Your Excellency, the President
Your Excellency, the Vice President Honourable Speaker of the National Assembly My Lord,
The Chief Justice
My Lord, the Chairperson of the CRC
Cabinet Colleagues, Commissioners of the CRC
Mr Secretary General
On behalf of His Excellency, the President, and his entire Cabinet, I welcome you all on the occasion of the submission of the new draft constitution by the Constitutional Review Commission to His Excellency, the President, as required by Section 21 of the Constitutional Review Commission Act 2017.
Three years ago, your Government embarked upon the most ambitious and comprehensive governance reform agenda of any administration in the history of our country. The submission of this draft constitution today follows several other significant milestones in this endeavor. Exactly one year ago, the Janneh Commission, one of several activities undertaken by your administration to right the wrongs of the past, also submitted its report to you on the financial corruption of former President Jammeh and his close associates.
We currently have a number of bills tabled before the National Assembly for the enactment of laws that will radically transform the legal landscape of our country particularly with respect to our criminal justice system.
Moreover, under your administration, we have witnessed the most far reaching improvements on the conditions of service in the judicial and legal services of our country. The tide is beginning to turn in our favour now, and of all the progress made thus far, this has been one of the most profound and satisfying achievements for me personally. I can now see the smiles on the faces of my staff and I cannot thank you enough for this.
And today, Your Excellency, we are here for the submission of a new draft constitution that will usher in a 3rd republic and introduce a new governance architecture with all the promises of a brighter future, a more stable and democratic society with adequate checks and balances between the three organs of State, and a conducive environment for the liberty and prosperity of the individual.
Today marks yet another significant achievement of your administration, and another fulfilled promise to the people of this country. You promised a new constitution within two years, and you have delivered on your promise. It is now up to us, the Gambian people, to uphold our part of the bargain. Like all constitution building processes, not everyone can or will be satisfied with everything in the new draft constitution. But we are faced with a clear choice: we either embrace this new draft which is being presented here today in whole and lay the foundations for a better future for our children, or get stuck in the past with the current 1997 constitution and all its retrogressive provisions that will frustrate our democratic march into a better future. I am certain that the Gambian peoples’ thirst for change remains unquenched and I am confident that they will embrace this new draft constitution after sober reflection.
I wish to take this opportunity to thank the Chairperson of the CRC, Justice Cherno Sulayman Jallow, and his fellow Commissioners for their outstanding professionalism, commitment and dedication to national duty.
Mr Chairperson, we have keenly followed the progress of your Commission right from the beginning, partly because we funded it, and we have been impressed by all your efforts to ensure that the credibility of the entire process, from beginning to end, remains sacrosanct. But this does not come as a surprise given the character of the members of the Commission under your distinguished leadership including experienced legal draftspersons and human rights lawyers, media practitioners and civil society representatives. With this team, we were always confident that we will have a constitution that will faithfully and accurately reflect the wishes and aspirations of the Gambian people.
We of course know that it has been a long and challenging journey for you with all the intensive consultations with Gambians both at home and abroad, but our faith in your ability to deliver with the highest standards of professionalism has never been in doubt. Never in the history of our nation has our constitution been written in such a manner. You have done your compatriots proud and proved to the world beyond that our country has what it takes to take care of its own business. With this new constitution, we have with our own hands, set forth a path to our future on our own and for ourselves. It is indeed a proud moment in our history.
Allow me to take this opportunity to end with a note of caution about this constitution building process from now on. The Coronavirus pandemic and the measures adopted under the state of public emergency will inevitably have a significant impact on our ability to follow timelines and meet deadlines. This will have serious ramifications on other related activities we had anticipated in the course of this year such as the new voter registration exercise or the referendum for the adoption of the new constitution. There are no immediate answers to this conundrum at the moment but we will have to find ways around these unexpected turn of events in order to meet the expectations of our countrymen and women. More information will be shared with the general public as we consider possible alternatives.
Lastly, I wish to thank the Executive Secretary and all the staff at the CRC for their support to the Commissioners. I also wish to thank our international partners, the UNDP and the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance, for their support to this process. You have all been part of a truly historic exercise and the Government of The Gambia is grateful to you for this support.
I thank you all.