By: Kebba AF Touray
Stakeholders have proffered recommendation that rescinding the National Assembly’s decision is a topmost pre-requisite in a bid to revive the draft constitution from its current state of coma.
The stakeholders made this and other recommendations during a recent meeting with Civil Society Organizations (CSO) and National Assembly Members, in their engagement Members to revive the draft constitution.
The meeting which was organized by the National Youth Parliament (NYP) was themed on: “Reviving the Final Draft Constitution through Parliamentary Advocacy”, and was aimed to engage stakeholders in an open discussion and opinion sharing, with a view to revive the draft constitution.
Bubacarr Trawally, the event’s focal person reminded the convergence that since the rejection of the draft constitution by the country’s law making institution, the NYP has been making efforts to revive it from the state of coma it has been subjected to.
“This gathering solely aims to engage stakeholders in an open and frank discussion, to be able to identify challenges that impede efforts to reviving the draft constitution, as well as to proffer solutions to these challenges, with the objective of devising ways of reviving the draft, which is an integral part in strengthening our democracy,” he said; that when the draft constitution was rejected by the legislature, the NYP wrote a letter to Members of the Assembly and has since been sensitizing the citizenry countrywide, to increase their awareness of the draft in a bid to revive it.
Speaking during the occasion, Dagene Jobe, Speaker of the National Youth Parliament, said since the draft constitution was put on hold, they saw it as imperative to hold such a discussion in order to revive it back.
Omar Cham, Speaker of the NYP, said they have embarked on a series of programs with the objective of reviving the draft constitution; that one of the key elements in ensuring a successful transitional justice system is the draft constitution, but it could not pass due to one reason or the other.
“As a CSO, we are very much committed towards good governance and democracy and keeping in mind the ideals of this draft constitution, as well as in considering how impactful it could be, if we are able to successfully strike a deal amongst ourselves to revive this constitution,” he said; that they have decided to dedicate this important activity to discuss with ‘our’ National Assembly Members in order for us to identify the challenges that actually impeded the passing of the draft constitution and as well to proffer solutions in ensuring that the constitution comes into being.
Muhammed S. Bah, Vice President of the Gambia Press Union, highlighted that lack of compromise among political parties on contentious issues such as term limits and simple majority as challenges that impeded the smooth sailing of the draft constitution in parliament.
He urged all the parties to come to a compromise on these issues. This he said, will play a pivotal role in reviving the draft constitution that it is currently in a state of comma.
Saikou Marong, the member for Latrikunda Sabiji said it is crucial that the legislature has realistic dialogue on the draft constitution and ensure that the necessary Clauses are amended.
Marong called on the general public to desist from using abusive languages on lawmakers especially those who voted against the draft, adding that such abusive languages will not and cannot help remedy the situation. He urged the NYP to continue such engagement, stressing that it is pivotal in reviving the draft constitution.
Saikouba Jaurjue, the Member for Busumbala, said the process of drafting the new constitution failed since its initial stage. He however urged the NYP not to relent, saying the draft can come back, as a matter of priority, for the citizenry.
The Member for Banjul South Fatoumatta Njai, said lack of political will and interest by the executive especially the President, led to the unsuccessful passing in parliament, of the draft constitution; that this is not about contentious issues, which she said can be changed.
“Had interest been shown by the person who brought the motion (Government) things would have changed. We all saw in September when the President gave his address without encouragement to the legislature, to actually think about reflecting on the importance of the new constitution,” she said.
Omar Ceesay, the Member for Niamina East, said the retroactive Clauses are the fundamental issue blocking the passing of the draft constitution; that if the retroactive Clauses are compromised, it will undoubtedly revive the constitution. He said the legislature can also rescind its decision and proceed with the passing of the draft constitution.
These were the recommendations which were proffered during the engagement and they included but were not limited to rescinding legislative decisions on the rejection of the draft constitution, the holding of frank and realistic discussions, to compromise on the retroactive Clauses, create awareness campaign on the significance of reviving and passing the draft constitution and having dialogue with political parties.