By Yankuba Jallow
The Constitutional Review Commission (CRC) has on Wednesday held a dialogue with the media fraternity at its secretariat in Kotu about the work of CRC.
The CRC is mandated by the CRC Act 2017 to draft a new constitution for the Gambia and also prepare a report in relation to the draft constitution.
In his statement, Justice Cherno Sulayman Jallow, the chairperson of CRC said the commissioners are committed to continue and sustain the cordial, sincere and mutual supportive relationship that the CRC has established with the media.
“The constitutional review process will be an inclusive one designed to ensure that every Gambian at home and abroad and any other person who can bring value to the constitution making process has the opportunity to do so,” Justice Jallow said.
Justice Jallow reiterated that the constitutional review process is open, transparent and impartial and that the process will be guided by the principles of participation, inclusiveness, representation, transparency and national ownership.
Jallow disclosed that the CRC has now established a fully functional secretariat to facilitate the work mandated under the CRC Act, 2017. He added that the process of recruitment of support staff for the Secretariat has been completed and the Commission has now set up a permanent secretariat.
“This will help ensure the independence of the Commission and a better in-country public consultation will be done in phase at district and ward levels with a view to engaging the population and thus, make the process as inclusive and participatory as possible,” he said.
The Chairperson added that the public consultations will involve, among others, inviting written contributions, responses to questionnaires, focused and thematic reviews, face to face dialogue and contributions through the CRC website which is under construction. Jallow also emphasized that the public consultation process would also incorporate the views and aspirations of Gambians living in the Diaspora and it will cover some countries in Africa, Europe, Middle East, some States in the United States of America as well as Canada.
Justice Jallow indicated that the Commission will do their best to provide separate platforms whereby persons and communities that feel that their views may not have been properly or adequately represented at the public consultations to seek special audience with the CRC.
Jallow said they have published the CRC Issues Document as part of their engagement process with the Gambian public and stakeholders.
“The Issues Document has been designed and developed by the Commission to initiate dialogue on key constitutional matters which Gambians and other stakeholders may wish to address their minds to as we journey together in building a new constitution as mandated under the Constitutional Review Commission Act, 2017,” he said.
He pointed out and emphasized that the Issues Document should not be taken or viewed as constraining the thoughts of Gambians and other stakeholders as regards the issues that should be considered in developing a new constitution for the Gambia.
The Document, he said, must be viewed simply as a guide in initiating dialogue, and that they CRC welcome further thoughts not addressed in the Document.
On the challenges faced by the Commission, Justice Jallow stated that the major challenge is financial independence.
“Considering the short window of eighteen months within which the CRC is to deliver on its mandate, it is crucial that the Commission’s work is not hampered by unnecessary bureaucratic processes and procedures which have the potential to slow down the progress of the Commission’s work; this compromises the assurance of proper efficiency and effectiveness,” he said.
Jallow said pursuant to the CRC Act, 2017, the funds of the Commission are to consist of monies appropriated to the Commission by the National Assembly and donations received from any lawful source approved by the Minister. He added that the Commission through the support from the Attorney General’s Chambers and Ministry of Justice, has established two independent CRC accounts with the Central Bank of the Gambia. However, Justice Jallow stated that the Commission recognizes the efforts of the Attorney General and Minister of Justice whose full personal support the Commission has and who is also working feverishly to ensure the objective of financial independence and a better facilitation of the work of the Commission.
The second challenge according to the chairperson of CRC is the issue of resources.
“Securing adequate financial resources has unfortunately become one of the biggest challenges the Commission is currently grappling with as it endeavours to implement its Action Plan, carry out interface consultations with the Gambian public at home and abroad and run the secretariat smoothly. The timeframe for the public consultations is from October 2018 to June 2019,” he said.
Jallow averred that since the inception of the Commission, it has been operating on ad hoc funding.
“This has the potential to compromise long term planning and ensure the CRC keeps to the terms of its Action plan,” he said.