By Kebba Jeffang
As the Constitutional Review Commission (CRC) continues meetings with Regional Governors and Chiefs (Seyfolu) of districts, the main issues raised by traditional authorities in Basse and Mansa Konko respectively, was the presidential term limit and a long lasting Constitution that should be in place for ever.
The delegation led by Justice Cherno Sulayman Jallow, held two meetings in the Regional Capitals of Basse and Mansa Konko on Friday, September 28, which was attended by women and youth leaders of the two regions.
The Chief of Jarra West Alhagie Yaya Jarjusey, said a country’s peaceful status is determined by her Constitution, which defines the separation of powers. “It is not normal to change a Constitution anytime a president is changed. It is a waste of resources and very demanding because you will go to a referendum or do consultations like this. We expect this Constitution to be the best the Gambia has ever had,” he said.
Chief Jarjusey urged that the term limit should be clearly spelt out in the new Constitution.
“When a leader spends a long time in power, it develops to a dictatorship because he/she becomes so much addicted and can do anything he likes, without due process,” he said.
The chief of Jarra Central Chief Alhagie Demba Sanyang, said the drafting of a new Constitution is timely because the districts tribunals are not respected in terms of the verdicts they pass.
“It used to happen here that when we pass certain judgments, someone will call us to say the person involved belongs to a particular party, and such judgments will be overturned against our will,” he said. The Governor’s power to review the judgment of the Chiefs, was questioned by the participants.
Earlier in Basse, Chief Chokie Jallow from Wuli West said, if the current Constitution was done this way, people who were victimised in a certain way, would have been avoided.
“The direction the CRC takes by collecting thoughts of people, is the right thing to be done. I promise to share all the information with over sixty communities in my district, including men, women and youth,” he assured.
The Chief of Kantora Alhagie Bachu Ceesay, also welcomed the initiative. He assured that he will be sharing the information with his people.
“If Gambia’s governance system is to be on the right track, this is what needs to be done. Gambian Chiefs should be very careful on how citizenship is registered in the country,” he advised.
“It used to be a referendum to pass the constitution and in most cases, you vote without knowing. It is like we are all making this new Constitution. It is the first step of its kind, since the Jawara era,” he said.
Alkalo of Modiben village in Wuli East, Ousman Sumareh, said they did not know their rights and people’s lives were at risks, because of ignorance of the Constitution, because they do not know the Laws.
The Chairperson of Constitutional Review Commission (CRC), Justice Cherno Sulayman Jallow, encouraged the massive participation by every Gambian; that after their appointment, they were tasked to write a new Constitution and a report that explains the rationale of the Constitution. “We decided to come to you because if we sit in our offices and write our thoughts, it will not be the people’s Constitution. We have developed questionnaires for people to determine the tenure of presidents, the qualification of MPs and these are our thoughts and we must sit together to decide. We must decide together, who should be judges,” he said.
Jallow urged Regional Governors and district Chiefs, to disseminate the information across as they prepare to embark on visiting eighty communities in the country, to collect thoughts and views of people.
Alhagie Serigne Faye, the Chairperson of the National Council for Civic Education (NCCE), said it is important for every person to see a reflection of oneself in the Constitution; that they are tasked to enlighten Gambians on the current and the new Constitution.
“This Constitution must be all inclusive and should not sideline anyone, including the disable community,’’ he said.
Lawyer Lamin Camara said the move is aimed at creating ownership. He cited the importance of inclusion of citizenship and fundamental human rights in the new Constitution, as already captured in the current one; that term limit is key that people must consider, as their inputs in this coming Constitution, including death sentence for those committing murder, as well as better provisions that will safeguard women and youth.
“Our Constitution should ensure that provisions are well designed for durability purposes. Security and Armed forces including GFRS, Police, and Prisons, should be thought of on how they should do their jobs. We have the vision of writing a new Constitution that will remain for generations to come,” said Lawyer Camara.
He said the diaspora should be considered and people must decide on how their political participation should be, in the new Constitution. He talked about whether Chiefs should be appointed or elected and whether their voices should be heard in the new Constitution. He however said the final decision on what to be in the Constitution or not, is in the hands of the people; that they will soon start a nationwide public consultation to collect people’s views and thoughts.
The meetings continues today, in the West Coast Region.