Commentary By Halifa Sallah
Knowledge is based on facts and not fiction. Constitutions are either sacred or mundane texts. Sacred texts derive their origin from a deity. Mundane texts derive their origin from monarchs or the people. Gambia’s constitutional history so far has revealed two origins of Constitutions. The Colonial Constitutional texts were derived as Orders-in-Council enacted under the dictates of Colonial Monarchs. Republican Constitutions, on the other hand, knowingly or unknowingly emerged from the will of the people. We are yet to have any Constitution that any one dares to claim to originate from a deity. I challenge the demagogue to write and prove me wrong. If he cannot he must either accept his ignorance or dishonesty. Both are not virtues for a person who poses as an erudite master of the craft of the pen.
I can safely assert without any fear of exaggeration that the Demagogue is a master in fiction writing who unscrupulously tries to mastermind a false irreconcilable contradiction between Christians and Muslims and then attribute to me an irreconcilable posture aimed at misleading and mis-educating the largest population of young people in the country who are likely to identify themselves as Muslim youth, so as to build a political constituency to please his current masters. A person seasoned in the game of pleasing masters would stop at nothing in playing the game of the proverbial python that measures itself against the palm tree in order to determine whether it is long enough to take to the sea to become a dragon. Halifa Sallah is his palm tree and his masters are waiting to give him his award of being an invisible Cyber warrior who cannot be caged. What a destiny!!
It is as clear to me as the noon day sun that he will never venture to ascribe a sacred attribute to any Republican Constitution we have had so far.
He has not provided a text and will not provide a text on the type pf Constitution that is fit for the Sovereign Gambian people. He has nothing of value to add. He is totally barren of conception of what a Republican constitution is or should be. This is why he is a demagogue. This is not an insult. It is a proven fact. A demagogue is one who uses high sounding phrases embellished with endless details about everything other than the subject matter at hand.
Gambians are talking about the subject of crafting a Constitution for the third Republic.
Instead of participating in a seriously meant discussion on how to improve the 1997 Constitution which has been consciously and systematically doctored with amendments under the watch of the Demagogue, he is shouting his voice hoarse with high sounding phrases convoluted with sacred exculpations to cover up barren conceptions of the true nature or characteristic of the constitution of a third Republic.
In 1995 I wrote the Juridical Foundation of the Second Republic as my contribution to the debate on Constitution building before the draft Constitution was made. This time I have a manuscript on the Juridical oundation of the third Republic which is meant to enable Gambians to assess the quality of the draft constitution of the CRC which will be published to coincide with the debate on the referendum. One must have knowledge of political science and constitutions to be able to classify them. The demagogue is bereft of both and has nothing to contribute but discord.
To heighten our knowledge on the mundane nature of Constitutions let me quote provisions of the 1970 and 1997 Constitutions and then proceed to explain why we should participate in the debate to craft a constitution for the third Republic and how religious groups are to safeguard their group rights under a mundane constitution. This is what I have promised to do at the National Assembly before any community invited me to assist in calming the wave of discord which was polluting the atmosphere and hindering any consensus building in the constitutional reform process.
Chapter 1 of the 1970 Constitution states:
“The Gambia is a Sovereign Republic.”
The Government under the first Republic was operated by a Cabinet and not by a Council of religious leaders issuing sacred edicts.
In short, Section 49 of the 1970 Constitution states:
“The Cabinet shall be the instrument of policy and shall be responsible for advising the President with respect to the policy of Government.”
Section 50 adds: “The Cabinet shall be collectively responsible to Parliament for all things done by or under the authority of the President or any other Minister in the exercise of his office.”
Needless to say, the Constitution and laws made by Parliament constitute the basis of authority to govern. This is why Section 42 adds:
“In the exercise of any functions conferred upon him by the Constitution or any other law, the President shall, unless it is otherwise prescribed act in his own deliberate judgment and shall not be obliged to follow the advice of any other person or authority.”
Suffice it to say, since power is considered to be mundane and temporal the duration of its wielding was limited by law as follows:
Section 85 of the 1970 Constitution states:
“Parliament unless sooner dissolved shall continue for five years from the day of the first sitting of the House of Representatives after dissolution and then shall stand dissolved “
Section 87 adds:
“A general election of members of the House of Representatives shall be held at such time within three months after any dissolution of Parliament as the President may appoint.”
The lesson is clear. Power to govern under the 1970 Constitution was derived from the will of the people and was defined by a Mundane instrument prepared by the colonial masters and handed over to the leaders of the country after the successful orchestration of the referendum of 24 April 1970.
Hence the first attempt made to draft a Constitution and promulgate it with the participation of the people was in 1995 / 1996 Constitutional reform process which gave birth to the 1997 Constitution.
IS THE 1997 CONSTITUTION A SACRED OR MUNDANE TEXT?
To be continued