By Own Correspondent – The National Assembly yesterday questioned and reprimanded the Minister of Youth and Sports, his Permanent Secretary and the Executive Director of the National Sports Council (NSC) over the NSC’s decision to challenge and protest against the decision of the National Assembly Select Committee on Youth and Sports on the seemingly controversial GNOC election.
Sheriff Gomez, Alieu Jammeh and Abdou Aziz Titao Mendy, minister, permanent secretary and executive director of the NSC respectively, appeared before deputies following what members described as an out of order and out of place move under the instructions of the Minister of Youth and Sports to direct the Executive Director of the NSC to indicate that the decision of the National Assembly select committee should be “put aside”.
The trio, who were all asked to write and apologize to the National Assembly through the office of the Speaker within 24 hours, answered questions regarding their roles in the letter challenging the decision of the National Assembly Select Committee on Youth and Sports.
The National Sports Council, it would be recalled, issued a press release at the weekend challenging the decision of the select committee, which among other issues called on all and sundry to take note that the select committee’s decision “is not final” and further advised the minister of Youth and Sports to set up a tribunal to resolve the matter regarding the GNOC presidential election.
According to Hon. Fabakary Tombong Jatta, majority leader of the National Assembly, by virtue of the press release and similar communications and directives of Minister Gomez, PS Jammeh and Titao Mendy the three people are jointly challenging the dignity, authority, integrity and decision of the National Assembly, thus making them “liable for a blatant contempt” of the Assembly.
At yesterday’s sitting, which was described as the first of its kind, Speaker Abdoulie Bojang gave a detailed background leading to the decision of the Assembly’s select committee on youth and sports, the minister’s request for a review of the decision and the approach taken by the select committee and the letter written by the permanent secretary to the Clerk regarding the committee’s decision.
Hon. Fabakary Tombong Jatta, who made reference to a Daily Observer Monday 24th January edition story captioned “NSC protests against GNOC voter list ruling”, first questioned the Executive Director of the National Sports Council as to who was the author of the article.
In response, Titao Mendy said: “Hon. Speaker, I have the evidence of a press release that I sent to the papers and not the caption as written in the Daily Observer and not a protest against the National Assembly.”
“Are you the author of this press release?” Hon. Jatta asked. “Yes,” Titao Mendy responded.
“Have you got clearance from the relevant authorities like your minister before you talked to the press and had the press release?” the honourable further inquired. “Yes” Titao responded.
At this juncture, the majority leader invited the minister of youth and sports to answer to questions. “Hon Minister of Youth and Sports, were you the one who gave clearance for this press release?” In response, Youth and Sports minister Sheriff Gomez said: “Well I am just trying to set the basis because I was just told by the Secretary General that I have to come to answer to the Speaker. I did not know there was a sitting in place. I did not know anything about this.”
“Hon. Minister with all due respect, we will give you chance to explain all these modalities. We are just asking whether you gave clearance to Mr Titao Mendy to send the press release to the papers,” Hon Jatta further asked. “Yes Indeed,” Gomez responded.
Next to answer to questions was the Permanent Secretary, Alieu Jammeh. He told deputies that he had clearance from his minister before writing a letter to the Clerk of the National Assembly.
“Honourable Speaker, with this, the Minister, his Permanent Secretary and the acting Executive Secretary of the NSC are in contempt of the National Assembly. It is regrettable that people of high standing attempt to put the National Assembly into disrepute,” Hon Jatta said shortly after questioning the trio.
In the views of the majority leader, it is expected that public officers should be guided by the constitution of The Gambia and that the National Assembly Select Committee on Youth and Sports is an oversight institution and cannot be seen as part of the sporting fraternity.
Hon. Jatta described the letter written by the Permanent Secretary to the Speaker of the National Assembly as an assault and insult to the National Assembly.
He concluded that public officials should respect the National Assembly as an oversight institution, a legislative institution and as an institution that is supposed to protect the interest of the Gambian people.