The Spokesman of the Transitional Government Halifa Sallah says the recent repealing of the age limit associated with the office of the president and vice president by parliament was unconstitutional and hence called on the Barrow government to adhere to the dictates of the 1997 constitution. Mr. Sallah, who has made his position known to the transitional leaders, said government must go back to parliament to table the bill again in the spirit of following the dictates of the constitution. Mr. Sallah told journalists at a news conference today that the amendment of the Election Act, was done in line with the dictates of the constitution, but in regards to the repealing of the age limit for the president and vice president, Sallah said the government got it all wrong.

“When you dealing with the constitution, you cannot go by section 101. It has a section of its own in the constitution and that’s section 226. So what it says is that when you are to introduce a bill to amend the constitution prior to doing so; you must publish it in the gazette for three months for the first reading.  And then publish it again nothing less than ten days; the second publication before introducing it in the national assembly. So that has been made clear after it was done. And there is absolutely no doubt that government sees eye to eye with that particular position and obviously, they will be doing the rectification.  So that bill have to be returned to the national assembly for remedial actions to be made,” he said.

Baa Tambadou, is Gambia’s Attorney General and Minister of Justice. He advice the president on issues of legal matters. He also oversees the passage of bills and amendment of the constitution.

Mr. Tambadou was absent in parliament on Tuesday, when Interior Minister, Mai Fatty, tabled the proposed constitutional changes. Now Halifa Sallah, is telling Gambians that the recent repealing of the age limit for the office of president and vice president was done unconstitutionally. Sallah said the Barrow government has agreed to make the necessary corrections to rectify the unconstitutional act.

Commenting on the upcoming national assembly elections, Sallah said he has been instructed by his colleagues to report to Gambians about what has been agreed upon to take part in the polls. Sallah said all the parties have agreed to sponsor independent coalition candidates in the coming polls, except the UDP and the NRP. He said the two parties believed in party sponsored candidates.

“After lengthy deliberations, the position of the coalition is to participate in this election on the basis of independent coalition candidates, of course two parties have reservations,” Sallah noted.

Mr. Sallah asked Gambians to continue to be proactive on issues of national importance as manifested in the past elections. He said the opposition came together largely due to public demand for an alliance. He expects the same pressure to be mounted on the opposition in order to do the right thing for the public good.

Mr. Sallah also said candidates representing the coalition government must be electable and competent, while underscoring the importance of electing competent national assembly members. He said the transition government should endeavor to accomplish its set agenda for change. But he said, this cannot be possible if the coalition’s core mission and values, which brought the opposition together is being set aside.

“You said Gambia has decided, well we are yet to decide the National Assembly,” Halifa said adding that the other parties should be engaged so that the opposition can win more seats in the coming elections.  Once the opposition forms the majority in the house, he said, the proposed reforms and constitutional changes can be accomplished. He warns the opposition to avoid becoming the innocent victims of their own making, while stressing the need for an opposition unity to shape the affairs of the state. 

Mr. Halifa Sallah also clarified that he is not a paid adviser to president Adama Barrow. He said his services are pro-bono.

“I am not part of the Executive. I am an adviser, but not an Executive adviser. An Executive adviser must receive pay from a government and will be driving government vehicle; given government vehicles and so forth. I am not that. An adviser cannot be with the president 24 hours; every day a week. There are government ministers and ministries who carry out their functions,” he said.

Written By Pa Nderry M’Bai

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