By Edrissa Jallow
The Chief Justice and President of the Supreme Court of the Gambia, Hassan B Jallow has stated that for The Gambia to move forward and adopt the 2020 Draft Constitution that was rejected by the Fifth Legislature in 2020, the Government should hold a national stakeholder dialogue engaging relevant authorities and be ready to compromise in order to achieve a new Draft Constitution Bill.
The President of the Supreme Court highlighted that national stakeholders should be engaged in “a frank dialogue” to charter the way forward for the rejected Draft Constitution shelved in September 2020 after Parliamentarians voted against it at the second reading.
“We [Gambians] want to be ready to listen to each other… we must be ready to understand each other’s concerns, know them, understand them and then we must be ready to make compromises if we do want to achieve the new constitution, that is extremely important,” said Chief Justice Jallow.
The Supreme Court President recalled how he made the call for the draft Constitution to be raised and be considered again to ensure Gambians have a better constitution adopted that can last for ages to come. However, making it possible “must be a result of a dialogue based on frankness, understanding, compromise and in that we [Gambians] will move forward”.
It could be recalled that on 22nd September 2020, the fifth legislature debated and voted out the draft Constitution Bill at its second reading after spending One Hundred and Twenty Million Dalasi (D120M) of taxpayers’ money for the establishment of the new constitution Bill.
However, out of fifty-four parliamentarians who were in attendance in the second reading, only 31 voted in for the bill to pass while 23 voted out the bill.
Justice Jallow further urged Gambians to “not consider this to be the end of the road for the draft constitution” as the Gambia “have already invested so much in it, only to scrap it, we [Gambians] must revive the process and engage all the stakeholders in a national dialogue”.
In his view, the “stakeholders may be many but the obvious ones in my mind, [include] the National Assembly, the political parties [and] the government. Those are the important stakeholders in moving forward on this issue [of the draft constitution]”.
According to a publication by the Standard Newspaper on Monday 20th June 2022, the Minister of Justice, Dawda Jallow told the Parliament’s Human Rights and Constitutional Matters Committee that the Draft Constitution failed to pass because politicians were not given their due.
“Soon after the draft constitution was rejected, we realized one mistake which I am not blaming anybody for… It is the politicians at the helm that will decide whether this constitution will see the light of the day or not and we did not give them the required role and so we failed in the process,” said Minister Jallow.
The Attorney General has reiterated the Government’s commitment to the adoption of a new Constitution, however, since the Draft Constitution failed in September 2020 the Government has not made any significant effort to revive it.
The Chief Justice made these remarks during the formal launch of the book titled “The Gambia in Transition: Towards a New Constitutional Order” held at the Sir Dawda Kairaba Jawara Conference Center at Bijilo on Friday 21st October 2022.