By Amie Sanneh
The Attorney General and Minister for Justice, Abubacarr M. Tambaedou, yesterday tabled before deputies at the National Assembly, the Rent (Amendment) Bill 2017.
The Justice Minister stated that the bill seeks to amend the Rent Act 2014, by removing the administration of the Act from the responsibility of the Ministry of Justice and placing it within the remit of the judiciary as stated in the Constitution; that the tribunal is a Court of the Gambia within the meaning of that term as used in section 120 of the Constitution which is an anomaly for the Rent Act 2014 to invest the Attorney General and Minister of Justice with certain powers over rent tribunals, such as the power to appoint the registrar, the chairperson and other members of a tribunal and the power to determine the remuneration of the chairperson and members of a tribunal.
Minister Tambaedou explained that the importance of the bill seeks to cure this mischief by recognising and protecting the independent and effective functioning of the judiciary, to constitute subordinate courts in any area of the Gambia. But also the power to appoint judicial officers and court staff; that the bill will also give provision for the rent tribunal to be solely presided over by a first class magistrate as chairperson, in an attempt to tackle the considerable backlog of cases before the tribunals; that this will help solve the perennial problems between landlords and Tenants.
Responding to concerns raised by deputies, the Justice Minister said the primary purpose of the bill is to engage in the institutional change in terms of who is responsible for managing the affairs of the rent tribunals; that the relationship between landlord and tenant, is an economic matter and that the Ministry of Finance should be responsible for economic policy. “I don’t want to get into the advantages and disadvantages of certain provisions simply because these are economic issues and economic policy is under the responsibilities of the Finance Ministry. I don’t know what impact certain decisions may have on landlords or tenants. This will be up to them. My role here is to correct an institutional flaw which is to entrust back to the judiciary, the management of rent tribunals as constitutionally mandated,” he said.
On the element of enforcement, he said there is no point having laws in books if they cannot be enforced. The Justice Minister noted that the first stage is to have the laws in place, then enforcement comes next; that they cannot enforce without laws. “So let’s have the laws in place first and foremost then we can look at the laws in place and I believe further that the issue of enforcement and procedural fairness is a matter that if this bill is passed, would be under the purview of the judiciary. I am hopeful they will do what is necessary to ensure that the provision of this act is enforced,” he remarked. He stressed the need for matters to be brought before the right authorities (judiciary) otherwise they may not be aware of the challenges.