By Bakary Ceesay
The Constitutional Review Commission (CRC), as part of its wider public consultations with Gambians, has commenced its external public consultations with Gambians in the Diaspora with successful meetings in London, UK and Paris, France. Gambians in the diaspora have been demonstrating the keen interest they have in the designing and development of the new Constitution for The Gambia.
The external public consultations are meant to seek the views and aspirations of Gambians living outside of The Gambia ahead of the drafting of a new Constitution for the Gambia as per the mandate of the CRC pursuant to the CRC Act of 2017.
Speaking at the London Meeting, The Gambian High Commissioner in the United Kingdom, H.E. Francis R. Blain, commended CRC for extending its arms to Gambians in the diaspora describing the move as ‘very democratic’.
“As the High Commissioner of the Gambia to the United Kingdom, I am particularly proud and delighted to be part of this historic event”, he said.
The Chairman of the CRC, Hon. Justice Cherno Sulayman Jallow QC (JSC) reminded the London and Paris meetings of the power and mandate of the CRC which he said are clearly outlined in an act of Parliament, namely the CRC Act, 2017. In essence, the mandate of the CRC is to review the current 1997 Constitution and draft a new Constitution for the Gambia. In addition, the CRC is expected to prepare a report in relation to the new Constitution.
Speaking in London on the importance of providing a level playing field to all Gambians during the constitutional review process, Chairman Jallow said “We can’t draw a line between Gambians within The Gambia and Gambians outside of The Gambia; irrespective of where you are residing or where you are resident permanently, you are still a Gambian, so what a Gambian within The Gambia deserves a Gambian outside The Gambia equally deserves.”.
He said: “It is going to be an expensive process and an expensive undertaking, but it is one that is worth it, because Gambians in the diaspora have a right to participate in the same process that Gambians within the country have the opportunity to do,’.
Chairman Jallow further told the gathering that: “We have a huge task collectively as citizens to ensure that the ideas we canvass, the opinions we exchange will be those that will be representative of the interests of The Gambia of today and Gambia in the future, not about our personal interests.”
The deputy Ambassador of The Gambia to France, HE Dr. Mariam John, also encouraged Gambians resident in France to participate and support the constitutional review process.
She emphasized that Gambians deserve a better and prosperous Constitution that will guide the country towards the promised land.
Meanwhile, a similar meeting was held in the French capital of Paris, where Gambians turned out in their large numbers to share their opinions with the CRC on how they wish to have their country governed. Like the London meeting, the Paris engagement was enriching as key issues surrounding citizenship, fundamental human rights, governance, legislature, judiciary, and executive, among others, were discussed. In particular, participants lamented the state of the country’s education and health service delivery systems, including concern regarding the speed at which the national environment is being degraded and depleted and called for strong constitutional provisions to safeguard, protect and strengthen these key areas of national importance.
In both London and Paris, the Gambian diaspora called for unity and national cohesion if the next Constitution is to deliver the wishes and aspirations of the Gambian people. They called for strong State institutions that will deliver good governance and uphold the rule of law, for it is only through such mechanism that The Gambia can avoid a periodic review of its Constitution. They emphasized the importance of crafting a new Constitution that not only reflects the wishes and aspirations of Gambians, but also represents the interests of the future generations of Gambians.
Meanwhile, similar meetings are expected in Stockholm (Sweden) Berlin (Germany) and Gerona (Spain) in the coming days and the week ahead. The CRC’s external consultations in North America commence on Saturday, 22nd June, 2019.