CRC Chair: “Draft Constitution Is Not Dead, Hit a Snag” At least for Now
The draft constitution Gambians worked on so hard, spending invaluable time, energy and resources “is not dead” according to the Chairman of the Constitutional Review Commission (CRC) Justice Cherno Sulayman Jallow. ‘It has merely hit a snag and is placed in cold storage, at least for now’ he claimed.
“So if anyone here today feels depressed, I say to you lighten up, get up and dust off, have faith and continue the quest for constitutional reform in The Gambia. That is what Gambians have yearned for and you must complete the journey with them” he stresses during the first press conference organized by the CRC since after the draft bill was rejected by law makers.
The failure of Draft Constitution to gain the required votes to move on to the next stages leading to a verdict by the people at a referendum has generated a lot of public discuss and debate. Chairman Jallow however said the CRC do not seek to question parliamentary wisdom regarding the fate of the draft constitution.
“That is a political process from which we’ll steer away. It’s therefore, not necessarily my intention here today to get into the debate of what is or not or what could have been”
According to the chairman, what the CRC Act provides is that when the draft constitution is been introduce to parliament they (CRC) ‘may’ be invited for assist and provide clarification. He defended the Attorney General’s position.
“We were on standby to do exactly that so that when we were call upon we would be available. I have seen a lot of criticism on that particular subject and I want to be fair to the attorney general. They were lot of question that were asked by honorable members of the national assembly that he was not in a position to answer and we were the best persons that could’ve answered that questions. So at the very minimal we have expected that the bill would’ve adverse to the stage were we could be invited to provide clarification because there after the opportunity was there to reject. The fact that a lot of important questions were been asked and we were left out of the blue I think didn’t help the honorable minister. We could’ve been invited to provide that clarification”.
We’ve created the right Balance
Responding to question raised by journalists on how the draft constitution spelled out the issue of balance between the arms of government, Justice Cherno Jallow outlined that the draft constitution represents international best practices, that creates a ‘totally imbalance’ between the arms of government.
“If you look at other constitution around the commonwealth, you would see the same balance that is established. So if somebody were to tell you that this is what you’ve done and it doesn’t feel that balance we can have that debate but as far as I am concern, we’ve gone thoroughly, look at all the relevant areas that would create a decent and harmonious relations between the different institutions of government”.
1997 constitution VS the Draft Constitution.
On the position of the 1997 and the draft constitution, Chairman Jallow said the 1997 constitution contains good provisions as opposed to concern that it’s totally bad constitution.
“If you look at the 1997 constitution there are good provisions. I think if you look over time, take a careful review of the 1997 constitution, that’s where the imbalance occurs. Where you’ve one arm of government exercising enormous powers as against the other branches of government. So this is a matter of opinion for everybody but I think if you look at the draft constitution particularly the transformational provision that I outlined in my statement, you would realized that they are miles apart in terms of what the people of this country desires and aspired for”.
Possibilities to re-active the draft constitution
“I wouldn’t want to deliberate on that because our mandate stops where it stops” he said. This is a matter for the executive and the legislature. It’s for them to decide and determine what the next step should be and how they would go about that process”
The CRC’s mandates is due to end on 22 October 2020. The chairman however said the secretariat may stay in office with the approval of the minister of justice to prepare a commission’s statement of account to submit to the Auditor General in accordance with section 20 of the CRC Act.