By: Kebba Mamburay
Hon Saikouba Jarju, the National Assembly member for Busumbala constituency, said he voted against the Draft Constitution because it gave the executive limited powers to execute its mandate.
He said the Draft Constitution has given some powers of the executive to the National Assembly.
Hon Jarju said the National Assembly has over the past years served the interest of the people.
He however added: “But now it is a National Assembly for political parties because there is ‘high infiltration’ of politics in the activities of National Assembly Members.”
Hon. Jarju said most MPs said they consulted their electorates for their input regarding the draft.
He asked: “Who did they consult? Nobody, but their political supporters who do not even constitute half of their electorates and this means they are either not representing the minority or the majority.”
He added: “If we are not mindful, we would have political clashes.”
He further said there is a clause in the draft which states that if one is banned from holding public office, one would be banned for life.
“And the same constitution allows a pardoned prisoner, who had been charged and found wanting by prominent court, to contest for public office. …..Telling us the charges on him will stay, but that does not bar him from contesting.”
He said when he compared these two issues he came to the conclusion that there was no fairness in this whole process. On religion, he said when the first draft came out; there was public outcry from all the major religious denominations, both Christianity and Islam. Jarju said he didn’t see any clause in the draft constitution which gave assurance to these two denominations, that they have been catered for, and that their rights have been captured in the draft constitution. He said Christians were saying if the bill was passed, any government can come and change the status of the Gambia into an Islamic state.
He said the area talking about laws of the Gambia was not entrenched and that meant if the bill was passed by Parliament, any party that dominates parliament could change it.”
He said he was opposed to Section 10 of the draft constitution.
“There is this cultural activity that people used to do and it was made illegal during the previous regime, and now they are telling me that you have cultural independence and cultural rights to enjoy anything. So the issue of that female circumcision is not clear. So if I pass the bill and my constituents happen to get involved in that activity and get charged, would it be considered illegal or legal? That was an issue I had and some other related issues too.”
Jarju added he wanted to be given assurance that the bill would not be rushed because if the bill was passed, and amendments were to be made, it would be amended more than the 1997 constitution.
He said the draft constitution did not have provisions for a lot of important things because it was silent on the issue of salary and economic status of the people
“The National Assembly too, should be independent and be the institution of the people, but not the institution for political parties.”
He concluded: “All over the world, the National Assemblies are lobbied, not financially but you provide them with information.”