By Tabora Bojang
The leader of the United Democratic Party has challenged President Adama Barrow and his cabinet to conduct next election under the 1997 constitution if they are not satisfied with the starting date of the two-term limit provision in the draft constitution.
He said this will allow “serious people who will form the government in 2021 to hold a referendum” on the draft that will be accepted by an incumbent who will act in good faith to accept that his term commences from the date of his election.
Ousainu Darboe made these remarks while answering questions from the media as he delivered his Koriteh message over the weekend.
The former vice president used the occasion to thank the Constitutional Review Commission for working diligently and consulting widely to produce a draft constitution that broadly reflects the aspirations of Gambians and guarantees fundamental rights, promotes liberty and appropriately separates and distributes power among the arms of government.
The Standard recently published a cabinet position paper expressing concern about certain provisions in the draft, among them the starting date of two-term limit which will prevent the incumbent to run after 2021 and the sweeping powers vested in the Legislature on senior appointments in government.
But according to the UDP leader who is also a constitutional lawyer, only politicians and leaders who “really have no good intention and whose only quest for power of a public office is for other reasons” different from national interest “question these types of provisions.”
“Why do you want to question the powers of the National Assembly to scrutinise your appointments if you are really determined to act in accordance with the constitution?
Why do you want to really have a carte blanche and appoint any body as a permanent secretary? And why is that neither the president nor any member of the cabinet has any problem with the current 1997 constitution which makes the appointment of an ombudsman subject to National Assembly confirmation? Why should they have problem with the same Assembly to confirm appointment of other officers who have so been cited in the constitution?” Darboe quizzed.
He further charged: “In fact, what this current government has always stood for when it was campaigning is that there must be an executive that is subject to control because you cannot just have the executive behave and act in ways that suits them and that is what this constitution forbids.
Why should you only query about the president’s term? If they do not want that, then let elections be held under the 1997 constitution and then the serious people who will form the government in 2021 will conduct a referendum on this draft constitution and make it the constitution of the third republic and I can tell you who ever is elected under that constitution, will accept the fact that his term commences under that constitution from the date of his election not these phony pontifications of retroactive nature of the constitution.”
Darboe, who was onetime described by President Adama Barrow as his political god-father, said 10 years is adequate time for any sincere well-intentioned and dedicated leader to pursue an agenda for the Gambian people and leave it to his successors to build on.
“You cannot choose to be president of the third republic under this constitution and refuse to accept the consequences of being the president of the third republic under this constitution; you cannot approbate and reprobate”.
He said the provisions on the limit of a presidential term will help anchor our new found democracy on a strong footing and ensure leadership and ideas associated with them are subject to change and renewal.
“Conversely, bad leaders who fail in their responsibilities entrusted to them will have a definite exit frame sparing the nation the spectre of being saddled with failed leaders who are adept at clinching onto power,” he concluded.