Posted - 15 Jan 2021 : 20:50:14
The Constitution As Drafted By The Constitutional Review Commission And Its Future
Foroyaa: January 14, 2021
It is my concern that even the media is being misled to broadcast or write that negotiations are taking place to save the Constitution that the Constitutional Review Commission was tasked to draft. It is equally misleading to give the impression that political parties are engaged in talks to save the draft Constitution from Coma. The plain truth is that political parties have secondary roles to play in the promulgation or repealing of a Constitution. They may try to influence National Assembly members, if they lack capacity or experience to adequately perform their duties or direct the minds of the electorate, if they do not know their rights and duties as sovereign citizens.
What then is the state of the Constitution drafted by the CRC? What is its future? According to Section 2 of The Constitutional Review Commission Act, 2017,
“Constitution means the proposed new Constitution of the Republic of the Gambia that the Commission is tasked under this Act to draft.”
The media should find out the state of this draft Constitution, as presented in the Schedule of the Bill whose promulgation was aborted at the second reading and ask political parties whether they have the constitutional mandate to tamper with it on the basis of trying to reconcile contentions arising from partisan interest?
It is incontrovertible that National Assembly members and by extension, all political leaders safeguard their integrity by ensuring that, in whatever they say or do, they are invariably guided by the dictates of law, reason, conscience and the national interest .
One may now ask: What is the state of the draft Constitution that the Commission was tasked to draft?
The answer is as clear as noon day.
First and foremost, Section 21 of The Constitutional Review Commission Act states:
“1) The Commission shall, upon the completion of its work, submit a Constitution and a report thereon (in originals) to the President.” This has been done.
“2) The Commission shall, upon the submission of the draft Constitution and report to the President, publish the Constitution and report.” This has been done.
“3) The Constitution and the report may, in addition to being published in the Gazette, be published in such manner as the Commission considers fit.” This has been done.
I can add without any fear of exaggeration that never in the history of The Gambia has the text of a Constitution been subjected to such extensive circulation and intensive and incisive scrutiny as the draft Constitution, 2020.
Furthermore, Section 22 of the said Act then proceeded to outline the role of the Commission after the submission of the Bill introducing the Constitution for enactment. It reads:
“1) The Commission shall stand dissolved within one calendar month after the date of enactment by the National Assembly of the Bill introducing the Constitution.
“2) During the period prior to the enactment by the National Assembly of the Bill introducing the Constitution members of the Commission may be requested to attend before the National Assembly to clarify any matter and answer any question relating to the provisions of the Constitution.”
Needless to say, the draft has been submitted for promulgation. ‘The Constitution of The Gambia, 2020 (Promulgation) Bill, 2020’ was introduced into the Assembly for consideration. The Bill sought for the enactment of an Act to promulgate the Constitution that the Commission was tasked to draft and repeal the Constitution of the Republic of the Gambia 1997.
What then were the promulgation processes and the end result of the exe rcise?
After the Bill was introduced it passed the first reading. Standing Order 66 (1) explains the subsequent stages of a Bill after the first reading:
“Following the first reading the stages in the Assembly’s consideration of a Bill shall be
a) Second reading: a general debate on the Bill with an opportunity for members to vote on the General Principles
b) Committee stage: detailed investigation by a Committee followed by report to the Assembly. A Bill may be committed to a Select, Standing or Special Select Committee or to a Committee of the Whole Assembly;
c) Consideration stage: Consideration of and opportunity for members to vote on the detailed clauses of the Bill including amendments to the Bill. Consideration stage is taken by the Assembly
d) Third Reading: Passing or rejection of the Bill without further amendment.”
It should be clear to anyone with mere common sense that the vote connected to the second reading is on the principles of a bill and not the details of the clauses. Secondly, the Standing Orders make it mandatory for a Bill to go through all the four stages unless the Constitution expressly states the contrary.
