APRC says draft constitution’s retroactive clause is witch-hunt

Mar 22, 2021, 11:21 AM | Article By: Momodou Jawo

Fabakary Tombong Jatta, the leader of the opposition Alliance for Patriotic Reorientation and Construction (APRC) has affirmed that the retroactive aspect of the Draft Constitution is purposely designed to witch-hunt certain individuals, saying constitutions are not meant to target individuals.

“You don’t make a constitution to target individuals. A constitution should be holistic and the overall interest of the public. We have a series of concerns in the draft constitution that we feel should be looked into if we are to lend support to it,” he said.

In an exclusive interview with The Point on Saturday at his Tallinding residence, the former lawmaker for Serrekunda East during the former regime said: “APRC don’t believe in retroactivity especially in this situation. We are heading to election in December and we are yet to have a constitution. Therefore, why having a constitution and backdating it to affect an individual.”

The veteran politician added: “We as a party don’t believe in that. We believe it is witch-hunting. We sincerely believe that immediately the draft constitution comes into force, that clause should take effect from the next president of the Republic of The Gambia. Retroactive laws are usually done, but they are not done on attacking individuals.”

According to him, the APRC lawmakers will vote against the draft constitution if it’s tabled again at the National Assembly. “We will continue to vote against the draft constitution until our concerns are addressed. The legality of repealing the 1997 Constitution has to be clear. From consultations with legal luminaries, we are reliably informed that it will be illegal even for parliament to try to bring in a new constitution and put away the 1997 Constitution,” he stated.

The APRC party, he explained, has over 30 concerns in the draft constitution which are yet to be addressed. “We had our observation in the draft constitution. When the second draft was out, we observed that most of our comments and inputs were not addressed, hence we will not support it.”

He added that his party understands that the current government delegated the Attorney General to try and see how people can look at the draft constitution with a view to bringing it back to the parliament using Goodluck Jonathan, former Nigerian president as mediator.

“However, when various political leaders returned from the Nigeria trip, various comments were made that all parties have agreed except one political party. I want to make it very clear that the issues we had with the draft constitution are many. We don’t buy the idea of passing the draft. There is already a draft that can be amended. Why do you have to legislate it and try to bring to parliament to amend it.”

“As at now our position remains the same that we are not in support of the draft constitution unless and until we are able to verify amendments and proposals that were put in and those that were deleted. However, if it addresses all our concerns then fine.”

“We are also of the opinion that and following some consultations with some legal luminaries, we are told that the 1997 Constitution itself  has no clause that allows its own repeal, even if all Gambians agree to the new draft constitution. We will not participate in illegal things."

FTJ further said: “These questions were posed by us during various consultations we had with various stakeholders, but we are yet to receive an answer. I am reliably informed about this and I have read it and consulted legal minded people on the matter. We are told that you can’t throw away the 1997 Constitution but you can only amend it with a view to remove anything you want and bring in anything you want, but you can’t throw it aside,” he told our reporter.

The draft constitution, he went on, will create a constitutional crisis in the country if Allah doesn’t guide us well. “People shouldn’t use sentiment and partisan politics especially in drafting a constitution which is our supreme law. President Barrow is in government today but tomorrow he won't be there. Are we saying that any government that comes we have to go and draft a new constitution? We could have spent that millions of dalasis on drafting the constitution to other important issues.”

Read details of our interview in our next publications.

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