Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Could A Bill To Amend, Promulgate Or Repeal The Constitution Be Introduced Under A Certificate Of Urgency?

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QUESTION OF THE DAY         

The answer is in the negative. A Bill on the promulgation or repeal of a constitutional provision can never be successful in being introduced in the National Assembly under a Certificate of Urgency. The Constitution deemed it wise, right and proper to create a provision different from Section 101 Subsection (3) which enables the National Assembly to approve the introduction of a Bill under a Certificate of Urgency.

A Bill to amend, promulgate or repeal the 1997 Constitution must depend on Section 226 of the Constitution.

Why is that the case? Section 101 Subsection (3) reads:

“No Bill, other than a Bill referred to in subsection (5), shall be introduced into the National Assembly unless it has been published in the Gazette, and such publication has been made at least fourteen days before the date of its introduction:

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Provided that where the President certifies that the enactment of the Bill is required in the public interest as a matter of urgency, the Bill may be introduced notwithstanding it has not been published fourteen days beforehand, but the Speaker shall, on the introduction of the Bill, cause a vote to be taken in the National Assembly without debate on a motion to give consideration to the Bill notwithstanding that the said period of fourteen days has not expired.”

It is clear from this that the Bill that could be introduced under a Certificate of Urgency is one that requires 14 days publication before introduction.

The provision is silent on Bills that require two publications for no less than three months ten days as dictated by Section 226 of the Constitution.

Gambian thinkers should put their thinking caps on and save the integrity of the Country. Trial and error have never been means of building a civilisation founded on self-determined development.

Section 226 is explicit. Subsection 4 leaves no doubt or ambiguity. It reads:

“(4)  A Bill for an Act of the National  Assembly altering any of the provisions referred to in subsection (7) shall not be passed by the National Assembly or presented to the President for assent unless-

(a) the Bill is published and introduced in the manner required by paragraph (a) of subsection (2);

(b)     the Bill is supported on the second and third readings by the votes of not less than three quarters   of all the members of the National Assembly;

(c)      the Bill has been referred by the Speaker to the Independent Electoral Commission and the Commission has, within six months of such reference, held a referendum on the Bill; and

(d)      at least fifty per cent of the persons entitled to vote in the referendum have taken part in the referendum and the Bill is supported in the referendum by a least seventy-five  per cent of those who voted.”

The publication required by Subsection (2)(a) is as follows:

“a)   before the first reading of the Bill in the National Assembly, the Bill is published  in at least two issues of the Gazette, the latest  publication being not less than three months after the first, and the Bill is introduced into the National Assembly not earlier than ten days after the latest publication;”

It is incontrovertible that no Constitutional amendment, promulgation or repeal Bill could be introduced in the National Assembly under a certificate of urgency. They can only be introduced under section 226 of the Constitution. Section 102(d) of the Constitution could only enhance the promulgation process but cannot oust section 226.

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