How does the 1997 Constitution of the Republic become pertinent? Clause 2 of the Bill introduced into the Assembly indicated that the Constitution would be “…promulgated in accordance with Section 226 of The Constitution of the Republic of the Gambia, 1997.”
Clause 3 of the Bill further made reference to the 1997 Constitution. It reads:
“The Constitution of the Republic of the Gambia, 1997 stands repealed upon the promulgation of the Constitution of the Republic of the Gambia, 2020 pursuant to section 2(b).’’
It goes without saying that the relevant portion which led to the derailing of the whole promulgation process is embedded in Section 226 Subsection (2) (b) of the 1997 Constitution which states:
“A Bill for an Act of the National Assembly under this section shall not be passed by the National Assembly or presented to the President for assent unless-
(b) the Bill is supported on the second and third readings by the votes of not less than three-quarters of all the members of the National Assembly.”
Subsection (2) of Section 226 is relevant to alteration of the provisions of the 1997 Constitution that are not entrenched and could be amended without a referendum.
However, for the purpose of clarity, Subsection (4) would apply when the alteration of entrenched clauses is sought. It reads:
“(4) A Bill for an Act of the National Assembly altering any of the provisions referred to in subsection (7) shall not be passed by the National Assembly or presented to the President for assent unless-
(a) the Bill is published and introduced in the manner required by paragraph (a) of subsection (2);
(b) the Bill is supported on the second and third readings by the votes of not less than three quarters of all the members of the National Assembly;
(c) the Bill has been referred by the Speaker to the Independent Electoral Commission and the Commission has, within six months of such reference, held a referendum on the Bill; and
(d) at least fifty per cent of the persons entitled to vote in the referendum have taken part in the referendum and the Bill is supported in the referendum by a least seventy-five per cent of those who voted.”
Hence, it is clear that any Bill to amend both the entrenched and non-entrenched provisions of the Constitution would require the support of not less than three-quarters of all the members of the National Assembly, in both the second and third reading.
This is the crux of the matter. There are 53 elected members of the National Assembly and five nominated members. One serves as Speaker and the four other members are expected to vote at any given time. Hence, the total number of all the voting members of the National Assembly at any given time is 57. Three-quarters of 57 members would be 43 members. One of the seats was vacant due to death and had not been filled by the time of the voting on the Bill thus reducing the roll to 56.
In that regard, the second and third reading of any Bill to alter the 1997 Constitution had to have the support of 42 members of the National Assembly.
The debate connected with the second reading which should have been restricted to the principles of the Bill went out of context and focused largely on the details which should come at the Committee and the consideration stages of a Bill. Thirty-one (31) members supported the second reading for the Bill to procced to the Committee stage for detailed scrutiny. Twenty-Three( 23) members expressed opposition, thus preventing the attainment of three-quarters majority required for the Bill to proceed to the next stage, by a margin of 11 votes.
The question now arises: Is there a way to save the Constitution that the Constitutional Review Commission was tasked to draft?
The answer is in the affirmative. There is a way out. The National Assembly is the law-making body of the country. The impasse in the Constitution building process arose from the National Assembly. The duty to overcome the impasse falls primarily on the shoulders of National Assembly members.
It is evident that National Assembly members have powers to rescind decisions they have made during a session. This is expressly stated under Standing Order 29(3). In fact, precedence exists to confirm that motion could be introduced to rescind a decision taken during a session. I had moved such a motion during the budget session.
Since the Standing Orders do not have a provision to rescind a decision that had earlier been made during a preceding session, the relevant provision to apply to make that possible is Standing Order 8 which reads :
“In any cases where matters are not expressly provided for by these Standing Orders, any questions on procedure or order shall be decided by the Speaker.”
The Speaker of the National Assembly has full mandate to exercise discretionary power to allow a motion to rescind the decision of the National Assembly to abort the Constitution Building process by not supporting the second reading with a three-quarters majority as required by Section 226 of the 1997 Constitution.
