By Yusef Taylor, @FlexDan_YT
Gambian Political Party leaders meet the Gambia’s National Assembly Joint Committee on Elections matters and unanimously agreed that the Diaspora must be afforded the right to vote in the upcoming 4th December 2021 Presidential Elections. At least nine Political Party representatives meet the Gambia’s National Assembly Joint Committee of the Regional Government and Lands, Ombudsman and the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) and Constitutional Matters on May 4th 2021.
At the beginning of the meeting, some concerns were raised that all the registered Political Parties were not present with two National Assembly members (NAMs) highlighting that their party, the Association of Patriotic Reorientation and Construction (APRC) and the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) were not present. However, the meeting went ahead and lasted for over 3 hours.
Representatives from the People’s Democratic Organisation for Independence and Socialism (PDOIS) and the United Democratic Party (UDP) submitted strong arguments that the Diaspora must vote in December 2021. However, only Lamin Dibba of the National Convention Party (NCP) opined that the Diaspora Vote “comes at a cost and considering the timeframe available. We need to give consideration on the means we have to do this”. However, the issue of cost was arrested as an excuse by other Party Leaders who demanded for more Political will to ensure the Diaspora votes by the end of 2021.
“Parliament should use D54 Million Loan on Diaspora vote,” says PDOIS
Representing PDOIS, Information Secretary, Sam Sarre was the first to raise the issue of the Diaspora voting by the end of 2021. According to Mr Sarre, “we should endeavour to ensure every citizen to be given the right to vote. This is why we are totally opposed to the postponement of the registration of Gambians living abroad. The IEC and the Government should endeavour to ensure that the funds are provided.”
Highlighting the need to prioritise funds Mr Sarre recommended for the National Assembly to utilise their D54 Million self-loan to ensure the Gambian Diaspora vote come December. In Mr Sarre’s submission to National Assembly members present, which included Hon. Ya Kumba Jaiteh, he said that “the D54 Million for NAMs can be utilised for the Diaspora vote purpose. All those concerned should endeavour that the Gambians abroad are not deprived of their right to vote all these years.”
Speaking about the Constitutional provision for Diaspora to vote Mr Sarre highlighted that “it was in the 1997 Constitution just like that and nothing was done to ensure that they voted. Diaspora has been hoping that they can vote and this should be done. The question of should Diaspora be given the right to vote is not the right question. It’s what is going to be done to ensure that they exercise their right to vote. That’s the correct question.”
UDP “Diaspora Vote made clear 2 Years Ago”
One time Minister of Foreign Affairs and Gambians Abroad, Hon. Ousainou Darboe of the UDP was probably the most emphatic on the Diaspora voting in the upcoming Presidential Elections. In his submission to the National Assembly’s Joint Committee, he appealed that “the law should not just be made without being implemented. It’s as good as not making any provision for it. You cannot make a provision for registration of Diaspora and not giving the Diaspora the opportunity to vote. Gambians’ resident abroad to be registered was made clear two years ago.”
“The issue of the countries abroad have not been demarcated into constituencies, we all knew both IEC, Ministry of Justice and Political Parties that constituencies have to be demarcated. We cannot now say because this has not been done then Gambians cannot vote. Afterall Government has announced the Diaspora as the eighth region,” said the UDP Flag Bearer.
GDC chime in NPP & GMC Silent
Amadou Bah of Gambia Democratic Congress echoed the submissions of his colleagues and urged the “IEC and the Government to make sure that right is given to them it shouldn’t be questioned in any way. So, they should vote and then whatever that must be done to facilitate that to happen. They participate in the electoral process; every bit of the electoral campaign and they contribute heavily to our development as a nation.”
However, not all Political Party representatives present spoke about the Diaspora. Perhaps the most obvious silence was from Mai Ahmed Fatty of the Gambia Moral Congress who raised some pertinent issues but said nothing on the Diaspora Vote. Another notable silence was from Seedy Njie who was standing in for President Adama Barrow’s newly formed National People’s Party.