By Omar Bah
The Independent Electoral Commission has confirmed that a date will soon be announce for the commencement of a voter registration for Gambians living in the diaspora.
Gambians in the diaspora have raised concerns when the IEC released its latest electoral calendar without specifically indicating when they will register.
But the commission has said the absence of diaspora voting in the new electoral calendar doesn’t mean they will not register or vote in December.
Addressing a news conference on Thursday, the IEC chief electoral officer, Samboujang Njie said: “It is in the commission’s plans to register the Diaspora. I can assure you that the IEC is very committed and ever ready to ensure that the diaspora are given the opportunity to vote. We didn’t include them in the recent calendar because we want to conclude with the domestic registration first after which we will communicate the date for the Diaspora registration”.
He further revealed that the commission will identify registration centers for the Diaspora soon, adding that they have written to the Ministry of Justice on the regulations about the planned Diaspora constituencies.
Njie affirmed that the commission will make sure that the Diaspora is registered and vote in December, saying the IEC had recommended Diaspora voting to the Constitutional Review Commission.
Turning to the forthcoming general voter registration planned for May 29, the chief electoral officer said all eligible Gambians with or without voters’ cards should register in this exercise as the old cards will no longer be valid once the general registration starts in May.
He said the registration will be conducted every day for 44 days from 8am to 5pm at 730 registration centers as opposed to 636 previously.
He disclosed that there are 220 registration teams who will crisscross the 730 registration centers and their movement schedules are being developed and will be circulated so that all those eligible to register will know when the team comes to their areas.
“All applicants must appear in person to the registration centers and all applicants must be 18 years old and should have either an ID Card, passport, alkalo or chief’s attestation to be eligible,” he said.
The IEC top official warned Gambians against attempting to register more than once, saying “anyone caught doing so will be dealt with by law”. He said the commission is targeting to register about 1.1 million Gambians “if everything goes to plan”.
Commenting on the recent debacle made by the Ministry of Justice on the Election Bill with regard to the constituency demarcations, Njie said: “The Elections Bill was sent to Parliament with some serious errors mainly because the Ministry of Justice took the bill to parliament without consulting the electoral commission. We hope that the National Assembly will invite us to clarify some of the issues that need clarifications.”
Njie also announced that the commission has elevated Pa Makan Khan as director of training, communications and public affairs. Khan replaced Joe Colley who is now made vice-chairpman.