The people of Foni in the West Coast Region of the Gambia, have engaged the Commissioners of the Constitutional Review Commission (CRC), on issues surrounding citizenship, the office of presidency and other matters.
The villages where the CRC held meetings were Bwiam, Somita and Sibanor among other communities, to seek their opinions of the proposed new Constitution. The people in unanimity held that any person born in the Gambia, should become a Gambian irrespective of the nationality of the parents. An overwhelming majority of the people opined that citizenship by marriage, should be maintained at seven years and citizenship by naturalization should also be maintained at fifteen years, as enshrined in the 1997 Constitution.
On the issue of the death penalty, the people of Foni agreed that the new Constitution should make provision for it to be maintained. They opined that the death penalty if maintained, will be a deterrent to murder and crime in the country. They stated that the marble system of voting should be maintained, because it is the system that the people know and which is unique to the Gambia.
“We do not need the paper system of ballot. The marble system is the most transparent system in the world and people know the outcome of elections, before IEC declares the finalresults. This system is easy to use by illiterates.Even the old and infirm, can use it,” said Bala Musa Jammeh of Somita village.
The people of Foni in unanimity asserted that the proposed new Constitution should make provision for the president of the republic and the chairperson of the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC), to declare their assets before and after assuming office; that the president of the republic should not have the powers to appoint the chairperson of IEC; that there should be an independent body responsible forthis.
“The president should make declaration of his or her assets for the people of the country to know. It is a means of combatting corruption,” said Mamina Jammeh, the Alkalo Sutusingjang village.
The majority of the people in a popular voting held in all the villages contributed that the qualification for presidency should be based on a University degree or its equivalent, with a minimum age requirement of 30 years.
On the second round of voting, a majority of the people contributed that the simple majority should be maintained. This is the system where a candidate in an election wins even with a margin of one vote, whereas the second round voting is where the front runner candidates who do not have 50% + 1% of the total votes cast, will go to a second round of elections; that the president should not form or be a member of any group or association and that he should not be engaged in any form of business.
The people contributed that the proposed new Constitution should make provision for the establishment of a Teaching, Health and Agricultural Service Commissions as well as a Lands Commission.
“There should be Teaching Service Commission because education is the greatest transformer of the world,” said Momodou Lamin S. Drammeh, a Grade 12 student.
The people in unanimity told the Commissioners that they want local languages to be used at the National Assembly, and further maintained that Diaspora Gambians should be allowed to vote. Foni like many other areas in the Gambia contributed opinions towards the proposed new Constitution on the following:
- No position like deputy Minister;
- Chief Justice to be Gambian citizen; dual citizen holder should not be a Chief Justice;
- Diaspora Gambians to be allowed to vote;
- Free education from Nursery School level to University;
- Two-Term Limit of 5 years for the Presidency;
- Local Languages to be used at the National Assembly;
- Lower age limit for the office of the president to be 30 years;
- Alkalos not to be voted for;
- Any person who wishes to acquire citizenship through naturalization should renounce any other citizenship he/she has;
- Death penalty to be maintained;
- Commissioners and Chairperson of IEC to be appointed by an independent body;
- Prisoners to be allowed to vote;
- Maintain the marble system of voting;
- requirement for political parties to declare their sources of funding;
- For one to become eligible to become the president of the Republic, he/she should be a degree holder;
- The president and chairperson of IEC as well as the Commissioners to declare their assets;
- No second round of voting;
- President should disclose gifts received on his behalf or on behalf of the State at the National Assembly;
- Appointment of the Auditor General to be approved by the National Assembly; etc.