Seattle Gambian Community participation in Review of the CRC Issue Document.
The Seattle Metro Area is host to over five thousand Gambians (5,000). It is home to the largest number of Gambians in the US Pacific North West. It is therefore fitting that a community that large and significant takes part in the effort to draft a new Constitution for the Gambia. The following proceeds are the results of the tireless work of some members of the community who, immediately upon receipt of the issue document and solicitation to participate from the CRC, got together and organized a forum for the whole community to participate in the review process with a singular focus towards improving upon the 1997 Constitution. This rare historic opportunity gave Gambians in the community a chance to participate in the drafting of such a noble and historic national document.
The forum that was set up for the task met three times a week with each session lasting to close four hours to discuss and provide suggestions for the new Constitution that is being drafted. The issue document was widely distributed to the members of the community and various opportunities were provided for them to participate in the process.
The exercise accorded Gambians in this part of the United States to be in the same room and it gave them ample time to review all 48 pages of the issue document. It was a rare opportunity to not only participate and provide valuable inputs but also to learn about the issues concerned and the importance of the Constitution in general. To say it was an eye opener is an understatement.
A cross-section of Gambians: young and older, male and female came together at various times to review the said Constitution and provided inputs as they deemed fit, proper and appropriate. The interest surrounding the process was marked by a high degree of enthusiasm and the issues discussed with depth and passion. As to be expected in an exercise of this huge ramifications, due to divergent views, the discussions at times were very contentious. Notwithstanding, every voice was heard and recorded.
The Seattle Community appreciate the opportunity to take part in this process. We would like to highlight certain areas of general agreement where we would like to put emphasis for the CRC to take note of. These are by no means more important but we felt they form the bedrock of the Constitution and in our view strengthening them will help in fostering and building a stronger and more socially and politically equitable society.
Separation of Powers:
The group largely agrees that the Constitution should place strong emphasis on the separation of powers between the Executive, the Judiciary and the Legislature. That the new Constitution should clearly spell out the separation of these three co-equal branches of government. To make this happen, the powers of the president to nominate, appoint, hire or fire certain public officials must be curtailed and such offices be protected by the confirmation powers process accorded to the legislative branch of the government. In view of the forum, any position that could influence or dilute the independence of an institution must go through the National Assembly confirmation process or become an elected office.
Powers of the Public Service Commission And Judiciary Service Commission (PSC & JSC).
The Seattle participants recognize that to have an independent judiciary and civil service free of executive influence, these two important commissions must be protected or quarantined from undue executive influence. Therefore, the appointment and service tenure of members of these commissions must be above and beyond politics or political interference. We also recognize that these two bodies are the backbone of an independent functioning judiciary and civil society.
Expansion of government
The Seattle forum noticed with alarming misgivings, the unusual suggestion from the CRC for government to set up other commissions in addition to the ones already in the Constitution. We are conscious of the inherent galloping costs involved in sustaining an oversize government and implore that the CRC take cognizant of the importance of drafting a lean and more progressive looking National Document that cannot be easily changed. We therefore recommend that the suggestions by the CRC that numerous commissions such as Health Services Commission, Land Commission etc be set up be left to National Assembly to create through an Act of Parliament instead of surrendering it exclusively to the Executive.
Dual citizenship and Diaspora Enfranchisement
In-depth discussions centering around the issues of citizenship and Diaspora Gambian enfranchisement were also held. Of major concern to the forum was the issue of brain drain and its impact on the country’s socio-economic and political landscape. The forum took note that owing to global integration and Gambia’s brain drain in the last half of this century, it will be unwise and unkind for the Constitution to alienate such a large and productive class of citizens of diaspora Gambian community in her development efforts. Therefore, according the community the right to participate in the democratic process makes rational economic, political and social sense. It provides a reservoir of competent talents and muscular financial and other resources necessary to complement the government’s national development program.
Marginalizing such an important catalyst for national development goes against the letter and spirit of the Constitution and the rights it accords to all citizens irrespective of geographical location. Therefore, the forum strongly recommends that inhibiting factors such as the lack of educational facilities, lack of viable employments and other factors that pull Gambians away from the motherland be addressed in order to stem the tide of brain drain affecting the country. To Access the Full Issue Document as discussed by the Seattle Community please see link Seattle Gambian CRC Issue Document
Thank you for the valuable work you are doing for our country.
The Seattle Gambian Community.