By Yankuba Jallow
The people of Lower Nuimi told members of the Constitutional Review Commission (CRC) that they want a Teachers’ Service Commission established in the New Constitution; that there should also be established in the New Constitution, a Health Service Commission; that these Commissions should be mandated to look issues surrounding the education and health sectors of the country. These comments and contributions were made in a meeting held in Medina Sering Mass, were hundreds of people gathered to welcome, hear and make their contributions to members of the CRC, who have started a 2-week consultative tour, beginning with the people of North Bank.
The villagers of Medina Sering Mass discussed and made many comments and contributions including citizenship, the electoral system and the IEC, local Government, Office of the President, the judiciary and the death penalty, Gambians in the Diaspora, and so many other topical issues, for members of the CRC to take note of. The villagers in unison indicated to members of the CRC that the New Constitution should have Laws that will not empower the President to appoint Commissioners and Chairpersons of the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) or Governor of the Central Bank of The Gambia, and should not be given powers to nominate the five members of the National Assembly.
They contributed that persons born in the Gambia, should be granted citizenship, and further indicate that the country’s local languages, should be introduced and used at the National Assembly.
The CRC was also told by villagers of Medina Sering Mass that, holders of all public offices such as the vice president, ministers and Governors etc., should declare their assets, before and after assuming such an office; that the office of the Governor and Chief, should be open to elections, to ensure transparency and accountability. “The president should not appoint Chiefs and Governors for us. The Minister should not appoint our Alkalos for us. We should do that for ourselves through elections,” they said. The people also contributed that political parties should disclose their source of funding to the public through the IEC, and that the position of the president, should have a university degree requirement or its close equivalent such as a college certificate; that someone who carries dual citizenship, should not be the president of the country.
Villagers of Medina Sering Mass strongly made it clear to members of the CRC that a term limit for the Presidency should be included in the New Constitution and that the Law should be entrenched to avoid future alterations by any parliament; that any President who receives or gives personal gifts, should disclose this to the public, through the National Assembly; that the position of Deputy Minister, be re-introduced in the New Constitution.
On the voting process, villagers contributed that the paper ballot should be introduced instead of marbles, and further agreed in unison that Gambians in the Diaspora, should vote in all presidential elections.
Alagie Essa Joof, a native of Kerr Wally Joof village, said there should be a Teachers’ Service Commission that will be responsible to look into the issues affecting teachers in the country. Joof opined that every person born in The Gambia, should be given Gambian citizenship; that the death penalty in the present Constitution, should be revoked.
Mbaye Awa Kah, an Imam in the village, said the country should have a democratic Government with two-term limits. “We want a democratic society where our rights as citizens, will be fully respected by those in authority,” he said. Kah said the fundamental human rights in the Constitution should be entrenched. Ebrima Chongan, a teacher at the School, said the president should not have the powers to appoint or dismiss the Chief Justice and Chairperson of IEC. Chongan opined that there should be an independent body responsible of doing this.
Jarra Leigh, a student, said the New Constitution shall provide for free education at all levels including the University of The Gambia.
“There are many students who have completed Senior Secondary School education with good grades and have been admitted at the University of The Gambia, but face major challenges of paying their tuition fees. This forced them to stay at home,” she said. Modou Kabi Sarr, another student of the School contributed that the appointment of the Chief Justice should be by the Judicial Service Commission.
On his part, Abdul Aziz Kah, a teacher said disabled persons should have their representatives at the National Assembly; that the president should only nominate but the appointment of such persons should be done by the National Assembly.
“We should go for elections three months after the vacancy of the office of the President,” he said.
Alagie Khan, a native of Jammagen village, said the president should not receive personal gifts.
Khan opined that the death penalty should be maintained in the New Constitution. Kebba Jagne said the country should have an established body to look into farmers’ issues. “We are farmers and we face lots of challenges. We want this New Constitution to establish a body that will be responsible for our affairs,” he said. Fatou Jeng from Ndungu Kebbeh, said the Constitution should include women empowerment.
Fatou L. Faye, a student opined that Cooperative Societies should be increased in order to increase job opportunities for the people of the country. Faye said the Constitution should enshrine that the president should not marry a foreigner.
“We want the New Constitution to include that the appointment of Ministers and the Vice President should not be done by the president alone. The National Assembly should be involved in the process,” she said.
Sherrif M. Hydara, a former National Assembly Member for the area, said Alkalos, Chiefs and Governors should not be voted into office, and that the position of Deputy Minister, be re-introduced in and make the office of the DPP independent.
Babou Saine said alkalos should be paid. Modou Jagne contributed that citizenship by marriage should be automatic and not for people to wait fifteen years as it is now.
Alagie Sarr and Fatou Bittaye all contributed that before a person can be eligible to become a president of the country, he or she must have a University Degree.