‘State of emergency declarations not in line with constitution’

Jul 10, 2020, 11:38 AM | Article By: Arfang M.S. Camara

The Gambia Bar Association (GBA) has said that it is their view that the declaration of the State of Public Emergency (SOPE) pursuant to section 34(6) of the Constitution of The Gambia on the 10 June, 1 July and 7 July, 2020 without recourse to the National Assembly is  inconsistent with the dictates of the constitution.

The association made their view on the successive declarations of the State of Public Emergency (SOPE) by the Gambian leader without resorting to the National Assembly to seek for an extension as provided and envisaged in the constitution of the Republic of The Gambia.

“It is important to note that whilst the President of the Republic has the power to declare a State of Public Emergency in accordance with section 34, the constitutional power to extend a State of Emergency is vested exclusively on the National Assembly. This is unequivocally provided under Section 34(2) of the Constitution,” the Bar Association further stated.

“The Constitution therefore subjects the exercise of the Presidential Powers to declare a State of Public Emergency to National Assembly oversight and scrutiny by prescribing the duration of any such declaration made by the President.”

“Section 34(1) of the Constitution Of The Republic of The Gambia gives the President of the Republic the exclusive power to declare a State of Public Emergency but limits the exercise of this power under section 34(2) by prescribing that a State of Public Emergency shall lapse after seven (7) days or if the National Assembly is not in session after twenty-one (21) days.”

According to the GBA, under the aforementioned provision, the duration of the State of Public Emergency can only be extended if prior to its expiration, a resolution is tabled and approved by two–thirds of the National Assembly Members.

“The Gambia Bar Association acknowledges and recognises the Government’s duty to protect its citizens and all those who reside in The Gambia against the spread of the pandemic outbreak known as COVID-19.”

The fight against COVID-19, the association added, is a collective battle for all and requires cooperation and collaboration of all the stakeholders. “However, in discharging this noble responsibility, we urge the Executive to do so in close collaboration with the National Assembly.”