Defiance and Division in Parliament over Lawmaker’s Sacking
The Majority Leader of the National Assembly, Kebba K. Barrow has maintained that a bipartisan group of lawmakers will push against the decision by President Adama Barrow to terminate the services of Ya Kumba Jaiteh, a nominated Member of Parliament.
A letter, purportedly from the presidency and signed by the Secretary General and Head of Civil Service, Ebrima O. Camara informed Jaiteh of an executive decision to revoke her nomination as National Assembly member with immediate effect. It did not give reason for the dismissal.
On Monday, the Majority Leader read a statement in front of the press at the parliament building, declaring Jaiteh’s dismissal null and void. He said the president has no power or authority to dismiss any member of the National Assembly and that it is unconstitutional to revoke the nomination of the National Assembly.
Lawmakers circulated a document they said was a resolution signed by 31 MPs to disassociate themselves from Jaiteh’s dismissal.
But the issue was thrown into confusion following a counter statement by the Minority Leader, Samba Jallow. In his statement, the longtime MP described the Majority Leader’s announcement as fraudulent, arguing that the signatures were just for attendance. He also disclosed that he had refused to sign the resolution which declared Jaiteh’s sacking null and void.
Majanko Samusa, another nominated MP also frowned at the majority leader’s announcement, describing it as fake and misleading.
Some experts say the president’s sacking of Ya Kumba Jaiteh is certainly an affront to separation of powers, but they argue that it is neither Constitutional nor unconstitutional as the 1998 Constitution is silent on the issue.
Section 88 of the Constitution permits for the nomination of five individuals by the President who shall be members of the National Assembly. It is pursuant to the said section that President Adama Barrow nominated five members including Ya Kumba Jaiteh.
According to lawyer Sheriff Kumba Jobe, the constitution is silent on the power to terminate the services of nominated members. “There is no Constitutional provision that says the President can or cannot terminate the membership of the nominated members in the National Assembly.”
However, he said there is a principle in law that “anything that is not expressly provided is impliedly excluded which means that since the power to terminate is not expressly provided, it is impliedly excluded.”
“Therefore, by this principle, if the drafters of the Constitution intended that the President would have the power to terminate the membership of nominated member, it would have expressly provided for it in the Constitution, in the same manner the Constitution has given him the power to nominate these five members. Thus, since it is not provided, one would say that the President does not have the power to terminate the membership, otherwise the Constitution would have stipulated for it,” Jobe told The Chronicle.
He said Section 91 of the Constitution that provides the tenure of seats of members of the National Assembly and how a member can vacate his or her seat in the house doesn’t reflect the procedure the president uses to dismiss jaiteh.
“An act or omission is only unconstitutional when there is a constitutional provision prohibiting it; or the act or omission conflict with a specific provision in the Constitution. Where there is no such provision in the Constitution, a better phraseology could be used but not “unconstitutional”.
In the same vein, he said it cannot be labeled as “constitutional” because there is no constitutional provision empowering the President to be able to terminate the membership of the nominated.
In a letter to the president dated 25th February following her dismissal, Jaiteh showed defiance and asked the president to advise himself appropriately.
“My membership of the National Assembly can only terminate upon my disqualification of expiry of my term as per Section 90 and 97 of the Constitution. I shall therefore continue in my normal duties until the expiration of my term on April 2022,” she wrote.
The Chronicle contacted Jaiteh for an interview but she said she was in a meeting and could not grant an interview.
The presidency could not be reached for comments.
Ya Kumba Jaiteh serves on the parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee as well as the Local Government and Lands Committee. A trained lawyer, she is also a member of the Female Lawyers Association of Gambia.