Tuesday, July 16, 2019

At The National Assembly: Debate on The Constitutional Review Commission Bill


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By: Kebba AF Touray

After the presentation of the Constitutional Review Commission Bill 2107 by the Minister of Justice, Aboubacarr Tambedou, deputies took turns to give their observations and recommendations on the Bill. Key among those interventions came from the Member for Upper Saloum, who expressed the need to have a constitution that caters for the interest of all Gambians and shows how the citizenry want to be governed; that a constitution based on individual interest should be rejected. He commended the Justice Minister for the move which he said was long overdue; that the Bill is timely and registered his support towards it; that they should ensure that Gambians are governed the way they want.

The Member further said that there were too many amendments on the Constitution that only suits the needs of a particular person or persons and as such, the Bill has come to remedy the situation.

“There was complete disregard for the 1997 constitution, and this bill tends to rectify some of those ills that we have in the current one”, he asserted

He noted that the Bill entails the essence of inclusiveness, liberty and the independence of the Commission, which he added are crucial for the Commission’s members to perfectly execute their job.

Hon. Siakou Marong, member for Latrikunda Sabiji, expressed that the 1997 Constitution has numerous abnormalities as it was not designed to serve the Gambian people, but to suit an individual’s interest. He raised concerns over clause 22, which states that the National assembly shall act in accordance with section 226 of the 1997 constitution, to debate and approve the constitution without amendments. He urged the Justice Minister to clarify. He emphasized that this is a new Gambia and there is a complete change in the country, compared to the previous regime. He also registered his support for the Bill.

Hon. Suwaibou Touray, Member for Wuli East, in his deliberations said they are representatives of their people and not the military and urged that the members of the National Assembly internalize their training and perform their job properly, with sincerity and honesty. He argued that they should not develop a trend wherein anytime a new Government is brought in, a new constitution will be put in place.

“I don’t think this is a healthy trend. I see countries that have existed for 20 years, and have not change their constitutions. What they do is to review the constitution, but to change the constitution is not a desirable thing”, he pointed out.

He further revealed that looking at the legal basis that the minister gave in the Bill, it is centered on section 22, which is pointing to the need to look at section 226 of the 1997 constitution to do what the institution wants the NAMs to do. He said if one looks at the section, there is no provision that tells them how they can overhaul the 1997 constitution and create a new one.

“There is no provision here which tells us that we can overhaul the 1997 constitution and if we are to rely on section 226, we can only review the 1997 constitution. We cannot overhaul the constitution. That will tantamount to overthrowing the 1997 constitution. We are not a military that has overthrown a Government and we are law abiding people. We are brought here by the people to abide by the Constitution that they put in place through a referendum and I have not seen anything in this Bill that gives us the power to overthrow, abrogate and overhaul the 1997 constitution and create a new one”, Hon. Touray stressed.

He disclosed that if the members of the legislature indulge in changing the 1997 constitution in any way, they are flouting the constitution and noted that every citizen should defend the constitution; that the 1997 constitution is brought about by every Gambian of 18 years in 1996; that everyone had the chance to vote YES or No for the Constitution to come into force and the vast majority voted YES.

See next edition for other deliberations.

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