BARROW GOVERNMENT-NEW CONSTITUTION AND THE CALL FOR SECOND CHAMBER OF TECHNOCRATS BY DEMOCRATIC WATCH.
I agree with most of their recommendations and it is a great contribution to strengthen and entrench our newly achieved democratic victory over a tenacious and callous dictatorship which tormented a major part of the Gambian population for 22 years.
Albeit there are some recommendations which I differ and don’t think it wise to institute. An unelected second chamber like Britain House of Lords to oversee legislative process and be some kind of lever over an elected parliament, will be cumbersome, counter-productive and expensive.
Assuming we have an upper house of 30 technocrat Senators, each with a salary of D20,000 per month. That will require a new budgetary allocation of D7.2m in a year and D187m over fives years. This estimate excludes, their transport and other allowance.
Imagine they also demand an official car costing D300,000 per car and their own senate house which require constructing a new building and furniture. The cost of car (excluding car maintenance) and personal emoluments will cost in a five period D187m plus D9m, bringing the total to D196m
House of bureaucrats, untamed, unelected technocrats who for long have perpetrated great disservice to our nation and indeed many African nations. They will encumber the legislative processes with meandering and unending arguments some of which will duplicate the effort of elected parliamentarians who are responsible to their constituencies. There will be a tendency of intellectual self-indulgence, a pretentious questioning of the proprietorial deliberations of the elected NAMs because of their self-confidence of superior intellect and administrative acumen.
TECHNOCRATS FAILED US BEFORE
Yaya like many African dictators surrounded himself with submissive technocrats who did his bidding and were instrumental and sometimes complicit in his economic pillage. He used, misused, dump and recycle them. There was no shortage because of many technocrats lacked the trust in Allah. While some of them have insatiable love for the prestige and trappings of power that goes with their positions. Consequently, Yaya Jammeh could afford to insult and demean them yet they stay in compliance like some docile cats.
In fact they were the architects, surveyors and supervisors of Yaya’s entire apparatus; scheming and implementing his diabolical and mendacious rampage of our parastatals and institutions. Central Bank, SSHFC, PORTS and GAMTEL, implement to the letter, Yaya’s perpetual programmes of economic loot without remorse. The technocrats who refused his biding were jailed, ostracized or even banished.
Where are the Njogou Bahs, the Saballies to name the few. That’s why I totally questioned the wisdom of Dr Ceesay’s recommendation for president Barrow to surround himself with technocrats. Knowing fully well technocrat singly looted our resources and deposit it in Western counties. They failed African continent since independence. They were the architects and proprietors of many failed economic recovery programmes which caused untold suffering on ordinary people with little economic progress to show for it.
Look at the court of every dictator in Africa, you will find a plethora of willing and supportive reservoir of technocrats. They were the enablers and the strategic architects who entrench and protect the dictatorship.
Look at those who surrounded Eyadema, Paul Biya, life president Yoweri Musevini, the president with the longest name Theodoro Nguema Obiang mbasogo, Robert Mugabe even the most diabolical Sanni Abacha were insulated by technocrats.
Among them were legal, economic, security, Finance and media experts who directed and consolidate the promulgation of draconian laws to usurp the rights of citizens was one the most callous collective and individual betrayal of Africa.
As one expert lamented, when we go to sign loan agreements with African government experts, they hardly scrutinize the small prints and hardly challenge us but the case is different from Asian experts, they challenge us and try arduously to extract the best terms and conditions for their countries. This is because many a time; dictatorships used those loans to enrich themselves and the technocrats they instrumentalize to scavenge for those loans and grants are only front men and women. They don’t care about the exorbitant cost of the loans to their nations.
Albeit we need good technocrats who eschewed Yaya and his evil schemes and remained true to their conscience even at the detriment of their personal safety and economic livelihood. They were the few but had played an invaluable role in bringing the new democratic dispensation. Such men and women of honour are our heroes and history will not forget their unwavering commitment and tenacity in the face of an evil and diabolical dictatorship. Men and women of courage who don’t lick their tongues, gazing at our coffers and partook in the loot by engaging in expensive first-class travels and fat per diem rate race.
The government need a thorough and systematic review of the current constitution by first developing a constitutional framework that will establish the guidelines and principles in future constitutional changes and amendments. If not, the constitution will be exposed to incessant but fleeting changes to tarry with the pollical aspirations of an incumbent government in ways that facilitate their political programmes and entrenched their political hegemony. This is tantamount to “constitutional lubrication” effectively utilised by Yaya Jammeh to entrench his dictatorship.
He had effectively, with the help of technocrats like Fafa Mbye and many other bureaucrats, during the military transition period; conducted a wide range of congenial adaptation of the constitution to favour a military transition to civil government. Subsequent adaptations were conducted to give him powers to dismiss elected parliamentarians and usurp many of our democratic privileges without adequate consultation with the electorate and major stakeholders.
THE NEED FOR BROAD CONSULTATION AND EDUCATION
It seems the Gambian constitution is an elitist constitution, conceived, constructed and written by the elites and for the elites because it hardly contained the aspirations of majority of Gambians who cannot read and write.
