check on the active attendance of the public including the media and civil society,” he added.
But clearly, what the deputies refused to admit in justifying their unanimously agreed move, was that the shift was not motivated by their desire to do away with the colonial legacy, nor was the need to woo the public primary.
Concern for their safety and security was at the core for the move in a country known by the hospitality industry as the smiling coast, but whose smile is scarred by increasing crime rate.
“We do not have bodyguards,” Hon. Jatta told The Daily News at the sidelines of the assembly, shortly after proceedings.
He added: “There are laws we make in the parliament which are not supported by [some] people because they affect their interests.”
By design, the National Assembly Members, like members of the judiciary, as well as the chief executive of the country, enjoy immunity for their actions and even inactions.
CHAPTER VII of The Gambian Constitution, which deals with National Assembly, says: “…there shall be freedom of speech and debate in the National Assembly and that freedom shall not be impeached or questioned in any court or place outside the National Assembly.”
Section 114 of the same constitution further guarantees that no civil or criminal proceedings shall be instituted against a member of the National Assembly in any court or other place outside the National Assembly by reason of anything said by him or her in the National assembly.The guarantee for immunity was made more ironclad in Section 115, which reads: “No civil or criminal process issuing from any court or other place of process and arrest outside the National Assembly shall be served on or executed in relation to a member of the National Assembly while he or she is on his or her way to, attending or returning from any proceedings of
the National Assembly.”
However, as Fabakary Tombong Jatta agreed, they are protected by law, enjoy immunity, command respect, and in fact, the only thing they could not do is change ‘a man to woman....’
“But the security of the National Assembly Members should not be taken for granted,” he said. “We are protected by law but the criminal does not know that.”
Author: Ebrima Bah