Letters:On due process and professional conduct: Letter to the Bar Association’s President

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Learned Counsel,

I must commence by reiterating my congratulatory message to you (earlier) delivered through Facebook on your assumption of the important position of President of The Gambia Bar Association. Indeed your ascension to this office comes at a critical juncture when your association is faced with unprecedented challenges, both endogenous and exogenous.

When your election was announced I was glad because I have known you for more than a decade now and your sense of justice and fair play was always on display. Therefore you can imagine my sense of surprise (and disappointment) when I read a press statement coming from your office unduly challenging the decision of the President to relieve a nominated member of our National Assembly of her position.

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To start with, given the circumstances under which you took up the position of President of the Bar Association, I expected you to start off with some urgent housekeeping/housecleaning issues before you jump into the fray on any issue of public interest.

Without a doubt many members of your association were quite unhappy when your predecessor recently made a politically motivated, malicious, statement against a legally registered non-profit body using her office which was totally uncalled for. Such behaviour and other myriad issues didn’t leave the image of your association in good shape. That is why I expected some housekeeping work from you if not an outright attempt to reassure the public about the impartiality of your association.

Instead of taking care of such matters you just jumped into the matter of the legality, or otherwise, of the revocation of the nomination of a National Assembly Member. If you must delve into this matter, I expected that you would approach it from a purely legal angle and recommend adherence to due process in the resolution of this potential national debacle. But, alas, your approach was not based on the methods of your profession but rather you took an emotional approach and took a position that is simply untenable. Your association‘s move to declare the execute’s decision unconstitutional is a futile exercise that would breed nothing but greater confusion and distraction in this matter.

What would have been fair and professionally proper would be that your office recommends that the due process be followed by the affected party in settling this matter and such an angle would naturally and logically point to the ultimate adjudicating authority in our legal system, the Supreme Court.

Contrary to your emotional approach to this matter, Bubacarr Drammeh handled it in a very impartial, logical and balanced manner in an article published by the online paper, Thegambiatimes.com. As expected from the title of his essay, “The President Has the Power to Revoke the Appointment of Nominated Members of The National Assembly”, he made the case that the President has the authority to revoke the said NAM’s nomination but he didn’t act the avuncular role that your association has espoused exuding the power of a final say.

After his carefully argued thesis, he makes this concluding statement “The Supreme Court has not ruled on the question whether a nominated member could be fired by the president. This is because previous nominated members have not challenged their dismissals. If it materializes that Hon. Jaiteh’s appointment to the National Assembly has been revoked, I hope she challenges it in the Supreme Court. That would remove us from theoretical terrains to a settled case law on presidential powers.”

In conclusion, I wish to state that the problem of separation of powers does not only come into play when someone is being relieved of his or her appointment. And this is the point that most people on your side of this debate are missing (perhaps on purpose). As clearly articulated by Mr. Drammeh in his article, this is the problem:

“The original sin of this problem is the constitution providing for the president to appoint members into a co-equal branch of government that should hold oversight authority over the presidency. It is an insult to our democracy that the President, a single person has the power to nominate five people to the National Assembly, while a constituency with tens of thousands of people can elect only one person.“

So rather than deal with the symptoms of an ailment, a professional body like The Gambia Bar Association aught to know and do better by leading us to authentic logical solutions devoid of emotional and other vested-interest-considerations. This case here is a great opportunity for our collective introspection to find pragmatic and lasting solutions to our problems. I hope this debate leads us to that direction and not the often pointless brouhaha that our new-found freedom of speech sometimes leads us to.

Learned counsel, let me end my epistle with best wishes for a successful tenure in your new office; and to pray that Allah guides us all to the right direction, and to “lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil” amen.

Yours in National Discourse
Momodou Sabally

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