National Assembly Building
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By Ramatoulie Jawo
The National Assembly members of the Gambia on Wednesday engaged in a debate over the 2023 Victims Reparations bill following the bill’s second reading by the Honorable Minister of Justice.
In consideration of the issuance of the Certificate of Urgency, 31 members voted in favor, while 14 members opposed it.
Subsequent to the bill’s second reading by the Attorney General and Minister of Justice, the assembly members took the floor to discuss and seek clarifications from the Justice Minister. Many speakers expressed varying views on the urgency of the bill.
During her contribution, Honorable Touma Njai expressed her reservations about the bill being considered under the Certificate of Urgency.“I really support this Bill (victims Reparations Bill 2023) but not under the way it is presented to us as representatives of the people. We are elected by our people because they trust us to come and defend and protect their rights as citizens of the Gambia the reasons that provision it given in the constitution for the president to bring it as a matter of urgency has been abuse because I don’t see this as a matter of urgency,” she said.
While acknowledging the benefits to the community, she emphasized the need for a thorough examination of the principles involved and called for the bill to be referred to the relevant committees for proper scrutiny.
She insisted that, as members of the National Assembly, they should ensure that the bill is taken through the appropriate processes, as much as they desire its passage, to ensure that the victims receive the justice they deserve after enduring decades of suffering.
Honorable Amie Colley, the National Assembly member representing Foni Berefet, expressed her support for the bill, emphasizing the importance of providing reparations to the victims. She also highlighted that no government is without its victims, pointing out, “Even the current government has Gambians awaiting accountability.”
NAM for Serekunda West, Honorable Madi Ceesay, expressed his support for the Reparations Bill while raising concerns about the urgency with which it was presented.“I am not against the Reparations Bill. My only issue is to force it on us. This Bill has been there for seven years, and now you want us to treat it as a certificate of urgency,” he said. Honorable Abdoulie Ceesay, the National Assembly member representing Old Yundum constituency, expressed his gratitude to the President for introducing the bill. He recalled accusations made during the 2021 elections that the President had not given adequate consideration to the victims. He emphasized that the bill represents a timely response to address the needs of the victims and disagreed with those who questioned its urgency, stating that the victims require support, and the bill aims to establish a commission to address their plight.