By Omar Bah
Almami Taal, the spokesman of the UDP, has said his party has not recommended for the inclusion of secularism in the draft constitution.
“We had a consultative meeting on the issue of the constitution and we agreed that there is no need to introduce a word that doesn’t reflect the reality of the Gambian people or at least the majority of the Gambian people. It would not be correct just grammatically to say that The Gambia is a secular country, it is not,” he told The Standard yesterday.
It was widely speculated that the UDP had suggested for the inclusion of secularism in the party’s position paper sent to the Constitutional Review Commission.
But Taal countered: “It is good that the country is described as a democratic country or comparative democracy, you can choose the words but certainly, we are not advocating for the inclusion of secularism in the constitution. We took note, discussed and concluded that the constitutional provisions that we have in the draft are sufficient to provide all the guarantees that are necessary.”
“In a democracy, it is always what the majority believes and the majority in The Gambia believes in Christianity and Islam. So, to suggest that we should include the word secularism there, I think is not going to add anything. After all, Gambia was even declared an Islamic state once by Yahya Jammeh and it did not change the character of Gambians.
“We believe words like that are not part of the character of Gambians because we live in a very secular way, we have respect for each other’s religion. There has never been an issue because our experience is just that somebody decided to make this country an Islamic republic but it did not become an Islamic republic. He made Friday a public holiday but businesses worked on Fridays,” he added.
Mr Taal, a former judge of the Gambia High Court, said the word secular alone is not even important enough to generate the debate that it has generated. “As such, we just want to accept the draft as it is in that regard. We have made some other suggestions and we hope that they will also be taken onboard,” he said.