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Sunday, October 17, 2021

‘Political parties have no power to decide future of rejected constitution’

By Omar Bah

PDOIS secretary general, Halifa Sallah, has said political parties have no power whatsoever to decide the future of the rejected draft constitution. In September, Gambian lawmakers rejected a draft constitution to replace the 1997 Constitution. About 31 National Assembly Members voted in favour of the bill to be passed while 23 members rejected the draft.

A respected former Gambian foreign minister, Momodou Lamin Sedat Jobe, has since urged President Adama Barrow to support Halifa Sallah’s motion seeking to reintroduce the draft constitution bill.

Sallah had asked the Speaker to allow him to make a motion seeking to reintroduce the bill but his bid was rejected.

The Barrow government has since turned to mediation specialist and former Nigerian president, Dr Goodluck Jonathan to help find consensus on the draft constitution ahead of its planned return to the National Assembly.

However, Mr Jonathan’s attempts so far, which include flying political party leaders to Nigeria to find consensus, have not yielded fruits. 

But specifically reacting on Jonathan’s mediation, the Serekunda lawmaker said: “Political parties can only influence National Assembly Members, if they lack capacity or experience to adequately perform their duties or direct the minds of the electorate; if they do not know their rights and duties as sovereign citizens.”

PDOIS has from the beginning refused to take part in the Jonathan mediation.

“When we decided not to take part in the process, people started saying PDOIS is this and that. That is PDOIS for you. We don’t just jump into issues without doing a thorough assessment of the national interest. This is why we refused to take part in the talks,” Sallah said.

Sallah said PDOIS has always insisted that the government should explore the possibility of amending the 1997 constitution.

“We had insisted from the beginning that they should explore the National Assembly to amend some of the things they want to amend in the 1997 constitution. But they said no because for them, drafting a new constitution would have been a victory and that we want to spoil that victory. We said okay and allowed them to go ahead. And even when it was thrown out, we explored means of returning it to the National Assembly through the parliament. But again, that was ignored,” he said.

The veteran politician also dwelled on why PDOIS members refused to take positions in 2016 cabinet formation. “We realised that after the change, there were different partisan interests. This is why we decided going to the National Assembly is the best for us. It is essential for the Gambian people to understand that PDOIS cannot impose policies on the coalition government.”

Meanwhile, the party has selected Halifa Sallah as its presidential candidate for the December polls.

Reacting to his selection, Sallah said: “If I were ever to become the president of this country for months and years and discover that I cannot add value, I promise you that I will resign. And if I have to spill blood, arrest, detain just to be a president of this republic, then call me a criminal, the worst criminal who has ever lived on this earth. Power is not meant to oppress and coerce. It’s meant to protect. So the task you have put on my shoulders is a heavy one and I will leave this podium with a heavy heart, seeing the past and looking at the future.”

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