Draft Constitution is still alive: Solicitor General

Jun 7, 2021, 2:02 PM | Article By: Sankulleh Girbril Janko

Solicitor General Hussain Thomasi told a group of stakeholders on Saturday at the Sir Dawda Kairaba International Conference that the Draft Constitution is alive and can never die.

The SG made the remarks on Saturday at the Sir Dawda Kairaba International Conference as discussions to revive the rejected constitution kicked started again.

The National Assembly in late 2020 rejected the Constitution of The Gambia Promulgation Bill 2020 at the second stage of scrutiny.

For many Gambians, the life span of the much anticipated bill died there and then.

However, SG Thomasi delivering a speech during this national discussion had a different perspective with those who think the Draft Constitution is dead.

"The Draft Constitution is not dead and it can never die," Solicitor General Thomasi said. 

He went on: "It is the will of the Gambians and you can never suppress the will of the people."

He said his ministry had wanted the draft to go to a referendum during the general elections.

"As a ministry, our plans are to hold a referendum on the Draft Constitution alongside the presidential elections in December; arrangements are being worked out to that effect and what will ultimately be gazetted would be the current draft as amended by stakeholders during the media process."

It is generally believed that MPs who voted against the draft at the second stage of scrutiny did so to protect President Barrow’s interest to run for more than two terms, the retroactive/ retrospective had become the most contentious clause.

SG meanwhile said, "the issue of retroactivity, I believe will be overtaken by events and will not be an issue any longer beyond the presidential elections."

"But behoves us a ministry is to do proper sequencing of timing, in order to have the draft during the presidential ballot for the elections."

Although it might have been the intention of the Justice Ministry to conduct a referendum in tandem with presidential elections, failing to pass the Draft Constitution is a setback in that aspect, adding that the presidential elections will be conducted under the 1997 Constitution as well as all other arrangements by the IEC.

He claimed that all hopes are not yet lost, saying bringing all the political parties under one roof by the International IDEA was a step forward.

He cited examples of constitutional crisis over the years in various countries including but not limited to the perceived beacon of democracy, the United States.

Closer to home, he cited examples of Nigeria and Ghana which both experienced similar constitutional crisis.

Former Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan led the mediation to revive the Draft Constitution of the Gambia to no avail.

He visited Banjul on two occasions followed by visit to Abuja by a group of political party heads.

However, contentious issues mainly the retroactive clause remains to be the stumbling block against the Gambia having a new and more progressive constitution.

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