The EU Delegation in The Gambia, the United States Embassy, the British High Commission and the German Embassy urge members of the National Assembly to vote the draft Bill on the revised constitution to progress to the final stages of parliamentary scrutiny.
“The draft constitution is the result of extensive consultations with Gambians across the country and in the diaspora, with significant investment of resources, intellectual discussion and debate by Gambians from all walks of life,” the joint communique stated.
It added: “In order to consolidate the hard-won democratic gains in recent years, it is vital to the credibility of the current transition to truly democratic, accountable government that the people of The Gambia are given themselves the opportunity to vote in a referendum on the new constitution.
“Denying them that opportunity is to deny one of the most demanded objectives from the 2016 election, and risks signalling abandonment by this transition government of one of its most significant commitments to the Gambian electorate,” the statement concluded.
This came on the heels of continuous controversial debate on the draft Constitution of the Gambia that is expected to usher the West African nation into Third Republic.
The members of the parliament are divided on whether to pass the draft or reject it. The Civil Society groups have already warned the representatives to avoid touching the draft and pass it onto referendum where citizens themselves are mandated to either accept it or reject it.
Several political party leaders including Ousainou Darboe, Secretary General of the United Democratic Party (UDP), leader of Citizens’ Alliance, Dr. Ismaila Ceesay, Mai Ahmad Fatty of GMC have all registered their support for the draft. The Secretary General of PDOIS Halifa Sallah has already made his position known by stating last week at the National Assembly that the draft should pass and should not be touched by the lawmakers.
However, it’s has been observed that some members who are affiliating with the current president have issues with the draft with a member for Latrikunda Sabiji declaring that he will vote against it. Some if not all APRC lawmakers are also against the draft constitution as per their intervention in today’s ongoing sitting.
The cabinet of president Adama Barrow had submitted its position on the draft Constitution to the Constitutional Review Commission (CRC), which was leaked to the national media outlets, specifically suggesting the exclusion of the current term of the president.
While the APRC lawmakers are seeking for retention of the current 1997 Constitution which was drafted under Yahya Jammeh’s rule, it appears that the parliamentarians who are identified with president Barrow are in defence of Barrow’s interest.
The draft Constitution has provided for two-terms of five years for any sitting president and removed the simple majority election victory. It also widens the scope of fundamental freedoms of people and the independence of the state’s institutions for accountability purposes.