By Halimatou Ceesay
The Chairperson of the Constitutional Review Commission (CRC), Justice Cherno Sulayman Jallow, said he and his team are working towards an inviolable and more durable constitution that is less prone to frequent amendments like an ordinary act of Parliament. “At the end of the day what we are looking for is to come up with a constitution that will live for eternity; a constitution that will be inviolable, a constitution that will not be amenable to frequent amendments like an ordinary act of parliament. I think we deserve this as a nation and as a people,” he stated.
Justice Jallow was speaking at a press briefing held on Tuesday, 3rd July, 2018 at the Laico Atlantic Hotel in Banjul as part of a series of activities to build and nurture a partnership with the media and the public during the constitutional review process. The briefing was also meant to inform the media on their mandate, progress made, challenges and the way forward.
He said that in any constitutional review process, there is a need to first engage all the stakeholders during the consultation period in order to establish whether or not the entire document would need to be overhauled. He added that failure to do that would be tantamount to isolating themselves and, by so doing, fail to make the most of the valuable contribution from the various sectors of the population including civil society organisations, the media and the general public. “So yes we are engaging the review process and that means we are looking at the totality of everything; what is there right now; what was there and was removed; why it was removed; what could have been there; what areas of emphasis are there; what provisions are entrenched or what new provisions need to be entrenched.” he said.
On the independence of the CRC and who is bankrolling the commission, he said that the act is very clear in terms of their source of funding. He said the funds are funds appropriated by the National Assembly, which is an independent arm of the government. He said they already allocated an amount of money for the work of the CRC. He said they also have support from International Agencies and that they have consulted with quite a number of them.
He added that the CRC is only four weeks old and the dialogue continues as they continue to request for meetings and to see how best to further the work of the CRC. He said the readiness of international agencies and institutions to help shows that it is not only Gambians that are interested in the process but that even external agencies and institutions are keen to see them achieve their goal as a nation and as a people.
Stressing the independence of CRC, he said the fact that the government or the National Assembly are allocating funds for the work of the CRC does not mean that their independence is questionable, noting that the independence of the CRC is catered for in the act establishing it. He said there is a specific section which made it clear that in the conduct of their duty the CRC is not answerable to any person or any authority. “I can assure you that we have men and women of valuable integrity who will ensure that the level of independence is ensured,” he said.
He explained that CRC’s commitment to consult with all sections of the Gambian society means giving opportunity to every Gambian, irrespective of which community or organization they belong, to give their views. He said once the secretariat is established they hope to put up a website where people could direct contributions if they want to. He said on a larger note, what they expect to do as part of what they have been working on for the past several weeks are to map out a strategy of consulting with the public.
He added that they recognise NGOs and Civil Society Organizations including political parties and so many institutions in the country, noting that their aim is to give all of them a platform to engage with them in the process and add value to what they are doing.