If such a motion is allowed and supported, the members could accept the principles and then allow the Bill to go to the committee stage for debate on and detailed scrutiny of the clauses of the Constitution with the active participation of Ministers representing the executive; the Judicial Service Commission and other judges representing the judiciary; the IEC; Political parties; faith groups to look at religious implications; women, the youth, those with unique physical or mental group features and other civil society organisations to look at the concerns of interest groups; the Diaspora groups and other stakeholders with the full participation of the members of the Constitutional Review Commission, to answer questions or make clarifications.
Only the members of the National Assembly and the Speaker of the National Assembly can save the Constitution that the CRC was tasked to draft. Any other attempts at constitution building could only be done by plagiarizing the work of the CRC followed by the publication and introduction of a new Bill to alter the 1997 Constitution whose outcome is pregnant with uncertainty and could suffer another abortion with an endless blame game.
History is calling on the lawmakers to assume their historic responsibility and leave a legacy worth remembering. This is how matters stand.
"Simple is good" & I strongly dislike politics. You cannot defend the indefensible.
Posted - 19 Jan 2021 : 09:24:55
| Message To The People Of The United States
Foroyaa: January 19, 2021
Will Home Grown Terrorism Be Nurtured In The USA For Political Power At National Expense?
Tomorrow, 20th January, 2021, the USA will teach the world whether election is a tool to ensure unity in diversity, accelerate the perpetual drive of nations towards peace and sustainable development, ensure liberty, dignity and prosperity for their sovereign peoples. Or is it an opportunity to sow the seed of antagonistic contradictions that consume lives, properties and future of citizens, who, by virtue of misguided convictions and ill-counseled minds, aim to alter the irrevocable verdict of history, to the detriment of the innocent majority?
Peaceful protest should be an aid to democracy as a catalyst for national awakening and not a pretext to externalise conviction and hatred that defy reason, justice and conscience and eventually translates into senseless violence that reduces nations into ashes.
The Federal Republic of The United States of America is not a nation state as is the case for many countries in the world. It is a multinational and multi ethnolinguistic Republic commonly referred to as the melting pot of the populations of the world. The vicissitudes of history brought its settlers, founders, toilers and builders together. There was the battle against social and gender inequality, slavery and threats of national disintegration into states of slave owners and industrialised states. This was during the prime of its agrarian and industrial revolution, when the country needed unity most inorder to ensure linkage between its raw material producing Southern states and its manufacturing industrialised Northern state. A civil war had to be fought and a defiance campaign unleashed against the remnants of injustice that plagued the Union, to keep the Federation together and move it closer to its founding vision of promoting life liberty and the pursuit of happiness for all.
The 21st Century Republican Party should take cue from the 18th Century anti-slavery Republican Party which accompanied Abraham Lincoln to the Presidency in 1860. Fearing that the Federation was moving towards the abolition of slavery, the plantation owners in the 11 Southern states seceded from the Union, in the aftermath of Lincoln’s democratic election, to establish the Confederated States of America under Jefferson Davies without any democratic mandate or a vision of a United America. They were even ready to link the confederated states with other manufacturing nations of the world at the expense of the USA. Lincoln was compelled to defend the Union but initially vowed to do so by peaceful means.
The Republicans of today should remember that it was the violent act of the Confederal forces against the citadel of the federal forces at Fort Sumter on April 12, 1861 which marked the beginning of the US Civil war. Instead of rolling back the tide of democracy, freedom and liberty, the civil war accelerated it with powerful gyration.
Despite hesitation to abolish slavery throughout the United States, the demands of necessity compelled Lincoln to issue the Emancipation Proclamation on 1st January, 1863, to declare the beginning of the end to enslavement by asserting that all persons held as slaves within any state in rebellion against the United States shall be free forever.
These former enslaved persons of African American identity who earned their freedom were received in the Federal forces to defend the Union. 180,000 served as soldiers in the Union army before the end of the war in 1865, constituting ten percent of the total fighting forces of the Union and thus earning their descendants the right to be citizens of a Union they sacrificed to save despite their past and their discrimination. History records the death of 40,000 African American Union soldiers in the civil war.
