Why Were You Elected in the Hallowed Chamber?
Fatoumatta: An Elephant on Mosquito Legs Cannot Engender Good Governance.!!!
Alagi Yorro Jallow
Fatoumatta: The Gambia’s National Assembly, an otherwise eminent legislative body, has been reduced, by its sheikhship, in standing and stature, due to the abandonment of its functions, core and peripheral; and its condoned and tolerated embrace of a self-destructive pursuit of the massage of the political ego and advancement of the political interests of its honchos. This is not healthy for democracy under the rule of law.
Abandoning republican principles and democratic ethos, the National Assembly is fast gravitating towards the acquisition and consolidation of kleptocracy and managing regime perceptions and ‘impermissibly undermine checks and balances postulating that culture of a National Assembly which has acted as a rubber stamp endorsing executive action.
Like some of its errant members who publicly boasted accepting unsolicited personal gifts, brand new vehicle, monthly cash allowances, Hajj tickets to perform pilgrimage to Mecca, as well as allotment letters to some members, a project under way to allocate plots of land, to members of the legislature, a designation of public land in Old Yumdum from President Adama Barrow. The most blatantly unethical move by the Barrow administration and the country’s lawmakers, saved for PDOIS members of the National Assembly who do not benefit with such largesse from Adama Barrow.
The National Assembly is a useless entity! A money-guzzling assembly of Yes-Men that only exists to lull the citizens into a false sense of democracy that isn’t there!
Fatoumatta: The National Assembly and some of its members are manifesting suicidal instincts, and appears ready to commit legislative and institutional suicide, thinking that such an act would pass and be accepted as an exhibition of patriotism and preparedness to sacrifice itself to defend the Gambia from destruction by a totalitarian and intolerant Executive.
Fatoumatta: Where is the morality and ethics we expect from our political leaders? What happened to the independence of the three arms of government, executive, legislative and judiciary enshrined in the Constitution to promote checks and balances? It’s just that we only see checks being encased and we are left with the balance as always. The separation of powers is a doctrine and should have a clear separation to prevent abuse of power. The separation of powers is an internal process of institutionally controlling state power and also separation of powers is an important aspect of constitutionalism.
The National Assembly must be told that what makes its Chambers hallowed and its members distinguished is not the redness of its ambience or the deafness and cockiness of its termed occupants, but the correctness and worth of its work.
Fatoumatta: The election of President Adama Barrow and his coalition 2016 partners repeatedly assured a fearful nation that they would not make a rubber stamp of our country’s National Assembly if elected into office. Did they check the dictionary meaning of ‘rubber stamp’ – as a noun – before making that solemn pledge? If they did, I will want to know who authored that dictionary. My own dictionary defines ‘rubber stamp’ as “a person or organization that gives automatic approval or authorization to the decisions of others, without proper consideration.”
How fit is that to what we have in the Gambia today not proper scrutinizing away from the furnace of parliamentary tests and checks?
Fatoumatta: A ‘legislature on its knees’ cannot engender good governance. Democracy is imperiled where a National Assembly is afraid to scrutinize executive actions and choices and is scared of debating the speech of a president.
Democracy is dead wherever you smell parliamentary decisions being first subjected to executive vetting and approval. It is dead and buried where everything the executive says and does is golden in the eyes of the National Assembly. A rubber stamp legislature is a betrayer of people’s trust; an adulterous, diseased housewife in her husband’s bed. It will kill the husband and kill itself.
Fatoumatta: Why Were You Elected?
How on Gambia’s earth did you tolerate a budget that earmarked Office of the President allocation with D700 million dalasi for salaries, emoluments for the President, his ten advisors as well his personal assistants with a colossal budget allocation of 20 million dalasi effectively and purposefully for donations, alms-giving, and think that either or both of these actions is real leadership?
What lunacy enables you to continue to entertain a budget proposal presented by the Finance Minister Mamburay Njie, request for additional GMD1.128 billion to be given to the ‘Supplementary Appropriation Bill’ it is stated that this colossal sum of money was to cover the period from January to December 2018 (19 days before years end). Is this leadership?