This time there should be wide range of consultations by use of the rich media platforms, sensitisation programs in all local languages. We need TV or townhall debate to ensure broader participation and engagement. Most importantly the constitution should encapsulate the broad recommendations of the people unlike the last one in which the 10 years term limit and 40 years minimum age was unceremoniously rejected.
I hope unlike the last constitution, this one too is not a constitution of the elite establishment where a majority of those who will vote and those it will inherently affect hardly understand its contents.
ON THE RELIGIOUS SHERE
My contentious submission is that, the role of Supreme Islamic council(SIC) should be modernised to encapsulate the new realities and potential religious threat to our society exacerbated by the emergence of Boko Haram and ISIS style ideologies which perpetrated the brutal rampage in some African countries.
The role of SIC in stemming these inherently false ideologies and their menace to the community coherence and religious harmony cannot be overemphasized. Religious minority activities that has the potential to incubate malediction and hatred should be adequately addressed to ensure there is respect for the predominant believes of our people. We don’t want groups to come in the clothing of Christianity to abrade predominant Christian believes and doctrines in ways that create tension and discord.
It should be made clear what type of constitution we are voting for because we were hoodwinked to belief that the last constitution was representatives of the real input of the people whereas it was a secular product which guard minority rights against majority. The impingement of Qadiyani false doctrine on our sunni beliefs, is a case in hand.
I can almost sense the heart thumping and the chirr of the daggers of secular thumpers and frolic human right biblical hot gospellers, screeching for my blood, shouting fundamentalist, Fanatic, Algaeda, Mashallahu. Hang on, secularists, I have stated my position and let’s debate.
Recently, the developed and democratically advance countries have enacted anti-democratic and ati-human rights laws in form of surveillance, outright banning and financial asphyxiation(choking) of various groups including anti-emigrant groups, religious groups and even media groups deemed to be perilous to national security, in some cases economic and pollical interest of their nations. In other words, they find it compellingly imperative to clip the influence, ideology, doctrine and operations of these groups because they pose a threat to civility and peaceful co-existence.
US and indeed UK plus some other nations had reviewed the activities groups like Scientology, the nation of Islam headed by Louis Farakhan and some clandestine groups like English Defence Front, media group like RT, PressTV etc and took effective measures to monitor, police and in some cases ask them to re-registered as Agent of Foreign Government.
These are the democracies we measure ourselves up to. The difference is, they assess risk to harmonious cohabitation, risk to life and property, risk to the preservation of the costly fought democratic dispensation. And they took meaningful steps to address the potential peril that can emanate from the proliferation of such ideologies and evil persuasions. Human rights are human rights but within the rights of the majority. As the Mandinka adage goes, NYO KAANA SOSO FAA, SOSO KAANA NYO FAA (meaning: let the maize not kill the beans and beans not kill the maize) perhaps most poignant is NING KO NYINA YEH EFONYO KUNTUNG KUNTUNGO LA, AFO MAAFEH JAAROO YEH EFONYO SUNKANYO LA(meaning: if you caution the rate from prowling, you should equally ask the dry fish from emitting odour.
We need experts and technocrats but not the calibre of technocrats that Yaya instrumentalize in an orgy of economic thievery for the past 22 years. It is manifestly clear that some of them are now metamorphing and rebranding themselves to continue their nefarious schemes with Barrow government. They assumed President Barrow is a novice with little bureaucratic experience. I hope president Barrow and his Cabinet are cognizance of their subtle scheming as some social media like Freedom online paper and others did warned on many occasions.
Finally to institute a second unelected chamber of technocrats to supervise an elected parliament will be undemocratic, cumbersome and expensive.
Someone might posit, what is your own input. My submission is that there should a provision to deselect underperforming NAM especially those involved in corruption and embezzlement or other immoral activities that scare confidence in their credibility and capacity to function effectively as a constituency representative. A recall can be triggered after a courts action where a NAM has been convicted of some crime or moral abuse. The deselection can also be triggered If the constituency registered voters can elicit a certain number of signatures, perhaps more than half for the eligible voters in the constituency and is certified by the Electoral Commissioner.
After a successful recall, there will be a new elections and the deselected NAM should be barred from contesting.
The presidential term should be a two five term of 10 years and no recourse to seeking re-election.
The role of Chiefs and Alkalos should be reviewed t make their office less political so that can operate impartially.
In order to avoid proliferation of many small political parties, only four political parties should be accepted to avoid wasteful printing of ballot boxes or ballot papers and political parties must get at least 50,000 voters threshold and D100,000 operating funds in form of cash deposit or treasury bills to qualify for registration.
Finally, if the present is accused of evident corruption and is not impeached by the parliament, he can be sued by the citizens in the supreme court. When the case is scrutinised and admitted for adjudication; the president should vacate his position and clear his or her name. This necessary so that he/she does not use his presidential influence the course of justice. The same should go for Vice president and all cabinet ministers.
To conclude, no minister, president or vice president should be directly or indirectly associated with or have shareholding or economic interest in any business entity especially if that entity’s activities and interest collides with the government’s economic and financial interest.