A respected Gambian MP Halifa Sallah on Monday schooled the Gambian parliament, including the country’s Justice Minister Abubacarr Tambadou about the constitutional ramifications associated with the Minister’s attempt to table a proposed bill that will paved the way for a new constitution to be ushered in the Gambia. Mr. Sallah said Tambadou has failed to follow the constitutional procedures to make such changes; hence he contends that the proposed bill tabled by the Minister is not only illegal, but unconstitutional.
“Clause 23 is saying upon the enactment of the National Assembly of the bill, approving the constitution; the speaker shall following the ascension of the president; immediately transmit a copy of the constitution to the Independent electoral commission; the Commission; meaning the Independent Electoral Commission shall within 60 days of receiving a copy of the constitution and in accordance sub section 1; organize a referendum on the constitution; this is at complete variance with the dictates of the constitution,” the Serrekunda PDOIS MP argued.
Therefore, Mr. Sallah warns that any attempt by the National Assembly to entertain Baa Tamba’s proposed bill would amount to treason. He said the MPS have taken an oath to defend and protect the constitution from any obstructionists or violators.
“So, in this regard, I must say if the National Assembly passes this bill; what we are simply saying is that we have overthrown the 1997 constitution and we will be deserved to be charged with treason because it is clear that under section 6 of the constitution; that it is our duty to defend the constitution,” Sallah noted.
Justice Minister Tambadou had earlier told MPS that if the proposed bill is approved, the constitutional review commission is expected to consult with Gambians both at home, and abroad, including professional groups on the proposed constitution. He said the commission would be mandated to draft the new commission, which would be subjected to a referendum. He also said the National Civic Education will use the media to educate the citizenry about the proposed new constitution.
But Halifa Sallah maintains that power belongs to the people and therefore, the current constitution should be respected.
“The people are the real lawmakers. We are here simply representing them. We are not the lawmakers; we are lawmakers indirectly given the power of the people to make law for them, but the people are the real lawmakers,” Salleh noted.
Mr. Sallah recommended that the current constitution can be amended without discarding its entirety. He warns that failure to follow procedure and the dictates of the law would amount to a violation of the law. Sallah said he was alarmed by the Justice Minister’s bill to introduce a bill for a new constitution, without following what the law said.
Mr. Sallah also raised the issue of lack of constitutional provision to restrain the president to fire cabinet members and Ambassadors without parliament’s approval. He said if Parliament was empowered to scrutinize cabinet appointees and Ambassadors such an executive power conferred on the president would not have prevailed.