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Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Letters: My take on the national discussion on the Final Draft Constitution: Presidential term-limit

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Dear editor,

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Indeed, Harona Drammeh and Paradise TV deserve immense commendation for the foresight and pioneering initiative in setting the agenda for the country. This is what the media should be doing to ensure that the eyes of Gambians are always set on the ball.

I stand with most of the panelists that the final draft is progressive even though there are some imperfections. Like every other citizen I also agree that there are issues I would have removed if I have the power. But certainly there is no constitution in any country where each and every citizen would agree with everything in that constitution completely. However, I also disagree with some of the panelists on the issues they raised.

First among these is the issue of the presidential term limit as it relates to Pres. Barrow’s first term. I find the point by Lamin J Darbo that the final draft is retroactive and discriminatory as unfounded. This final draft is not a law that has taken away any vested or acquired right of Mr. Barrow. The fact is Pres. Barrow is currently serving his first term as President which he will enjoy to the end. Hence when the final draft stipulates that a presidential tenure shall be maximum of 10 years for any citizen and the counting begins in 2017, this does not deny the incumbent of anything.

Thus from a purely legal point of view the Final Draft has not injured the interests or rights of Pres. Barrow at all. What is guaranteed by law to Mr. Barrow is that he has the mandate to be President between 2017 and 2021. This has not been taken away from him. Hence there is no retroactive or discriminatory issue here. Secondly it is not for Barrow to decide that he will be President from 2021 onwards. That is for Gambians to decide.

Therefore, going beyond 2021 is a decision that cannot be taken only in view of Barrow’s sole interest. Barrow does not have any unilateral hold onto the future, i.e. beyond 2021 as he did from 2017 to 2021. Hence if the Final Draft begins the counting in 2017 it only serves to protect his right of the first term. Now how many terms he should serve as President is not for him to decide. That is the decision of Gambians as a whole. In any case the Final Draft did not bar him from seeking a second term.

Therefore, if we go by the argument of Darbo and Barrow’s Cabinet itself it would imply that Barrow has a special birthright to serve for more than 10 years that no other citizen would have. That is not a legal argument but a political one for which Barrow has no power to decide that alone. Thus from that political point of view, it must be recognized that this country broke out of dictatorship in 2017, hence it is just logical that we begin counting from 2017 in the building of the New Gambia.

In light of the foregoing, I do not perceive the Final Draft to be retroactive because there is no right, vested or acquired that has been taken away or denied to Mr. Adama Barrow. Equally there is no crime of discrimination because Barrow is not barred from running for president again.

Lamin J Darbo and the Cabinet must understand that Pres. Barrow has no more birthright than any other Gambian. Where everyone is privileged to a 10-year limit why could Barrow alone serve for more than 10 years? That would be a manifestation of Animal Farm where all citizens are equal but others are more equal the rest.

Madi Jobarteh
Kembujeh

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