Gambia’s attorney general and minister of Justice said that the review of the
country’s 1997 Constitution is a legitimate cause of action which the
transition government is pursuing to ensure that the constitution is relevant
and serves the purpose for which Gambians adopted it.
Speaking to reporters at a recent press conference, Minister Tambadou said government is satisfied that the review actions were legitimate, and once the enactment process is complete, details will be available to the public.
Earlier in December, the National Assembly had passed the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission Bill 2017; the Constitutional Review Commission Bill 2017; and the National Human Rights Commission Bill 2017.
However, a member of the National Assembly has opined that the review of the 1997 Constitution will tantamount to treason.
“The constitution gives any citizen the right to challenge the government if they feel that any part of the constitution is been violated. I am not going to get involved in legal arguments in the National Assembly, for instance: It is apolitical fora, not a court of law,” Minister Tambadou said.
At a stakeholders’ consultative forum convened around June 2017, it became a popular view that the country’s 1997 Constitution indeed requires a total overhaul rather than a piecemeal amendment.
“The Gambia needs a new constitution not just amendment to the existing one,” senior lawyer, Ms. Ida Drammeh has argued.
Drafting a new constitution would be more ideal because reforming the existing 1997 Constitution would include too many amendments and it may not address all issues, Ms. Drammeh said in a panel discussion chaired by the Chief Justice Hassan Jallow, who also shared the same view.
Hawa Sisay-Sabally, senior constitutional lawyer and one-time attorney general also argued on the same panel that some parts of the constitution contain provisions that allow anyone to protect the constitution and such provisions should be maintained in any subsequent reforms. She agreed the country deserves a new draft.
Meanwhile, Justice minister said his arguments will be limited before the courts and that he would not comment much on whether or not a constitutional review will tantamount to “treason”.
“If anybody feels aggrieved about any action of the government that they feel violates the constitution… the Supreme Court is here, they can certainly challenge that,” he told reporters.