Gambians should know that they are more important than their law makers. They are the ones who elect them to public office and there are entrenched provisions of the constitution which cannot be changed without a referendum.
Referendum is a law making exercise. Hence one should know the meaning of “yes” or “no” before voting at a referendum. Many important provisions of the constitution are transformed into entrenched provisions, meaning that one could not change it without a referendum. Section 18 which protects the right to life is just one of them.
0n 10 June 2015 it was published in the Gambia Gazette that a bill entitled “An Act to amend the 1997 Constitution of the Gambia.”
What does the Gambia Government want the people to change in the Constitution?
Section 18 Subsection (2) abolished the death penalty for any crime that is not associated with the use of violence or toxic substance that results in the death of a person.
It reads: “As from the coming into force of this Constitution, no court in The Gambia shall be competent to impose a sentence of death for any offence unless the sentence is prescribed by law and the offence involves violence, or the administration of any toxic substance, resulting in the death of another person.”
Now, the Gambia Government wants the application of the death penalty to be extended to crimes which do not involve the use of violence or toxic material resulting in the death of a person. It cannot do this without the approval of the people.
Hence, what it wants is for Section 18 Subsection (2) to read as follows:
“As from the coming into force of this Constitution, no court in The Gambia shall be competent to impose a sentence of death for any offence unless the sentence is prescribed by law.”
This means that the government would be able to pass bills imposing the death penalty for any crime it deems fit by just passing a bill at the National Assembly.
Hence those who say yes would be giving such powers to a government and those who say no would restrict the death penalty to crimes associated with violence or use of toxic substances resulting in the death of a person.
The destiny of the country is in the hands of the electorate 50 percent of whom must vote at a referendum with 75 percent voting yes before the amendment could be effected.