By Yankuba Jallow
The people of Upper Nuimi prevailed on members of the Constitutional Review Commission (CRC), that the new Constitution should empower farmers and adequately address their welfare by those in authority.
The people told members of the CRC in the village of Passi Chally and Kerr Ali that farmers are the majority in the country, but the poorest.
“We want the new Constitution to empower us. We want it to provide a mechanism were our welfare as farmers will be addressed particularly by providing us with seeds and fertilizer on time,” they said.
Pa Ali from Kerr Ali village said politicians win because of the votes they receive from farmers.
“We want the Constitution to recognize us as part of the Gambia. We are a people who deserve recognition by the Constitution. More than 97% of the population live as farmers. We do not get seeds and fertilizers from the Government. We want our rights as farmers to recognized and entrenched in the new Constitution,” he said.
Malick Joof, the Alkalo of Prince village opined that a dual citizen should not be eligible for citizenship in the Gambia. Joof insisted that any person who is born in The Gambia, should be a Gambian; that the issue of citizenship should be addressed with to avoid people becoming stateless in their own country of birth.
On the election of Chiefs, Alkalos and Governors, Joof said tradition should be followed, to put people in these positions. “We have our tradition. So why do we have to vote in Alkalos or Chiefs? These positions are not political positions. There is no need for elections for these positions,” he said.
Pa Omar Sonko suggested that the New Constitution should introdue that presidents, ministers and national assembly members, should send their children to public Schools.
“These people are not sending their children to public Schools because they know that we have a poor education system. I believe if they send their children to public Schools, then they will work on how to improve the conditions of public Schools,” Sonko said; that public officials including Ministers and the President, should send their children, wives and relatives to public hospitals for treatment.
“They are not going to our public hospitals because they know there is no medicine available,” he said. Sonko opined that Alkalos should not be voted into office because this may bring disunity in villages and communities. Nadi Manjang of Jurunku village opined that the marble system of voting should be maintained. “We do not know the paper system. This may cost much to Government. The marble system is very simple and easy to understand and costs less,” he said. Bolong Njie and Tombong Ceesay, all contributed that the Constitution should make provision for national assembly members to hold Ministerial positions, as it was in the First Republic.
In his contribution, Lang Yundum Jammeh of Jurunku expressed the need for the introduction of term limits in the new Constitution, to ensure transparency and accountability in governance, and further said that the election of president and national assembly members, should be done on the same day. “I am a fisherman and we want this new Constitution in the making, to recognized and empower us. We want it to make a provision prohibiting fishing of juvenile fish in The Gambia,” he said.
On his part, Alagie Saidou Buso also contributed that any person born in the Gambia, should be given citizenship by birth.
“We want a two term limit to be introduced in the new Constitution, and to oust the powers of the president in appointing a Chief Justice. We want the Constitution to make provision for election of Chiefs. This is to avoid manipulation by those in authority to do things that will favour them, instead of being answerable to the people of their districts,” he said. Buso opined that the 50+1% majority should be re-introduced and entrenched in the New Constitution.
Alieu Gaye, a native of Chilla Jurunku said any person who wants to hold the office of President, should be a learned person; that the death penalty should be maintained in the country.
“The rights of the media should be guaranteed and entrenched in the New Constitution. The media is a fundamental pillar of democracy. Journalists should be protected by the New Constitution,” he said. Mustapha Faburay contributed that a dual citizen should empowered by the Constitution to contest in presidential elections and the death penalty should be revoked in the country.
Aji Ida Joof, the Lady Councillor of the Ward, called on the CRC to critically look into the issue of citizenship. Ida said every person born in the Gambia, should be a Gambian irrespective of the status of their parents; that the Constitution should have a provision for free education from Lower Basic to University level. She opined that the death penalty should be maintained because it is a means of reducing the rate of murder / manslaughter in the country.
Bamba Njie, a native of Nyofelleh village in his contribution said the use of local languages should be introduced at the National Assembly, as a means of communication.
Ansumana Manjang also made his contribution on citizenship like previous contributors.