Calling Gambia an Islamic State in official documents is unconstitutional Says Minority Leader

By MUHAMMED S. BAH

Honourable Samba Jallow, the Minority Leader and National Assembly Member for Naimina Dankunku told law makers that Minority Leaderdescribing the Gambia as an Islamic state in official documents is unconstitutional.

He said this on Wednesday, 24 August 2016, in his intervention during the second extraordinary session of the 2016 legislative year on the debate on a motion that was passed by the Minister of Foreign Affairs Neneh Mcdouall Gaye “for Gambia  to recognize, celebrate, proclaim and commemorate the 15th day of Ramadan yearly as Orphans’ Day, Nationwide”.

The Minority Leader said he is in support of the motion but is concerned about the referring of the Gambia as an Islamic state as indicated in the document.  “The Gambia shouldn’t be called an Islamic State, because there is no legislation passed yet to declare Gambia an Islamic state,” he said.

He therefore proposed to his colleagues to amend part of the document that was passed and which refers the country as an Islamic State.

Hon. Jallow reminded the law makers that the president in his recent address to the National Assembly has said that his government will be introducing a bill to declare Gambia as an Islamic state and which, he added, is yet to be passed, before them. He stressed that the Gambia still remains a secular State.

The Minority Leader citing the constitution said calling the Gambia an Islamic State is even an offence as the secular nature of the country is an entrenched clause. He said section one of the constitution of the Gambia states that “The Gambia is a Sovereign Secular Republic”. He also cited section 6 of the same constitution which, he said, states that: “(1) Any person who – (a) by himself or herself or in concert with others, by any violent or other unlawful means, suspends or overthrows or abrogates this Constitution or any part of it, or attempts to do any such act, or (b) aids and abets in any manner any person referred to in paragraph (a) Commits the offence of treason and shall, on conviction, be liable to the penalty prescribed by an Act of the National Assembly..”.

Hon. Jallow also disagrees with the stated urgency attached to this particular motion, adding that the session should have waited until the National Assembly resumes in September.

“I don’t think there is urgency in this motion, until it cannot wait till we resume in September, considering the expenses incurred in calling the whole National Assembly members for sittings,” he said.

Tabling the motion before the law makers, the foreign affairs minister said the celebration, proclamation and commemoration of this orphan’s day is an initiative of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) which was adopted as a resolution at the 40th session of its council of foreign ministers in Guinea Conakry in 2013.

Responding to the issue raised by the Minority Leader on the unconstitutionality of calling Gambia as an Islamic State, Madam Mcdouall Gaye said this issue is not the purpose of the motion and that the foreign affairs is not the line ministry for that.

Madame Fatou Mbye, the Deputy Speaker, said this can be a specific issue of discussion but not at that point in time.

The motion was seconded by Hon. Bintanding Jarju, National Assembly Member for Foni Berefet, who said “this is a non-controversial motion.”

Hon. Kalifa Jammeh, the NAM for Bakau, said the OIC member states who are privilege to have oil in their countries should try and provide specific resources for the orphans.

Hon Muhammed Magassey, NAM for Basse, raised the issue of children whose parents are serving jail terms and they are less privilege to also be included.

Hon.Alhagie Sillah, Hon. Baboucarr Nyang and Hon. Bafaye Saidykhan, the NAMs for Banjul North, Banjul South and Jarra East respectively were among those who took the floor in support of the motion.

The motion was finally moved for adoption by the law makers and the session was chaired by the deputy speaker.