By Omar Bah
The United Gambia Association and at least five other CSOs have written to President Adama Barrow urging him to reintroduce the Constitutional Promulgation Bill to a referendum and allow Gambians to decide.
The bill was defeated in the Nation Assembly when 23 members voted against it.
“We demand that the president reintroduce the draft constitution and allow it to go to a referendum. We also demand answers from him as to why he will allow D116 million to be wasted on a draft he knew he was going to reject,” United Gambia said in a statement signed by its Secretary General, Siaka Drammeh.
The association further reminded the Gambian leader that he was not voted to perpetuate himself in power but to reform a system that was rotten under Jammeh and build institutions that stand the test of time.
“We voted for a complete change from the past but Barrow has demonstrated that he is comfortable with what obtained in the past. This is disappointing for all genuine Gambians. We expressed our strongest disapproval to the lawmakers who voted against the constitutional reforms. 9o% of Gambians wanted the Constitution to pass but they ignored the wishes and aspirations of the majority and serve the interest of the president. Pathetic,” the association added.
The association also warned lawmakers against voting for any bill that attempts to scrap spot counting in Gambian elections.
“There is a red flag about to raise in the State House which is to throw out Spot Counting from the old constitution. No parliamentarian should accept to debate on that issue.”
The Gambia Press Union, Right 2 Know, DUGA, Gambia Participate and Team Gom Sa Borpa also wrote a detailed letter urging the president to with immediate effect reintroduce the draft constitution for a referendum.
“This is the most viable avenue to reduce political tension and rhetoric, which has grown toxic. A referendum will also be a platform that lays the groundwork for a peaceful transition to a new constitutional order. We hope that this clarion call will be supported by your good self, and the administration that you lead for the sake of peace, progress and the transition from the dark days of a 22-year dictatorship, to a new dawn of hope, good neighbourliness, tolerance, and real and meaningful change for all Gambians. History will record the legacy of the collective will of Gambians that ousted a 22-year old dictatorship. However, the question remains to be answered as to what will be your legacy?
“This process was welcomed because the majority of Gambians agreed in unison, that the 1997 Constitution, as it exists, was unfit for purpose given that it had been amended, and watered down 58 times, by a tyrannical regime, which was ousted in December 2016, when the will of the people had prevailed. This hopeful endeavor sought to define our destiny as a serious nation. We had moved away from pariah status with the ambition to uplift ourselves, under your leadership, and forge the way to cultivating reconciliation, end of impunity and promotion of accountability, the principles of the separation of powers and national unity, cohesion and peace.
“The importance of ensuring periodic democratic elections based on universal adult suffrage, including the introduction of term limits for serving in the Office of President; our continued secular status [in which all faiths are treated equally and encouraged to foster national cohesion and unity] were also promised.”
“This rejection was simply a formality, because you and your Administration did little to champion, promote, and support this national flagship endeavor. Your Administration and advisers are on record for denigrating the CRC members, whom you whole-heartedly praised at the inception, and ultimately as a result the draft, which we, The Gambian people contributed to was torpedoed. Gambians are still looking for the leadership from the Presidency, to address the nation on the rejection of the draft constitution and inform us on the way forward. The silence from your office makes us believe that your leadership is in support of the rejection,” the joint statement said.