By Amie Sanneh

The National Assembly Member for Wuli West, Sidia Jatta has called on his colleagues not to allow their people to be blindfolded anymore. He said they are now living in a new Gambia and in a new freedom but was quick to add that freedom goes with responsibilities. ‘‘People think that freedom means saying whatever you want. The law we are going to make is the Supreme Law of the land and the people of this country must understand what that law is. The people of this country must be involved in making that law not just by mere representation,’’ he said. “They must go to the people in formulating any other constitution for this country. They know how to make them involve. They can go to them and talk to them,” he emphasised. Hon. Jatta said members should make it as their responsibility to go to their people and visit every “bantaba” and ask them about their input in the next constitution. The Member for Wuli West told his colleagues that the bill they have before them is a bill meant to create a Commission to review the Constitution; that there is nobody who is opposed to reviewing the Constitution but some NAMs. He reminded them that they are legislators and should never forget that fact, describing it as a heavy burden. “It means that whenever you are about to think of making laws you have to do that critically not out of sentiments, not out of emotions. When you talk about law making, you do away with sentiments and emotions. Otherwise we will be failing,” he said. He said they are talking about reviewing and drafting a new Constitution and everybody in the world will be interested in that and they as law makers should not be found wanting in doing that. “Constitutions guide them in their actions. So when you are making a law, your fundamental guide is your Constitution because it is the Supreme Law of the land. So any law which is made without putting that into consideration, is a waste of time,” he said. Hon. Jatta added that their role is to ensure that whatever is said, is in line with the Constitution; that otherwise any law they make which is found to be inconsistent is null and void. The Wuli West NAM noted that since they are about to make a new Constitution what they should be thinking of is to see what is absent in the 1997 constitution and add what is required.

On what he thinks should be added in the next constitution, Hon. Jatta called for the popularisation and recognition of Gambians in the diaspora as Gambians.

He said Gambians in the diaspora and those living in the country are all Gambians but the Constitution makes a distinction between Gambians who are in the country and those outside; that this is the reason why they have no right to stand in elections except when they come to the country and stay here for certain number of years. “I want the next Constitution to do away with that. Their being there does not make them non-Gambians. They are Gambians in many aspects. So they have the right to become Ministers if the Government feels that the person is competent and qualified to serve in that portfolio,” he said. Hon. Jatta added that being there for a particular number of years does not matter; that the person is still a Gambian and has the right to serve the country in any capacity he or she is qualified for.

He stressed the need for the Constitution to give serious consideration on the issue of language which prevents people from occupying elective positions in the country. “To come here and speak Mandinka, Jola, Wollof or Fula, does not make this country backward. In fact, it makes it to be more progressive,” he said. He added that they can’t develop this country without the people. The Wuli West NAM said they make decisions on behalf of the people who elected them and speak a language in the National Assembly that they cannot even understand. “Are we honest? How independent are we? That linguistic chain which is in on our necks, should be broken by the next Constitution,” he stressed.

On NAMs being part of the Commission as members who will be drafting a new Constitution for the country, the Wuli West Parliamentarian said they are not supposed to be there because they have to scrutinize the budget after it has been drafted. He told deputies that they cannot be at the Commission and at the same time be in parliament; that they either have to be at the Commission or at the National Assembly. Hon. Jatta told his colleagues that they are free to go there and give them their thoughts on what they think should be added, during the review process.

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