By Nelson Manneh
Justice Cherno S Jallow, the Chairperson of the Constitution Reviewing Commission (CRC), on Wednesday December 5th 2018, engaged the people of Kaiaf in the Kiang East District of the Lower River Region, on the review process of the 1997 Constitution.
Justice Jallow in his engagement with the people, dilated on the citizenship issue as stated in the 1997 Constitution and asked the people their opinion on what the proposed new Constitution should make provision for.
Chairperson Jallow said in the 1997 Constitution, the citizenship section states: “One can be a citizen when both parents are born in the Gambia or one of their parents. If one is born in another country and one’s parents is or are Gambian, then one becomes a citizen.” Justice Jallow added that the 1997 Constitution also said citizenship can come through naturalization and by marriage. “If one spends fifteen years in the country and fulfils the requirements, one can become a citizen. By marriage, a person who has been ordinarily resident in the Gambia for a period of not less than fifteen years, and satisfies the conditions set out in subsection (2), may apply in such manner, as may be prescribed by or under an Act of the National Assembly, to be naturalized as a citizen of the Gambia,” he said; that by marriage, any person who is married to a citizen of the Gambia and has been ordinarily residing in the country for a period of not less than seven years, can also become a citizen. Justice S Jallow then asked the people to give their opinions and contributions on this and any other matter they think is pertinent.
In respond to Justices Jallow’s questions on citizenship, Yaya Jassey said the seven and fifteen years of marriage and naturalization requirement as a qualification in the 1997 Constitution, should be reduced. “If one marries a Gambian, one should spend at least five years to be a citizen and naturalization should be reduced to ten years,” he said. Jassey contributed that any one born in the Gambia, should be regarded as a citizen.
Commissioner Yankuba Manjang also engaged the people of Kaiaf on the death penalty, the fate of the prisoners and the right of diaspora Gambians to vote. He discussed issues of conducting presidential and parliamentary elections on the same day, and the age and term limit of the presidency, the establishment of a Health, Agriculture and Education Commission, etc.
Ebrima Joof a native of Kaiaf, contributed that prisoners and diaspora Gambians should be allowed to vote. “The Alkaloship should be left the way it is, through the traditional line. But Governors and Chiefs should be voted into office and not to be appointed by the president,” he said. Ramatioulie Jassey said people in rural communities are 75% farmers and they live by their hands; that they should be empowered and considered in the New Constitution. “The Agricultural commission should be established to look at our issues,” she said.