The lesson is clear. Each generation establishes its own foundation of unity, justice and civil rights, with scaffoldings made out of the planks of judicial precedence that keeps the pillars from crumbling for more than a century. This is despite the earthquakes and hurricanes of national distress and civil strife , which serve as the midwife of every outdated political situation pregnant with a new one.
Awakened by the Storms and stresses of the times, each historical period tends to nurture the leadership that is capable of calming nerves and putting the broken pieces together to enable the people to keep hoping for a better tomorrow.
That is why when George Floyd was murdered, I emphasised that a defining moment for the USA has dawned, ushering in an era that is finally bidding good riddance to colour discrimination which has no basis any more, especially after an African American, occupied the highest office in the land and did not govern in anyway different from how mainstream USA expected itself to be governed. Some would have been prouder if he governed a bit more differently but are satisfied that he did his best, as the times and circumstances would allow.
I emphasised that the battle to put an end to the colour bar to justice, equity and sense of belonging to the USA is a battle to change the mindset of those who are entrusted with the instruments of the state to govern and those who are supposed to be served by the trustees of state power.
I summoned all the logic at my command to explain that colour discrimination is a byproduct of a mindset that is nurtured by the cultural skeleton of a defunct era which classified some as chattels and others as owners of human beings. It was an era of dehumanised slave owners and the dehumanised enslaved human beings. Such an era governed by dehumanisation witnessed the greatest brutality and savagery ever perpetrated by dehumanised settlers on the face of the earth.
The world did move on to the twenty first century with new human values and norms aiming to nurture the true sons and daughters of the human race that embody every one, irrespective of colour, birth, place of origin, gender, religion, physical features or any other demographic characteristics. Needless to say one could only exclude oneself or others from the human race by one’s own mindset. Such a mindset nurtures the desire to breathe life into cultural skeletons of a defunct era of dehumanisation whose remnants humankind now has the duty to consign into the dustbin of history.
That is why I indicated that the murder of George Floyd was both a tragedy and an opportunity heralding the beginning of the final battle against colour discrimination in the USA and by extension in the whole world because of the presence of people of African descent all over the globe.
I made it clear that it is now time for each to choose to become part of the human race or the dehumanised. There is no middle ground.
Those who are part of the human race would internalise, cherish, uphold, promote and defend the norms and values that affirm equality of all in sovereignty and the entitlement of all to life, liberty, dignity and prosperity.
Hence the battle to put an end to colour discrimination requires the affirmation of the existence of one race and the equality in sovereignty of all members of the human race.
In fact, the affirmation of this existence of one race and the equality in sovereignty of all members will not only put an end to colour discrimination but would lead to the eradication of all forms of discrimination, altogether from the face of the earth.
Hence, after the murder of George Floyd mainstream USA should be committed to the principle of one race and one people of the USA.
In order for the USA to heal and be at peace with itself, one must identify the dehumanised citizens who exclude themselves from the human race to which all those who discover their humanity belong. They must not be isolated or given the opportunity to nurture their delusions of superiority by being classified a supremacists. They should be assisted to discover the cultural upbringing that leads them to nurture a mindset that justifies a sense of belonging to a separate race different from others and which does not exist .
They must be aided to internalise the incontestable prognosis that those who consider themselves or others to be outside of the human race are indeed suffering from a curious mental illness needing cure. The illness is consigned as neurosis when one fears the person just because of his or her colour or psychosis if one acts on one’s fear to injure or kill such a person. When the majority in a society falls under such classification of either being neurotic or psychotic then that society itself becomes ill needing transformation and an inspirational leadership to effect such transformation.
