Our constitutional democracy and the rule of law are underpinned by the doctrine of separation of powers. The three arms of government – legislature, executive and judiciary- and the twin doctrine of checks and balances operate to ensure interdependence of government branches. As well as the equilibrium of powers amongst the three arms.

This guarantees functionality of government, the prevention of emergence of executive dictatorship and, overall, the preservation of the democratic order.

The executive cannot simply distort the rules of procedure and conduct of business under the garb of the National Assembly’s privilege as a sovereign body to do as it wants.

The morality, ethics, values and beliefs of the actors heading these three arms of government impact on and shape their institutional capacities to play the checks and balances roles which are assigned to them by the Constitution.

An incompetent, morally unfit and ethically challenged President, for example, may bring about a weak, corrupt and inefficient presidency, which may be incapable of performing its checks and balances roles regarding the exercise of, or abuse of powers by the two other arms.

Similarly, an incompetent, corrupt and ethically challenged leadership of the Legislature may become so vulnerable and insecure that it may lack the gut to rally the Legislature to check the excesses of the Executive and thus prevent a slide into a dictatorship.

For example, how has the National Assembly been able to deal with the President for engaging in extra- budgetary payments of oil imports subsidies, and not making disclosures, other than to pliantly and submissively appeal to a brazenly contemptuous President to bring a Supplementary Appropriation Bill to capture the subsidy payments already made without appropriation.

There is a time to fight the Executive Branch of Government and insist on the independence of the Legislature. A time to grandstand that, as the bulwark of a representative government, the Legislature must guide jealously its autonomy, and must not allow dictation from the intruding and obtrusive Executive Arm.

But there is also a time to desperately plead for the interference of the Executive in the affairs of not only the Legislature but also in the ” travails ” of the leadership of the Legislature.

A time when legislators go with subdued ego to solicit the intervention and assistance of the Executive to resolve a problem that may affect the Legislature or the political fortunes of the leadership of the Legislature. In the Gambia, it appears this is such a time.

As for the Judiciary, it is indisputable that if the leadership of the Judiciary is ethically challenged, not only is justice administration endangered, but also the discharge of the arduous duty to confine the government and the governed to the narrow path of constitutionality and the rule of law will fail.

It, thus, can be seen how important qualification, credibility, integrity, and sound ethical credentials of the leaderships of these arms of government are to the smooth operation and perfect functioning of the arms of government themselves.

Sadly, we have observed that sometimes when the leaderships or some in the memberships of these three institutions are facing ethical or political challenges, the entire institutions which they head, or to which they belong are deftly blackmailed into solidarity. They are roped in.

” This is an assault on the Judiciary “; ” the legislature is under attack ” ; ” our democracy is under a serious threat of subversion “; ” the Executive is being frustrated “; and ” constitutional governance is in danger” are some of the “casts” that now are commonly spewed out when the consequences of personal failures are being masked as attacks on our institutions of State. I hope Gambians have the discernment to detect and detest this fraudulent claim?

By Alagi Yorro Jallow

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