By Omar Bah
Former special adviser to President Adama Barrow has called on the Gambian leader to declare a state of emergency because without it, government cannot and should not limit movement with an imposition of a curfew.
“Mandatory restriction of movement is ideal but unconstitutional without proper legal foundation. A state of emergency will allow the government wide latitude to implement measures akin to war time responsibilities or pervasive breakdown of law and order. It will enable the State to have its cake and eat it, no other way,” Mai Fatty said in a write-up shared with The Standard.
The GMC leader added that executive or administrative acts must be derived from policy and the law.
“We are calling for calculated, decisive action but not at the risk of violating the Constitution. It is possible to introduce far-reaching measures that are both effective and enforceable, and doing so in consonance with the law. The government has our full support in dealing with this emergency. Yet, any measure that is at variance with the law constitutes an aberration that won’t be countenanced,” he added.
He said the idea of immediate, forcible closure of businesses supplying essential goods and services without adequate notice to the public “is unwise”.
He continued: “I commend the Government for the initiatives thus far. Yet we are not doing enough. President Barrow, work with the National Assembly and declare a State of Emergency without delay. Impose a sensible curfew regime with other effective measures to enforce new public health directives. Deploy microscopic monitoring of the 500 million Dalasi emergency fund, ensuring that monies are being prudently spent to curb the novel corona virus pandemic.
We shouldn’t wait for more fatalities. With the typical nature of Gambian society, we need more measured response and utter decisiveness. This is a time for bold leadership. Act Mr. President. Declare a State of Emergency. Impose a sensible curfew that is both realistic and enforceable. This is a time when citizens must be protected against themselves”.
Fatty argued that some of the measures being proposed or introduced by the government may be unlawful because they infringe on entrenched clauses. “You cannot enforce closure of markets, or places of worship or congregational prayers without a governing legal authority. That is ultra vires and unconstitutional. You cannot legally punish its violation. The State must invoke a law to do so, and a state of emergency will grant sweeping powers to the government to do that and more,” he said.
The GMC leader added that no authority can simply order businesses to close down and enforce such a directive without statutory sanction. “Dancing around the issue with half-hearted measures is inimical to public welfare,” he concluded.