In the same vein, a person suffers from neurosis if one feels excluded from the human race and takes great offence at the action or words of others conceived to be superior, resulting to unhappiness at their sight. A person becomes a psychotic if one injures, kills or destroys the property of a defenseless person just because of associating the appearance of the person to those who promote his or her exclusion. A group inflicted with such mindset would need therapy from an inspirational leadership.
I have emphasized that the battle for the sovereign equality of all human beings must begin with the mindset. One must liberate one’s mind from inferiority or superiority complex before one could be a genuine son and daughter of the human race.
It is such liberated human beings whose heartbeat pulsate in unison with the heartbeat of every other human being who should embrace the mission to work tirelessly to build a society where each is ready to be fair and just to the other. Such a fair and just society is what promotes love, peace, security, safety, tolerance, stability and happiness.
Hence, the pre-election protests against colour- based discrimination should have been taken as the signal of the beginning of the end to colour discrimination which has plagued the USA even before its birth. This has stained the pages of its constitution when it came into being in 1889, in gross disregard of the historic plea embodied in its declaration of Independence that “All men are created equal and are endowed with the inalienable rights of life liberty and pursuit of happiness.”
Hence, irrespective of party affiliation or colour all human beings in the USA should have spoken with one voice to denounce colour- based discrimination and violence.
All Americans, irrespective of political affiliation or colour should have agreed that black lives matter not as an end in its self but as part and parcel of the struggle for all to affirm and declare that All American lives matter, to enable the US to take a new leap forward towards a fairer, much more just and inclusive world that would also affirm that all human lives matter, wherever they may be on the globe .
Instead of that route, the words of those protesting to promote the transformation of the US state apparatus, including its police and security forces from serving as instrument of coercion, to become an instrument of protection could no longer be fully heard before the November elections due to political convenience. Those voices were increasingly being drowned by the voices claiming to be that of law and order that chose to focus attention on rioters, looters and arsonists in a bid to woo voters to find solace in maintaining the status quo.
Instead of recognising the distinction between the cause of the protestors against colour-based brutality as part and parcel of the world wide historic struggle to put an end to all discrimination and brutality, the tactic was adopted to trivialise the cause and vilify its ambassadors as looters, arsonists and rioters without cause.
This attempt to alloy the protracted struggle for social justice in the US, which is the only way to build a fair, more humane and just society of peace and tranquility, with the disruptive, destructive and spontaneous struggle of rioters, looters and arsonists motivated by the desire for revenge or the pursuit of material gain, was used as justification for the creation of politically affiliated militias to confront the perceived threats outside the ambit of the law.
This served as the foundation of the architecture of home based terrorism in the United States.
The signs were clear before the insurrection against the Capitol, the centre of legislative authority. The attempts to focus on rioters, looters and arsonists instead of listening to the demands of peaceful protesters and further incite militias to rise up to combat rioters could only result in drawing those at the fringes of society, without cause to build a better society, into mainstream politics. The end result is the nurturing of terrorism as part and parcel of mainstream politics in the USA.
This outcome started to creep in when clashes between militias and protesters led to deaths and arrests on both sides before the November 3 Presidential Elections.
Caravans of vehicles began to appear in many cities such as Portland, Oregon, supporting President Trump and clashing with protesters chanting “Black Lives Matter.”
The militias were referred to as “citizen soldiers” by mainstream political figures who encouraged them to overwhelm the rioters on the street of the US, as captured by the media.
A 17 year old Kyle Ritterhouse was “charged with first-degree intentional homicide and illegal possession of a dangerous weapon in the Aug. 25 killing of two protesters who were unarmed”.
The mainstream political figures failed to recognise that in a country where the police are defended by militias, democracy would be transformed into mob justice. Where there is mob justice, there will be revenge and there will be protracted acts of terrorism from different quarters. These become a vicious cycle without a winner.
The lesson that is irrefutable is that peace is only sustainable in an environment of justice. Rioters disappear when they have no cover to be in the street to loot and burn. Hence, the only government that could deliver sustainable peace is one that could deliver sustainable justice.
