his contribution during the second reading of the constitutional promulgation bill yesterday, the member for Latrikunda Sabiji Saikou Marong said he will not support a retroactive law.
He was referring to a draft constitution provision, which will make current term of President Adama Barrow be counted as first term. When passed, this means the president can serve only one more term if he wins next year.
Cabinet itself had observed in a position paper to the CRC that any retroactive application of the law will be discriminatory to the current president.
“Nobody says we’re not in support of the term limit. I am in support of the provisions on presidential term limit, but I am not going to vote for any retroactive law,” Marong said.
The lawmaker also disagreed with the constitutional provision which says the appointment of the Chief Justice, judges of the superior courts and ministers should come to the National Assembly for vetting and approval.
“If the appointments of those positions are brought to the National Assembly, lawmakers could vote through party lines. If these issues are not addressed, my vote for the constitution will be a big no,” he argued.
But the member for Fulladu East, Omar Ceesay countered: “There is no justification for any lawmaker to vote against the constitution just because it is retroactive or it could bar the president from contesting for a third term. One doesn’t have to reject the entire constitution because you are not in agreement with the CRC as per the term limit including the president’s first term. Hon Speaker, one doesn’t also have to reject this constitution just because you are in support of the 1997 constitution. Whosoever campaigns against this constitution is doing it against the will of the Gambian people and history will remember you badly. Voting against the constitution means voting to retain the 1997 constitution,” he argued.
Ceesay however argued that the appointment of ministers should be entirely left to the hands of the executive.
The member for Kiang Central, Bakary Camara said term limit protects the people, adding that it will serve as a measure put an end to dictatorship and corruption.
“What I believe is that when you overstay in power, the probability of you being corrupt is there and it’s very huge. I think we are one of the very few countries if not the last country in the entire sub-region without a presidential term limits,” he said.
He said the autonomy of the National Assembly has been extensively looked at by the draft constitution as an oversight institution.
“The draft has captured the aspirations and wishes of Gambian people. The essence of the review is to improve the current constitution that we have and I want to believe it is one of the reasons we have seen the emergence of new independent institutions in our draft. You have the Anti-Corruption Commission, the National Human Rights Commission – we cannot strengthen our democracy in the absence of such institutions,” he added.
He said the draft constitution has also exhausted the Public Service Commission in terms of transparency and accountability to ensure democracy.