WHO IS FOR OR AGAINST THE 1997 CONSTITUTION? SIDIA takes on President Jammeh
I want to begin by saying that the 1997 Constitution is the Constitution for the Republic and those who care to know what was happening during the period, knew that there were people who were opposed to the 1997 Constitution and were calling it a military Constitution and asked people to vote against it. But there were other people who worked day and night to make sure that people voted for it and I have evidence of what I am trying to say here.
When the draft constitution was being drafted, those who cared to defend the Republic contributed to the drafting of that Constitution, some as individuals and some as institutions; and this document entitled The Judicial Foundation Of The Second Republic contributed to the drafting of the Constitution, and when it eventually came out Mr Speaker, we took it upon ourselves to explain what exactly it meant. We serialized it chapter by chapter and simplified it for people to understand so that when they come to vote, they would know what they are voting for. These are the series of booklets we published from book one to book twelve.
All that was done because in our view, a referendum will not be a referendum if people don’t know what they are voting for. That is why we prepared the ground for the referendum and when the referendum was about to be held, Mr Speaker, the first two weeks, the slogan was ‘vote no’. Some were told that they should vote no because that’s the only way they could dispense with the military and that was their understanding of the issue. We took the ground in two weeks and in two weeks, we changed the situation from ‘no’ to a ‘yes’ slogan and indeed the referendum succeeded. Those who care to know what was happening and who was doing what in that period, will understand what i am saying.
So the 1997 constitution was indeed the work of the Gambian people. All those who cared to live in a republic and all those who cared to defend fundamental rights and freedoms, which is contained in book four of our series will understand what I am saying.
So if anybody wants to know who contributed what to the draft Constitution, please read this document, Views On The Judicial Foundation Of The Second Republic and then you will understand the struggle that was waged to make sure that the 1997 constitution was voted for because we wanted a republic.
It is different from the 1970 Constitution and the president looked at me and said you should have retained the 1970 Constitution and of course we were opposed to the 1970 Constitution because it has monarchical provisions and some of these have now been transferred into 1997 Constitution. But I will not go into that because some of you know them and that maybe it could be taken again at another time. Mr Speaker, I thought it is important for me to say this because what the president was saying the other day was misleading.
The Constitution is not an AFPRC or APRC Constitution. It is the Constitution of the Republic of The Gambia. Some of us had sleepless night. He explained how he left Basse and was in Tallinding to gather all the materials he needed to sensitise people the same day. “So it was not easy for us to have the 1997 Constitution. I know how it came about,” he continued.
At this stage, the Speaker interrupted and asked whether Sidia was part of the AFPRC? In response Sidia said he wasn’t because they the AFPRC were opposed to the Constitution. That’s the reality for anybody who cares to know the objective situation, please go back to the archives and read newspapers at that time. You will know who was for and who was against. They were against it! Circumstances forced them to accept it but their slogan was ‘no election’.
At this stage National Assembly member Sulayman Joof, Member for Serre Kunda West rose to question who he was referring to when he mentioned “they.”Sidia asked him whether he was asking him a question? In response, AM Joof said he need to know whom Sidia is referring to when he said we were for and they were against. Who were they? I cannot keep on saying AFPRC and that is why the pronouncement ‘they’ came into being. They is referring to AFPRC finish! You want repetition. So that’s it. This is our Constitution. It is not owned by anybody. Anybody who was interested in having a Republic in the Gambia worked for it. This is our proof… if you go to records of newspapers at the time from 1994 to pre 1996. Please read newspapers of that period and then if you see the opposite of what I am saying, come to me, I will accept what you have.