Parliamentarians: It is the President or VP who must be present at SoN address debate, not ministers

EYEAFRICA TV: Banjul, The Gambia: Parliamentarians at the National Assembly have unanimously agreed on Monday, in a 24 to 11 vote to suspend a debate on the president’s State of the Nation (SoN) address until a representative from the executive, preferably the president himself, his vice or a representative is present.
Minister of Fisheries and Water Resources and Youth and Sports and some permanent secretaries were present at the Assembly but parliamentarians say it is only the President, his vice or a representative who can represent the executive during the debate session and not minister who, they say can only respond to questions regarding to their ministries.
The motion was tabled by Wulli West parliamentarian Sidia Jatta and was seconded by nominated member Mjanko Samusa, before the entire deputies’ approval. They have now suspended the debate until Wednesday, pending the presence of the President or the Vice President.
Mr Jatta said the debate cannot be held without the presence of a representative of the executive, asking the question that if no executive is present at the debate on the President’s SoN address, then who will inform the president about the concerns raised by the members?
The Vice President is currently in New York, where she is representing the President at the 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly, which commenced last Tuesday.
Central Badibou parliamentarian, Sulayman Saho also defended the Parliamentarians decision to suspend the Monday debate until Wednesday, pending the presence of either the president, his vice or an executive representative.
Member for Serekunda, Halifa Sallah said Ministers cannot represent the president to respond to the national interest, saying if the vice president is out of the country, the president has the mandate to appoint an acting member who can present him at the parliament. “The Ministers can only present their offices,” he said.
Some parliamentarians said many of their colleagues voted for the debate to be suspended due to their personal grievance against the government.  One of them said there was in fact no notification sent to the President and his cabinet for their presence at the Monday session, which Eye Africa could not establish.
Kawsu Jawara of Upper Fulladou said it is unconstitutional for Ministers to represent the president at the parliament on his SoN address, saying it’s the president himself or the vice who can come to the parliament and respond the questions and without their presence the sitting cannot continue.

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