By Madi Jobarteh
Here are selected provisions of the 1965 Constitution which was created by the British Parliament granting independence to the Gambia. In actual fact, as seen in these provisions, the Gambia was not independent on 18 February 1965 as claimed by the Gambia Government and its citizens until today. Rather the 1965 Constitution clearly established the Gambia as a dominion under the British Empire.
This constitution had clearly set out a number of institutions, processes and actions that were directly under the direction and control of the Governor General as the Head of State of the Gambia. He had wide ranging powers from the creation of public institutions to the appointment and removal of the Prime Minister and Cabinet Ministers to the dissolution of the parliament to assenting to bills as well as to the declaration of a state of emergency among other powers. Above all the decisions of the Governor General cannot be challenged by anyone. Most seriously executive authority resided in Her Majesty the Queen of England!
Read for yourself these provisions and ask yourself if this is a kind of constitution that an independent country would have.
Declaration of Emergency
Section 27 (1): The Governor-General may, by proclamation which shall be published in the Official Gazette, declare that a state of emergency exists for the purposes of this Chapter.
Establishment of office of Governor-General
Section 29: There shall be a Governor-General who shall be appointed by Her Majesty and shall hold office during Her Majesty’s pleasure and who shall be Her Majesty’s representative in The Gambia.
Establishment of Parliament
Section 32: There shall be a Parliament which shall consist of Her Majesty and a House of Representatives.
Section 56 (1): The power of Parliament to make laws shall be exercisable by bills passed by the House of Representatives and assented to by the Governor-General on behalf of Her Majesty.
Prorogation and dissolution of Parliament
Section 60 (1): The Governor-General may at any time prorogue or dissolve Parliament.
Section 61 (1): Subject to the provisions of subsection (2) of this section, a general election of members of the House of Representatives shall be held at such time within three months after any dissolution of Parliament as the Governor-General may appoint.
Exercise of executive authority of The Gambia
Section 62 (1): The executive authority of The Gambia is vested in Her Majesty.
Ministers of Government of The Gambia
Section 63 (1): There shall be a Prime Minister of The Gambia, who shall be appointed by the Governor- General.
Establishment of Cabinet of Ministers
Section 65: There shall be a Cabinet of Ministers which shall consist of the Prime Minister and such other Ministers as may for the time being be designated in that behalf by the Governor-General, acting in accordance with the advice of the Prime Minister.
Allocation of portfolios to Ministers
Section 67: The Governor-General, acting in accordance with the advice of the Prime Minister, may, by directions in writing, assign to the Prime Minister or any other Minister responsibility for any business of the Government of The Gambia, including the administration of any department of government.
Governor-General to be informed concerning matters of government
Section 70: The Prime Minister shall keep the Governor-General fully informed concerning the general conduct of the government of The Gambia and shall furnish the Governor-General with such information as he may request with respect to any particular matter relating to the government of The Gambia.
Constitution of offices, etc
Section 75: Subject to the provisions of this Constitution and of any other law, the Governor-General may constitute offices for The Gambia, make appointments to any such office and terminate any such appointment.
Appointment of judges of Supreme Court
Section 89 (1): The Chief Justice shall be appointed by the Governor-General, acting in accordance with the advice of the Prime Minister.
Director of Public Prosecutions
Section 107 (1): The Director of Public Prosecutions shall be appointed by the Governor-General, acting in accordance with the advice of the Public Service Commission.
Director of Audit
Section 108 (1): The Director of Audit shall be appointed by the Governor-General, acting in accordance with the advice of the Public Service Commission.
Principal representatives of The Gambia abroad
Section 109 (1): The power to appoint persons to hold or act in offices to which this section applies and to remove from office persons holding or acting in such offices shall vest in the Governor-General, acting in accordance with the advice of the Prime Minister.
Section 111 (1): The power to appoint a person to hold or act in the office of Commissioner of Police and the power to remove the Commissioner of Police from office shall vest in the Governor-General, acting accordance with the advice of the Prime Minister:
These are selected provisions of the 1965 Constitution which governed the Gambia from 18 February 1965 up to 24 April 1970.
From this Constitution it is clear that the Gambia was not an independent country in whose citizens resided the sovereignty of the country. In this Constitution the sovereignty of the Gambia resided in the Queen of England who had total executive powers over and above Gambians.
The Queen was represented by the Governor General who wielded executive power on behalf of the Queen in our country.
The Prime Minster DK Jawara was answerable first and foremost to the Governor General and not to Gambians! How therefore could this country claim to be independent in 1965?
A comparison with the 1970 Constitution will show that the office of Governor General was abolished in that constitution. Executive power was not lodged in the Queen but in the President of the Republic. Legislative power was not lodged in the House of Representative and the Governor General but instead lodged only in the Gambian House of Representatives.
The time has come for the Gambia to correct this disgraceful historical error by abolishing 18 February 1965 as the date of Independence to 24 April 1970. It is not late to correct something that is so wrong and fundamental.
For the Gambia Our Homeland