Father & Son Compromise On Draft Constitution?
I have watched most of the National Assembly debate and it seems that the opposing positions have dug in!
The problem is first and foremost personal, and it is foolhardy for either side to take the moral high ground. Both sides are engaged in a purely political fight as a result of the fall-out between President Barrow and his “father”, the UDP Leader Lawyer Ousainou Darboe.
There is a further clear “class” divide and it is this:
President Barrow is from the “uneducated” masses, to use the famous word of Prof. Ismaila Ceesay of the Citizen’s Party, and Lawyer Darboe is of the Kombo’s educated and privileged elite. This later group, led by Ismaila Ceesay and “Activist” Madi Jobarteh, have taken every opportunity to attack, insult and undermine Barrow with every opportunity they get … and it really is a wonder that Barrow has not wilted, surrendered and retired to his village! President Barrow, like most Gambians, knows very well what Trump’s “Shit-Hole” is … and his Kombos attackers have no clue!
And that division, which can loosely be called a “class division” – but it is really a division between those who go to bed with a full belly and those who hardy have enough to stay alive – threatens to derail the Draft Constitution.
I think Darboe’s UDP still has a majority in the National Assembly – but 75% majority is needed to pass the Draft Constitution and send it to the people to vote on.
But the Barrow camp will hold out and a 75% majority will not be achieved. (I don’t think even the EU, UK and USA pressure will make them change their mind – on the contrary such pressure is more likely to have the opposite effect!).
I think the real problem is that Lawyer Darboe’s legal colleagues who drafted the Constitution tried to be too smart and decided to limit Barrow’s term in the Presidency through the back door – a clause in the Constitution backed-dated to 2017 to affect Barrow only out of the two million Gambians! Of course Barrow deserves to be punished for going back on his promise to serve for only three years from January 2017, but that punishment should be meted out by the voters at the 2021 elections – not through a Draft Constitution clause!
The Compromise, I think, should be one where Lawyer Darboe and his “son” President Barrow sit down together and agree that the “anti-Barrow Clause” in the Draft Constitution will be amended by the National Assembly – upon which the National Assembly will vote to send the Draft Constitution to a Referendum. If Lawyer Darboe is so sure that his party will defeat Barrow at the 2021 election, why does anyone worry about preventing Barrow from serving for more than two-terms? The people will prevent him by voting him out!
GOING TO THE SUPREME COURT?
President Barrow’s former soul-mate and former Minister Lawyer Mai Ahmad Fatty, now fired and a “Presidential Aspirant” himself, suggests that the Supreme Court may be the abiter:-
“17th Sept 2020: On the Draft Constitution, the National Assembly has no legal authority to interfere with the document, not even a punctuation mark. They had the opportunity to influence the process during their consultation with the CRC before the draft, and not a second bite at the apple. They will be prevented from arrogating to themselves powers they do not have.
The Draft must now move to the next stage – be subjected to a referendum, and only the peoples (voters) can determine, not NAMS. At this stage, it is beyond their ordinary legislative authority. If they seek to usurp the plebiscite, they will be restrained in the interim, and the matter will shift to the superior courts for conclusive determination.”
On the other hand, Lawyer Lamin J Darbo, writing in Kerr Fatou, thinks that the NAMs have all the authority they need to amend the Draft as they see fit. He writes:-
“By every rational yardstick, the idea that the NA is bereft of competence to touch the Draft in any way is an incomprehensible proposition. The legislative domain denotes the core competence of the NA and given the Constitutional provisions earlier referenced, it has the competence in law and doctrine to make appropriate amendments to this Draft.
Indeed, the meaning around the legislative jargon of Third Reading is another authoritative demonstration of what the NA can do with this Draft. It can debate and amend as necessary before the ultimate vote at the end of the Third Reading.
And how about the end product!
“A recent comparative study undertaken by the United States Institute of Peace of nineteen constitution-making processes observed that of those processes that used commissions, these bodies did not seem to produce a better result than those using a constituent assembly or parliamentary drafting committee with experts…”.
With what the CRC ultimately produced, we know that very well in The Gambia.
It may be a long and tedious process but only a Draft amended by the NA may save this project of a hundred and sixteen million Dalasis and counting.
The chickens are truly home to roost but the knives of the Solons may save the Draft!
They have the Constitutional right to remove the excess fat from the Draft.”
Lamin J. Darbo
ON MY PART,
I think it would be much better if Father & Son met and worked out a compromise.
Notting Hill, London, UK.