By MUHAMMED S. BAH
As part of its public consultation process ahead of the drafting of the new Gambian constitution, the Constitutional Review Commission (CRC) began a national school tour to sensitize students about its mandate and also hear their submissions on the review process. The Commission held the maiden edition of the ‘meet the students tour’ at Nusrat Senior Secondary School in Bundung on Saturday 27 October 2018 and many other schools will be subsequently visited to encourage and engage student participation in the constitution making process. This was disclosed by the CRC through a Press released.
Welcoming the CRC delegation at Nusrat, the Principal, Karamo S. Bojang, commended the Commission for its review methodology of reaching out to the public before drafting the Constitution. . “This time, the review process is different. Everybody must participate to build a new constitution that is inclusive,” Bojang said while urging students to fully participate in the process and have their views heard.
The Executive Secretary of the CRC, Omar Ousman Jobe, said the Commission has recognized that the majority of senior school students will be eligible to vote in the country’s next electoral cycle. “It is very critical at this stage that we include students and these emerging voter demographic into the constitutional review dialogue for them to know and understand the issues in the Constitution in order to make enlightened and informed choices,” Jobe noted
“This is the time to be part of the conversation so that you will see yourself in the new Constitution,” the CRC secretary told students. Whilst emphasising the importance of national consensus in the review process, Mr. Jobe said the Commission is committed to drafting a sustainable Constitution that will endure the test of time and the needs of national aspirations.
In his presentation, Commissioner Lamin S. Camara, said the Constitutional Review Commission (CRC) is established by an Act of the National Assembly to review the current Constitution and draft a new constitution that reflects the wishes and aspirations of the Gambian people. “The Act has certain provisions that we need to comply with. One of them is that we need to seek the opinion of Gambians. You (students) are a fundamental part of this country and your input in the next constitution is an inevitable requisite,” Commissioner Camara remarked.
He said a constitution is a set of rules and regulations that citizens of a country have subscribed to and have pledged to be governed by. In executing its mandate, Commissioner Camara said the CRC is required to engage and have regard for national values and ethos. He added the Commission will safeguard and promote, amongst others, The Gambia’s Republican systems of governance, including democratic values and respect for and promotion of the rule of law and fundamental rights and freedoms.
Underscoring the importance of inclusivity in the making of the new charter of laws, Commissioner Fatoumatta Jallow said the constitutional review process has social, economic and cultural dimensions. She expressed delight that students are passionate about the drafting of the new Constitution. Commissioner Jallow added that student interest should not only stop at the constitutional review process but the country’s governance in general.
Speaking on behalf of the students, Fatoumatta Fatty, President of Nusrat History and Government club said they have learnt a lot about the Constitution and its importance and assured that efforts will be made as students to inspire participation and student engagement in the Constitution making process. Fatty lauded the CRC for holding its first outreach program at the school. Issues submitted by the students include presidential term limit, free university education, reduction of retirement age, strict measures to fight corruption, absolute majority in elections, independence and power of the legislature, right to life, and the nationality of court judges.
The CRC’s Head of Media and Communication Sainey MK Marenah reminded students that they are a core entity and the future drivers of the electoral process and so it’s critical to for them to try to understand and engage with the constitutional review undertaking as the basis of the Gambia’s new dispensation.
The CRC ‘Meet the Students Tour’ continues with the first leg targeting senior schools across the metropolis.