Saturday, April 4, 2020

What should happen during a state of public emergency?

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Question of the day

A state of emergency may be declared by the President under section 34 of the Constitution by proclamation published in the Gazette. Foroyaa will trace the Gazette and inform the public what its content is.

People are asking what the role of the National Assembly is during a period of public emergency. Once a state of emergency is declared, it is the duty if the National Assembly to approve the declaration by a resolution supported by the votes of not less than two thirds of all the members of the National Assembly if it is sitting otherwise it would expire within seven days. If the National Assembly is not sitting, the declaration could only last for 21 days. Hence a session of the National assembly must be convened, otherwise the declaration would become void by the 21st day.

It is the National Assembly that has power to ensure the extension of a state of public emergency for a period of 90 days and may revoke the resolution by the votes of not less than three quarters of all the members.

The Constitution does not spell out the powers that should be exercised during a state of public emergency under section 34 of the Constitution. The powers that should be exercised must come through an Act of the National Assembly. The Act may provide provisions that may affect the exercise of certain fundamental rights. Section 35(1) calls for measures that are reasonably justifiable for dealing with the situation that exists in The Gambia that gave rise to the declaration of public emergency. The sections dealing with fundamental rights that may be affected are also spelt out in section 35 (2) of the Constitution. They are sections 19, 23, 24 with the exception of subsections (5) to (8) and section 25.

Foroyaa will elaborate on these sections and gauge what the state intends to do to address COVID-19 as a pandemic meriting the declaration of a state of public emergency.

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