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Executive Overreach

“She is UDP, let Barrow get them for what they did to the coalition. It’s a party affair, what has the nominated member of the National assembly done for country? She is loyal to her party and not country that’s why they are making noise.”

These and many other unfortunate comments have pervaded social media discourses in the past week following the announcement that the President reportedly has decided to sack a Nominated Member of the National Assembly.

These are the kind of worrying trends we need to avoid if we are serious about building a country. We cannot be selective on who gets treated how based on what party or group they belong to or based on what they did in the past. The law should be applied justly without fear, favor, affection or ill-will. Certain things are beyond politics, they strike at the heart of our nation.

No matter how flawed, no matter how lame duck the legislative arm of government is, it should NEVER be subject to the overreach of the executive or any member thereof. There are mechanisms in place to hold to account, force to act or even recall members of the National Assembly but none of that is the job of the executive. The citizens and the courts have that power and mandate.

Are we so spiteful that we’d rather the president act unconstitutionally just to get to the United Democratic Party (UDP) and UDP affiliates? THAT is pathetic! Anyone thinking along those lines might as well desist from advocating for country first for that is the textbook definition of lack of objectivity.

The error in judgement many are making (or is it deliberate?) is that the said member of the National Assembly Kumba Jaiteh was not elected by any constituency but rather “nominated by the President” thus the President can revoke that nomination at will. Nothing can be further from the truth and such line of reasoning highlights ignorance of the subject matter.

The President nominated members of the National Assembly as granted by the 1997 constitution, he does not appoint them or send them to the National Assembly. The watch word is “nominated”. A nomination is essentially a recommendation and it can be approved or rejected by a different body such as the Supreme Court or the National Assembly as the case may be. As Ms. Jaiteh herself put it so eloquently; upon approval of the President’s nomination and the subsequent swearing-in of the National Assembly member, the President no longer wields any power over such a nominee as the person is, for all intents and purposes a National Assembly Member; a co-equal branch of the executive. There are other legal arguments to be had on the issue as relates to constitutional provisions and the relevant sections.

Unless we want to argue that the executive has power over the National Assembly outside of the courts, then this case should be argued no further. Regardless of how she got there, Ms. Jaiteh is a National Assembly Member. Tying the President’s overreach to her supposed “under-performance” or her position as having being obtained through a nomination is a threat to the concept of separation of powers. Lest we forget, the President nominates Judges in consultation with the Judicial Service Commission. Once they become judges they are no longer under the influence or control of the executive even though they were nominated (recommended) by the President.

Processes and procedures are what make systems functional, our goal should be to make sure such processes and procedures are effective, efficient and responsive to the needs of a democratic society. Regardless of who may be the subject of the issue at hand, our advocacy should be for a just execution of the law. when we start to pick and choose who deserves justice and who deserves vengeance, we are setting up the entire system for failure.

It is easy to say that “we need system change” or that “we need to put country first.” But it seems these ubiquitous terms have become cliche used out of convenience to support one’s narrative, completely devoid of sincerity.

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