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City of Banjul
Saturday, January 16, 2021

Letters: Constructive analysis of the draft new constitution

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Dear editor,

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We assume this is the Public Review Phase of the first draft of the New Constitution after which observations and objections are taken into account.

Since hundreds of millions of dalasis may have been expended, we may as well as make the best of it and ensure that it is aligned with our ideals and aspirations as an African and believing people.

I have started a line by line and clause by clause review and some good provisions have been made and some not so good ones because too much dilution of Executive powers will weaken the Executive and we are a Nation in development and cannot just expend all our time in nonstop talkshops.

Few points we have noted which will be added to other observations like the unnecessary removal of the designation Secular Republic in Section 1 are listed below.

The threshold for impeaching a sitting President who has been elected by universal suffrage cannot be more than 50% of the National Assembly Members and a two-thirds majority, and after a tribunal, again it should be more like 67% with a Referendum or 75% and it should not be banal or fickle. Section 106 (3) and (11). The Will of the People should not be easily overturned.

Another disappointment is the Appeal period by a losing Presidential candidate to the Supreme Court as 10 days, but is it ten working days or 10 calendar days and this should be clarified as it came up after the cock up by the IEC when it gave two signed election results within 3 calendar days, Dec 2nd and 5th, 2016.

One of our main objections is the determination by foreign powers to incorporate LGBTQ matters in our Constitutional and legal framework and we have observed a subtle play of words in that regard and thus, unless it is made absolutely clear that KAYBUDAY cannot be decriminalized, we will not advise support of this Constitution.

That is Section 52 which is Right to Marry and is ambiguous and says men and women have the right to marry and found families and marriage has to be defined as only between a man and a woman or women as we are culturally and traditionally polygynous.

( Polygamy – the practice of having more than one wife or husband at the same time. It is based on “marriage”; “polygyny” is a man being married to multiple women while “polyandry” is a woman being married to multiple men.)

Nonetheless we believe in constructive engagement and criticism and the free exchange of information and the right of individuals to make their own decisions and choices, as a human and God given right.

We trust the CRC will be listening and taking notes or risk the failure of their hard work even if I may have been a conscientious objector, we accept and acknowledge that the only constant in life is change and we may as well be constructive in our critique and engagement. We must also note that the process has engaged Gambians and there is nothing more precious or individual more powerful that a fully informed and engaged citizen and so while we lament the hundreds of millions of scarce dalasis that may have been expended, we acknowledge it is not entirely wasteful nor in vain.

I work with a team of young legal consultants who while they have accepted some of my observations, have actually been more positive and keen in their appreciation of the draft Constitution, which I put down to generational differences and I continue to appreciate their indulgence as they also expend time and energy on matters Gambian and give me a run for my money.

Arac Remes
Concerned citizen

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