Instead of dividing mainstream USA politics into supporters of looters and supporters of militias against looters, those in the mainstream should unite and denounce all acts of injustice and support that all US citizens lives matter.
Mainstream USA political leaders should call for law enforcement reform so that the police and other security forces would be gradually nurtured to move towards becoming an instrument of protection rather than instrument of coercion
They should employ community policing measures that would link social services in the community with policing.
In short, the future of the USA lies in the hands of US leaders who could give world standard stewardship by indicating in words and practice that they are committed to the principle that injustice anywhere is the concern of the just everywhere. Democracy and peace cannot thrive in a climate of injustice and unfairness.
As the US moves towards incoming President Biden’s inauguration, threats are being made to set US cities and towns on fire. There would be no winner to such an exercise. It can be commenced but not sustained. It could only make the unstable elements in all the communities to become more anxious and thus provoke them to dispel their anxiety and frustration by unleashing violence against their perceived enemies. They would end up being arrested and killed without achieving any aim.
The insurrection mounted against the Capitol is the final teacher.
The siege led to the death of people with the same colour as those who perpetrated it. The insurrection has led to injuries and arrests. Many are now nursing their wounds, even though they attacked the members of Congress in the name of making ‘America great’.
Now many are in hiding and others are waiting to face trial. They have attained the very opposite of what they intended.
Terrorism is not the route to heroism or greatness. To shoot, burn, use explosive or any other means to kill and maim is what any unthinking person can do. What can be done by all is not a unique.
Election is designed to enable the sovereign people of the US to debate among themselves which Presidential candidate is more disposed to show by way of policy and principle that the lives of all Americans and residents of America matter and ought to be protected in good faith and in the supreme interest of the country.
Hence at this decisive moment the people of the USA should take note that Nations are not made great by their governments but by their people. If the people of the US nurture misguided feelings of hatred, senseless killing and burning would be the order of the day
The way out is all political leaders from all sides of the political spectrum who love their country and her people should strive to tame the unstable elements by focusing less on the outgoing president and focusing more on the challenges that the incoming President would have to give primacy to in order address the key concerns of the electorate.
History teaches that when the words of an outgoing president are unremittingly repeated the person becomes more visible and relevant than the incoming president.
Congress should focus on a workplan to address the problem of the Nation in partnership with a new President rather than being preoccupied with the excesses of an outgoing President. What is arising and developing is more relevant than what is disintegrating and withering away.
In a matter of hours, the outgoing President would come to terms with the fact of being an ordinary citizen without any executive power. The humbling experience is best endured when the handing over of power is done in good faith with decorum. The honour of being an ex -president remains and a mature successor would turn the other eye in order not to be seen to be vindictive.
On the other hand, the quickest way to earn the vilification of society and be written off with speed is to behave like a person who has not accepted the verdict of the people.
Franky speaking, the attack on the Capitol should teach all mainstream political parties that any attempt by any party to draw undemocratic and unstable nationals into mainstream politics would have its hands bloodied by terrorist activities and would have to justify those actions to maintain their support or be seen as judas meriting their contempt. This would then make excesses outside the ambit of the law normal. Hell-fire would then consume society before and after election.
It is hoped that during these dying hours conscience and reason would dictate the outgoing President to accept the dictate of necessity and honour the mandate of handing over peacefully and gracefully for the sake of posterity. History, the great recorder of events, is waiting to scribble what happens at the White House on 20th January 2021. One hopes that the outgoing President and incoming President would write the history they would want their children and grandchildren to read and draw lessons on how nations become great through healing and reconciliation. The incoming President has the duty to put in place a leadership style that is capable of calming nerves and putting the broken pieces together to enable the people to keep hoping for a better tomorrow. This is what the times and circumstances dictate. The outcome is for history to write and posterity to gather the lessons on how to pursue and defend the greater good of nations and people, in particular, and humanity. at large.
"Simple is good" & I strongly dislike politics. You cannot defend the indefensible.
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