The debate has started. Foroyaa is being asked to explain whether the President has power to ban people from holding public office just because of the report of a commission of inquiry. It is therefore important for the National Council for Civic Education to carry out its constitutional mandate in assisting the citizenry to know the provisions of the Constitution so that the Gambian people will continue to speak its language with clarity.
What is the status of the white paper? When should it be issued? How should it be issued? Is it conclusive?
The answers to these questions are important. Section 203 of the Constitution indicates very clearly what should be done with the report of the Commission.
First and foremost the report must be published within six months. This should be followed by a statement by the President explaining his decision regarding the recommendations in the report. This is the first point. If for the sake of security and the national interest he deems it inappropriate to publish the report he must issue a statement to that effect within six months of receipt of the report.
On Friday, 13th September 2019 the Minister of Information and the spokesperson of the government held a press conference and issued a statement entitled “The Gambia Government White Paper on the Report of the Commission of Inquiry into the Financial Activities of Public Bodies, Enterprises and Offices as regards their Dealings with former President Yahya A.J.J. Jammeh and connected matters”.
We have been inquiring for the nine volumes of the Report of the Commission of Inquiry which is currently not available at the Gambia Printing and Publishing Corporation.
Secondly, a commission of inquiry does not end with a submission of a report to the President. Those against whom adverse findings have been made have rights.
Section 204 of the Constitution states very clearly that,
“Where a Commission of Inquiry makes an adverse finding against any person, it shall, at the time of submitting its report to the President, inform such persons of the finding and the reasons therefore.”
This should have been done since 29th March 2019 when the Commission submitted its report to the President. Foroyaa will find out whether those affected have been served.
Thirdly those affected have the right to appeal to the court of appeal under section 204 of the constitution to challenge the recommendations adopted by the president for implementation as if the implementation of the Commission is the judgment of a court. Section 204 states:
“A person against whom any such adverse finding has been made may appeal against such finding to the Court of Appeal as of right as if the finding were a judgment of the High Court, and on the hearing of the appeal the report shall be treated as if it were such a judgment.”
Hence the process is inconclusive. Foroyaa will find out from some of the persons against whom adverse decisions have been taken whether they have been served and whether they wish to challenge the decision in court. Foroyaa will also find out what the president intends to do regarding the constitutional requirement to publish the report or explain reasons for rejecting the obligation to publish and the grounds for doing so to determine the constitutionality of non-publication.