By Alagie Manneh
The rejected draft constitution has not been reintroduced to the National Assembly since the government is “mediating” on some of its “contentious issues”, the attorney general and minister of justice said yesterday.
Responding to a question raised by the Banjul North NAM, Modou Lamin Bah, on the status of the draft constitution and why the executive cannot still reintroduce it to the National Assembly for consideration, Minister Dawda Jallow stated: “It is important to note that the ministry is not developing a new draft; we are mediating on the contentious issues raised by honourable members during the debate of the draft constitution with the aim to reaching consensus,” he told the National Assembly.
He explained that after the draft failed to pass a third reading, government realised it was as a result of “minimal emphasis” on engagement with political actors. “This gave rise to an urgent need to initiate political dialogue,” he added.
“In this regard, mediation was seen as the most desirable option. The AG was given cabinet approval to negotiate or mediate the said draft with the political actors and other stakeholders.”
Consequently, he said the ministry engaged traditional partners, and reached out to International IDEA, an international NGO, to help build consensus on the “contentious issues” in the draft.
“We are therefore partnering with them in supporting the mediation process among the political actors towards the success of the draft constitution,” he added.
While admitting a general consensus on most of the provisions of the draft, the AG said the persisting question is how the amendment of the contentious issues should be carried out.
“The two options circulated at the moment is for either the ministry of justice to update the draft before sending it to the National Assembly, or for the draft to be sent to the National Assembly in its current form, and subsequently be updated at the level of a house,” he said.
He told the parliamentarians that IDEA has already secured funding to commence the process, but that it must first set up a country office as one of the conditions.
“That process is currently in the final stages,” he added. “We are confident that the work of reviving the draft constitution will begin in earnest by the end of this quarter.”
Asked by the Banjul North NAM if he was intimating that the process of developing the draft was not all-inclusive, Mr Jallow replied in the negative, and stated: “The drafting process was well done and was all-inclusive. All necessary consultations were made, but that is towards the content of the document. But the process of bringing it to life is also a political process which we did not pay much attention to. And as a result, it suffered the fate that it suffered.”
The Draft Constitution Bill, which was expected to replace the much-criticised 1997 Constitution was voted against in September 2020 in parliament after many of the ruling party members and their allies gave it a thumb down.