A prominent Gambian pro-democracy activist Pa Samba Jaw has hailed the Supreme Court’s decision to void personal loans that the country’s National Assembly allocated to themselves. The court ruled on Tuesday that the loans are unconstitutional, saying Parliament overstepped its bounds. The court ordered that any loans that already have been disbursed must be returned immediately.
“Well Pa, I think it is great thing for our evolving democracy because definitely here we see a court that was able to do its job by interpreting the constitution, this move by the national assembly to allocate itself D54 million dalasis loan scheme was one of the most unpopular moves by the national assembly. It was really decried by a lot of Gambians and we believe that it was done unconstitutionally,” Mr. Jaw told Voice of America (VOA) English to Africa on Wednesday.
The lawsuit was filed by the Civil Society Organizations and the Centre for Research and Policy Development. The court has ruled in favor of the plaintiffs.
The MPs amended the country’s budget last year to add in an allocation to fund the loans. But the Supreme Court has ruled that such a decision was unconstitutional.
“The ruling by the supreme court is a great, great, great affirmation by the concerns that we have and also a demonstration that at least our democracy is evolving and the separation of powers, where at least one of them, the legislative body, is being checked by the judiciary so that we will not have any violation of our laws,” Jaw remarked.
Jaw says the National Assembly never heeded concerns that were raised by legislature that only the executive branch has the right to formulate the budget. Among the MPS, who opposed the loan was Halifa Sallah, the MP for Serrekunda. But the majority vote later prevailed, and the loan allocation was approved.
“So, what the national assembly did was, it oversteps its boundaries. Yes, it has the powers of oversight, but it does not have the powers to allocate like to draw a budget, a fresh budget line; that is not their role,” Jaw added.
Jaw was asked what message the ruling sends.
“The teaching moments are that it is absolutely important that whatever action is taken in our governance structure is done in accordance with the laws of the country because we cannot be going outside of the law to do such things,” he said.
UK-based Gambian political scientist Dr. Ebrima Ceesay hailed the ruling and the activists for their commitment in safeguarding the country’s newfound democracy.