Fatoumatta: In contrast, is it leadership? You still did not question the Finance Minister about the mysterious 35 million dalasis which was deposited into the accounts of the First Lady’s Foundation, money alleged to fund the President’s trip to China in December 2017 not published? So why is President Barrow and First Lady the exception? Is this real leadership? Why then did the Gambians fight for accountability and transparency?
Fatoumatta: You were elected primarily for one purpose: deep thinking. It is your job, having taken the oath of office, to do some critical, creative, empowering, and visionary thinking and then translate your thoughts into plans and actions that transform your people’s lives.
Most of you are well-educated with international experience and now you have the power and platform to push for things like campaign finance reforms and ending the money-pit traditions that enforce a cycle of poverty, so do all of this!
How can you accept the wife of the president or the office of the First Lady funded with 384,416 dalasi in the 2019 National Budget?
Is this exactly why you were elected? The Gambia’s Debt is well over 240 million dalasi and takes up 50% of the revenue. As a leader, your job is to figure out how to increase national wealth and not how to be continuing acting like a walking social welfare ATM machine.
Fatoumatta: The World Bank has an elegant categorization of this strain of National Assembly. It says a rubber stamp legislature is a National Assembly with “little independence and power.” It is “the simplest of legislatures” which, according to the bank “simply endorses decisions made elsewhere in the political system, usually by parties and/or the executive branch.” It is a spectacle “where decisions are made by a leader or vanguard party, and in which the National Assembly is expected to simply endorse their decisions.” Rubber stamp National Assembly are in an illicit, adulterous relationship with totalitarianism. It is a threat to individual and collective freedom and a conspirator against societal well-being.
National Assembly exist to perform three basic functions: “represent the diversity of individuals and groups in the society; make the rules by which society is governed” and, very importantly, oversight executive actions – scrutinize its choices, vet its spending and evaluate its performance. A slavish National Assembly without self-worth will perform none of these. A National Assembly worthy of respect would not put its office and home addresses in the Presidential Villa.
Fatoumatta: Our lawmakers are proudly ‘screening’ Adam Barrow’s government bills the very manner a dictionary definition of a rubber stamp National Assembly would do it. We are seeing National Assembly members begging and receiving donations, gifts and vehicles from the executive to please “bow and go” – and to not answer questions or vote certain bills from stubborn, recalcitrant members with itchy lips.
Fatoumatta: I know that National Assembly can be homes for (and of) absurdities. The best comedy shows on earth, someone said, is found in the South African Parliament. It entertains the world regularly with a colada of wisdom, courage and comedy. That is where you find that intrepid opposition leader, Julius Malema, who would look the president in the eyes and insist he would not be allowed to address the parliament because he was a thief. There is yet in that parliament another opposition figure, William Mothipa Madisha, who, in April 2018, reportedly painted half of the House in rainbow colors of idiocy. Madisha, according to reports, raised a point of order and declared that “half of people in this parliament are stupid!” Bedlam, commotion, uproar followed that blanket verdict. The horrified speaker ordered Hon. Madisha to “please withdraw that statement.” Hon. Madisha winked at the delectable speaker and said: “I withdraw that statement,” and quickly added: “Half of the people in this parliament are not stupid!” And what was the speaker’s reaction? The Speaker said: “Thank you. Let’s proceed.” And the parliament proceeded to other controversies, like a female lawmaker looking in Madisha’s side and asking the parliament to quickly regulate the consumption of alcohol. Why? She said it was because the effect of its excessive consumption overnight was being felt in the chambers of the parliament. So, imagine a parliament of idiots and drunkards!
Neneh Fatoumatta: The Gambia’s National Assembly has its own colors which go withering since the Second republic. Things don’t just go bad in the Gambia; they sink progressively into worthlessness. Budget debates are not endorsement circus shows anywhere. When we started this democracy in 2019, we had a National Assembly of promise. Debates there gave hope that the struggle to chase the dictator back into exile was worthy of the efforts. Presidential speeches faced flaming fires of parliamentary debate. Bills were scrupulously assessed, confirmed or rejected. They were not showing of grimacing clowns and jugglers. Two thirds of National Assembly members don’t ask a single question. They came, winked at the redness of the chamber, bowed- lizard-like, and left. It did not bother the presiding officer that before his coming, the ‘bow and go’ perfume was the exclusive of members and ex-members of the National Assembly.