Gambia: Justice Minister Says Covid-19 Pandemic to Affect Referendum, Voter Registration

31 March 2020

Abubacarr Tambadou, the attorney general and minister of Justice has hinted that the deadly coronavirus pandemic which has currently affected more than six hundred thousand people world-wide will likely affect the country's referendum to adopt the new draft constitution.

"The coronavirus pandemic and the measures adopted under the state of public emergency will inevitably have a significant impact on our ability to follow timeliness and meet deadlines," he said yesterday at State House as members of the CRC submitted the final draft constitution to President Adama Barrow.

This, he stated, will have serious ramifications on other related activities anticipated in the course of the year such as the new voter registration exercise or the referendum for the adoption of the new constitution.

Tambadou added: "We are here for the submission of a new draft constitution that will usher in a 3rd Republic and introduce a new governance architecture with all the promises of a brighter future, a more stable and democratic society with adequate checks and balances among the three organs of State, and a conducive environment for the liberty and prosperity of the individual."

According to him, there are no immediate answers to the conundrum at the moment. "However, we will have to find ways around these unexpected turn of events in order to meet the expectations of our countrymen and women. More information will be shared with the general public as we consider possible alternatives."

"Three years ago, your government embarked upon the most ambitious and comprehensive governance reform agenda of any administration in the history of our country. The submission of this draft constitution today follows several other significant milestones in this endeavour."

He added: "We currently have a number of bills tabled before the National Assembly for the enactment of laws that will radically transform the legal landscape of our country particularly with respect to our criminal justice system. Moreover, under your administration, we have witnessed the most far reaching improvements on the conditions of service in the judicial and legal services of our country."

The Justice Minister added: "It is now up to us, the Gambian people, to uphold our part of the bargain."

"Like all constitution building processes, not everyone can or will be satisfied with everything in the new draft constitution. But we are faced with a clear choice: we either embrace this new draft which is being presented here today in whole and lay the foundations for a better future for our children, or get stuck in the past with the current 1997 constitution and all its retrogressive provisions that will frustrate our democratic march into a better future."

"I am certain that the Gambian peoples' thirst for change remains unquenched and I am confident that they will embrace this new draft constitution after sober reflection."

Minister Tambadou thanked the chairperson of the CRC, Justice Cherno Sulayman Jallow, and his fellow commissioners for their outstanding professionalism, commitment and dedication to national duty.

"We have keenly followed the progress of your commission right from the beginning, partly because we funded it, and we have been impressed by all your efforts to ensure that the credibility of the entire process, from beginning to end, remains sacrosanct."

He said: "Never in the history of our nation has our constitution been written in such a manner. You have done your compatriots proud and proved to the world beyond that our country has what it takes to take care of its own business."

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