By Abdoulai G. Dibba
Ousman Sillah, National Assembly Member for Banjul North, during question time on Friday 29th September 2017, asked the Attorney General and Minister of Justice: “How soon is the executive committed in causing a review of the Constitution of Republic?”
In response to the Member’s question, Hon. Abubacar Tambadou said the review of the 1997 Constitution is one of the major projects that will be undertaken by the Ministry of Justice soon; that in this regard, there will be a consultative process to engage Gambians both at home and abroad and seek their views on this review. Justice Minister Tambadou added that, based on the recommendations of the participants at the National Stakeholders Conference on Justice and Human Rights organized by his Ministry, with over 500 participants from a cross section of the religious, professional, youth, and political groups; that the consensus appears to be that a new Republican Constitution will be drafted to usher in a third republic.
Ousman Sillah in a supplementary question asked the Hon. Minister: “Is the 2nd Republican Constitution so bad that it needs a complete overhaul than reforms, considering the time and resources you have highlighted here?” The Hon. Minister in response said: “Yes. I thank the Honorable Member for Banjul North for the question. Well, apparently the state of the Constitution was reviewed at the National Stakeholders Conference back in May. I believe some members of this National Assembly participated in the discussions. I think a thorough discussion was held and a working group sub-committee was created after the discussion and the recommendation that came from the generality of the participants and the working group was that, in view of the fact that the amendments are too numerous and that the Constitution has been amended over time, either to meet the particular needs of a particular person or section of the community, or to deprive or exclude another particular group; and that in order to make sense of this and because it is the Constitution that constitutes a wholeness rather than a part, we risk having inconsistent provisions and interpretations if we have piecemeal amendments. This is why the objective is to have a new Constitution that will reflect adequately and faithfully, the wishes of the Gambian people.”
In another supplementary question, Halifa Sallah, the Member for Serekunda, asked the Justice Minister whether the process for this Constitutional review and its conclusion will not go beyond three years. Justice Minister Tambadou responded in the negative, confirming that it will be completed with a referendum in a shorter timeframe. Ousman Sillah, in another supplementary question on the issue of appropriation of Land by the former President, asked the Justice Minister whether those victims whose properties were demolished and appropriated could be factored in the Commission of Enquiries that are to be set up. The Justice Minister responded that cases of these particular victims will be addressed by the Commissions.