As the bill of a new Constitution for the Republic of The Gambia (Promulgation Bill), 2020 is before parliamentarians on Monday, The Chronicle engages present and former lawmakers regarding their opinion on some highly contentious matters to be debated at the National Assembly.
The bill seeks for the approval or disapproval of the National Assembly Members without the option to effect any changes in the document brought before them. It will also lay the foundation for a new Constitution for the Republic of The Gambia once it passes through the various processes including the approval of the deputies and a referendum that is slated for next year.
Hon. Samba Jallow, Minority Leader and Member for Niamina Dankunku, disclosed that the bill will undergo three readings at the assembly, noting that the first reading will be the formal laying of the bill, the second reading will involve a debate on the principles and merits of the bill while, the final reading will be characterize with voting by members to determine whether the bill will be approve or disapprove at the house. “On the second reading of the bill, the we will decide whether the bill should be passed through a constitutional review committee in parliament or whether it will be refers to committee of the whole house, this is not known to me yet. This will be the decision of the house to either refer it to any of the established committees of the house, however, this will be known after the conclusion of the second reading,” Minority Leader tells The Chronicle.
According to him, should the votes turn negative after the second reading of the bill, it would not deter it from referrals to the various committees of the house, observing that it is the third reading of the bill that becomes controversial after the lawmakers are only left with two option: to either approve or disapprove the bill. “I think it is the third reading where a lot of issues will be raised but for me this is a bill that needs to be treated like any other bill brought before the assembly. This is my opinion because I don’t want to preempt my position yet until after the debate,” Niamina Dankunka Lawmaker observed.
Hon. Abdoulie Ceesay of Old Yundum Constituency, said if parliamentarian have no mandate to change any clause of the new constitution there was no need to table the bill before them. “If you call us lawmakers and we have no authority to change any clause of the draft constitution, then there is no need to bring the bill before us. However, if we have the chance to amend and fine tune that is fine but if you said we cannot do that it becomes something else,” Old Yundum NAM tells The Chronicle. He also said that approving or disapproving the bill will be subjected to the coming days’ debate at the assembly.
Hon. Pa Malick Ceesay, former parliamentarian for Lower Saloum Constituency questioned ‘if the national assembly members has no authority to effect any changes in the draft constitution, what is the essence of taking the bill to the assembly?’
The former lawmaker was critical of the arrangement of the bill establishing the Constitutional review committee, observing that the bill should have been tailored in a way that it will not be in conflict with the 1997 constitution, adding that even though NAMs are left with either to approve or disapprove, the bill must pass through the house as sanctioned by the constitution. “To my opinion the bill should have been drawn in a way that it will not be in conflict with the 1997 constitution but the bill is perish in the 1997 constitution that it must go to parliament. This could be done in a way that once the draft constitution is done, consultations done, it will goes straight into a referendum,” said honorable Ceesay.
The former lawmaker also doubted whether lawmakers will in fact approve the bill, hinting that the threshold for the approval depends on 75 percent of the house approving the bill.
“In my opinion the constitutional review committee should have created a parliamentary lobbying committee who will be vested with the responsibility to engage key parliamentarians on this important issue. In the absence of this committee amidst quite a number of issues embedded in the draft constitution, I doubt if this bill will pass the test at the assembly,” Hon. Pa Malick Ceesay, said.