STATEMENT BY THE CHAIRPERSON OF THE CONSTITUTIONAL REVIEW COMMISSION JUSTICE CHERNO SULAYMAN JALLOW, QC (JSC)
Monday, 27th January, 2020
CRC Conference Room
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen of the Media,
- I have the honour and pleasure to welcome you once again to the Secretariat of the Constitutional Review Commission (CRC) on behalf of my colleague Commissioners and the staff of the Secretariat to this CRC-Media dialogue which always serves as a forum for us to have an interactive dialogue on the constitutional review process.
- We have had many interactions during which we updated you on issues concerning the CRC assignment of developing and delivering a new Constitution for our country. We deeply appreciate the partnership we have forged together since the inception of the CRC and we assure you of our continued collaboration and cooperation.
- The last time we held this kind of forum was on the historic occasion when the CRC published the draft Constitution in November 2019. Let me state that immediately after the publication of the draft Constitution, the CRC dispatched copies of the draft Constitution to all the Regional Headquarters to enable the people to have access to the document and to have adequate time to review it and submit their feedback. Copies were also made available to stakeholders and private individuals. Soft copies were also posted on the CRC website and shared on all our social media platforms.
- The Commission then undertook a series of consultations informing the public about the provisions in the draft Constitution and soliciting feedback that would help the Commission prepare a final draft for The Republic of The Gambia.
Second round of countrywide public consultation
- The CRC embarked on a second round of countrywide public consultations from the 31st of November to the 16th of December 2019 to share and inform on the provisions in the draft Constitution, hear the citizens’ perceptions on the proposed provisions and recommendations proffered by citizens.
- The second round of public consultative meetings were held in 13 (thirteen) communities from the 7 (seven) Administrative Areas of The Gambia in the following venues: Banjul, Fass Njaga Choi, Kerewan, Kaur, Diabugu, Basse, Jangjanbureh, Jareng, Soma, Kwinella, Bwiam, Brikama and Kanifing Municipality (KMC).
- In all these communities, the CRC ensured that the Local Government Authorities, Seyfos, Alkalos, School Administrators and Community Based Organisations (CBOs) were availed with adequate advance copies of the Draft Constitution in order to facilitate public access and to allow Gambians to familiarise themselves with the proposed provisions and subsequently provide feedback to the Commission. By the end of the two week public consultation in the communities, the Commission had met 3,011 (three thousand and eleven) Gambians in the 13 (thirteen) communities visited.
- Apart from the public consultations, the Commission also received written submissions on different provisions in the draft Constitution. A total of 198 (one hundred and ninety eight) submissions were received from Government institutions, Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), Religious bodies, individuals, Associations, Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs), International Organisations and the private sector. The submissions addressed different aspects of the draft Constitution that the different stakeholders were interested in.
Face to Face meetings
- The Commission also held face to face meetings with the 3 (three) Arms of Government, namely, The Executive, The Judiciary and The Legislature to bring them up-to-date on public opinions relative to the Draft Constitution and also to discuss specific issues connected to their areas of responsibility. The Commission also met with The Gambia Christian Council and the Supreme Islamic Council to discuss their submissions on the draft Constitution and to encourage dialogue between the leaders representing both communities in the wake of the intense debate on secularism.
The Way Forward
- The Commission is in the process of finalising its review of all the submissions received as well as the preparation of the final Draft Constitution and the accompanying Report on the processes adopted by the Commission, which will be submitted to the President of The Republic of The Gambia in accordance with the CRC Act, 2017.
- On our part as the CRC, we are grateful for the overwhelming support and encouragement that we continue to receive from all Gambians, both at home and abroad, as well as our national and international partners. The views and opinions received on the Draft Constitution since its publication have been overwhelming and very invigorating. We want to ensure that each submission is carefully and fully considered as we near the end of our assignment.
- As with every constitutional development in any country, the final product will never satisfy every view and opinion canvassed. Constitutional development is effectively a negotiation process of give-and-take. It can never address all issues. In our case here in The Gambia, we had put in place a very robust transparent, inclusive and participatory public consultation process whereby every citizen and other stakeholders had the opportunity to make a contribution. This has not only enriched our constitutional review process; it has also helpfully guided us in framing the Draft Constitution in a manner and in the depth that we feel truly and honestly represents the generality of public opinion. We have given credence to public opinion, and an overwhelming number of our citizens, during our second round of public consultations, had expressed satisfaction with the initially drafted Constitution. We continue to aim for making the Draft Constitution better.
- Let me conclude by reiterating once again the following to the Gambian public on behalf of the Commission:
(a) The Commission remains independent and does not represent any particular interest group.
(b) The constitutional review process continues to be guided by the principles of Participation, Inclusiveness, Representation, Transparency and National Ownership to ensure that the final draft Constitution reflects the collective values, beliefs and aspirations of all Gambians.
- Finally, the Commission is working hard to finalise its assignment and, all things being equal, it hopes to finalise the Draft Constitution and the accompanying Report to formally submit to His Excellency the President of the Republic no later than March 2020.
- Ladies and Gentlemen of the Media, I thank you sincerely for honouring this invitation and for your continued support and commitment not only to the CRC process, but even more importantly, to your country.