31.2 C
City of Banjul
Saturday, June 22, 2024

Cabinet to meet over draft constitution this week

- Advertisement -
image 122

By Tabora Bojang

The cabinet is set to convene a three-day meeting this week to decide on how to proceed with the reintroduction of the draft constitution, Attorney General and Minister of Justice Dawda Jallow revealed at a stakeholder retreat for lawmakers on diaspora voting and representation on Saturday.

The National Assembly rejected the proposed draft constitution in 2021 following contention over what many considered a retrospective application which bars the incumbent president Adama Barrow from contesting elections after 2027.

- Advertisement -

Addressing the retreat which aims to enhance consultations for the actualisation of diaspora voting which was outlined in the draft constitution, Minister Jallow said “the draft constitution process has begun and the cabinet is sitting over it next week Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday’. We are hoping to gazette it once again and reintroduce it in the National Assembly for consideration in its next sessions”, he said.

On diaspora voting, the minister explained that despite the 1997 Constitution guaranteeing the participation of all Gambians to vote in national elections, the conditions precedent to the enjoyment of those rights to allow Gambians overseas to participate in elections have remained a challenge.

But the minister said he is confident Gambians in the diaspora will vote in the upcoming national elections, as the government is working to find solutions to address constitutional obstacles that hinder their participation.

- Advertisement -

‘These include the passing of the Elections Bill which is at consideration stages in the National Assembly which will address constituency demarcation challenges in the 1997 Constitution, outline registration and voting processes for overseas Gambians, criteria for appointment of officials among other things,” he said,

Minister Jallow said another legal hurdle that hindered the rights of diaspora Gambians to vote and be voted for in national elections are provisions in the 1997 Constitution that disqualify Gambians holding citizenship of other countries from contesting for National Assembly seats and also being appointed as cabinet ministers.

He disclosed that the Ministry has drafted a proposed amendment bill which would be tabled before the National Assembly to address the provision relating to diaspora Gambians contesting for parliamentary elections while the provision relating to their appointment in cabinet when holding dual citizenship can be addressed through a referendum.

“Hopefully if the draft constitution goes through we might not need that amendment.  But we don’t want to rely on only one approach, so both the amendment approach of the 1997 Constitution and the draft constitution process will be in progress and whichever one comes sooner and takes care of the problem, it will suffice”.

According to the minister, the Elections Bill before the Assembly will also address arguments that elections cannot be held in the diaspora due to the procedure of Gambian voting. “The bill is saying this can be regulated. It can be marble or paper. We can have a different system for the diaspora. So it is for you [NAMs] to decide what and how and if you draw the rules, IEC is only there to implement,” he said.

The retreat is organised by GK Partners (GKP), the implementing agency of the migration and sustainable development project in the Gambia, which is involved in stakeholder consultations on the actualisation of diaspora voting and representation.

GK Partners director, Professor Gibril Faal, compared the denial of voting rights to over 175, 0000 diaspora Gambians to colonial Gambia where voting was not accorded to people in the protectorate.

He reminded lawmakers that most of the provisions that are needed for the actualisation of the diaspora voting are embedded in the Elections Bill currently before them and urged them to ensure those provisions remain “untouched.”

“This injustice has been going on for too long. We urge you to vote positively to give the 8th region of The Gambia its constitutional, democratic, political and civic rights,” Professor Faal stated.

National Assembly members Abdoulie Ceesay, Sulayman Jammeh and Madi Ceesay pledged to do the needful with their colleagues to see the actualisation of diaspora voting as a constitutional and civic right of Gambians overseas.

The sessions are moderated by legal luminary and research professor of law Dr Satang Nabaneh.

Join The Conversation
- Advertisment -spot_img
- Advertisment -spot_img