Saturday, December 5, 2020

Are The Offices Of President And Vice President Vacant?

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                                                  QUESTION OF THE DAY

The announcement from the state house that the Vice President’s test regarding  COVID 19 has proven to be positive did raise question whether the Office of Vice President is vacant. In the same vein the information that the President will be in isolation for two weeks is also leading to questions as to whether the office of President is vacant.

To get correct answers one must consult the Constitution. Section 65 of the Constitution deals with vacancy in the office of the President. It states :

(1) The office of President shall become vacant during the term of a presidency –

(a)   on the death or resignation of the President;

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(b)  on the President ceasing to hold office under section 66 or section 67.

What does Section 66 say?

Section 66 deals with infirmity of mind or body . A Medical Board would have to be Constituted if a notice in writing is signed by not less than half the members of the National Assembly is received by the Speaker  alleging that “ the President is, by reason of infirmity of mind or body, incapable of discharging the functions of his office, and giving particulars of the alleged incapacity.”

If that happens  “the Speaker shall request the Chief Justice to constitute, on the recommendation of the head of the medical services of The Gambia, a Medical Board comprising at least five independent medical practitioners of appropriate standing.”

It follows that if “the Board reports that the President is incapable of discharging the functions of his or her office by reason of infirmity of mind or body, the Chief Justice shall submit the report to the Speaker, who shall, if the National Assembly is not sitting, summon the National Assembly to meet within seven days.”

Finally , “the members of the National Assembly shall deliberate on the report and vote on it and the President shall only be removed where two thirds of the members present and voting, vote for his removal.”

Hence , it is clear form this that there is no indication that the office of President has become vacant because of  infirmity of mind or body.

One may now ask : What is the state of the office of Vice President?

Section 70 of the Constitution states that “ there shall be a Vice-President of The Gambia who shall be the principal assistant of the President in the discharge of his or her executive functions and shall exercise such other functions as may be conferred on him or her by this Constitution or assigned to him or her by the President.”

It adds that “the office of Vice-President shall become vacant:

(a)   on the termination of his appointment by the President;

(b)  on the Vice-President assuming the office of President for the unexpired term

of his predecessor;

(c)   on the Vice-President’s death or resignation;

(d)  on his or her ceasing to hold office under the provisions of section 66 or 67.

If the office of Vice President becomes vacant “the President shall, appoint as Vice-President a person qualified to be appointed to that office.”

Since none of the terms stipulated have occurred one must conclude that the office of Vice President is not vacant.

It is, however , important to take into  consideration  a situation arising where all Cabinet members and National Assembly members are  under quarantine how will the business of the state be conducted . The need to introduce zoom conferences and other meetings should be taken into consideration to ensure safe distancing as we Combat COVID 19.Technology must come to our aid  to ensure that the engine of the state does not come to a halt.

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