By Almamo Kamaso
The Chairman of the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) the body mandated by law to organize elections told members of the National Assembly yesterday that the IEC will conduct the registration of voters in the Gambia using the existing electoral laws, and not the news election Bill.
The IEC boss was responding to members of the National Assembly to clarify whether they intend to conduct the registration of voters under the existing laws or the new Election Bill 2021, which is before law makers for scrutiny.
However lawmakers raised their concerns about the possibility of those in the diaspora taking part in the fourth coming elections. With the New Election Bill the diaspora can take part as they can be registered but with the old law that will be an uphill task.
Hon Nominated member Yakuba Jaiteh said this means the hopes of people living in the diaspora to vote is already killed; and the act is intentional. She was quick to say she is not blaming the IEC, since they the IEC are not law making body but the government should have acted long since to make sure all the necessary amendments are in place to allow the people in the diaspora vote.
She quoted section 39 (1) of the 1997 constitution, which reads: Every citizen of the Gambia being eighteen years of or older and of sound mind shall have the right to vote for a purpose of election of a President and members of the National Assembly, and shall be entitled to be registered as a voter in a National Assembly constituency for that purpose.
Since the registration of voters is lined up for May 2021 and the IEC is using the existing laws automatically excludes those in the diaspora as any place out of the Gambia is not part of any constituency of the Gambia and by the old law such persons cannot register.
The electoral boss told members that unless amendments are effected on section 39 (1) those in the diaspora cannot be registered and was quick to say it not too late to do so. The lawmakers inform the IEC, that such amendments must follow a process which cannot be done under 30 days.
When asked why they (IEC) after knowing such did not put the government in the picture? This was refuted by the Chief Executive Officer who explained that they are in consultation with the ministry of Justice for a long time, and that to say government did not know does not arise. The IEC have informed government for a need to amend section 39 (1) of the constitution a long time now.
It could be recalled that the News Election Bills was after read twice was committed to a joint committees of Regional government and Lands , Ombudsman and IEC; and the Human Right and Constitutional Matters Affairs committees for scrutiny and report back to the whole house at the next sitting. The meeting was Chaired by two Co-Chairs, Hon Speaker Mariam Denton for Human Rights and Constitutional Committee and Hon Amul Nyassi Chair of the Regional government and Lands , Ombudsman and IEC.
The ICE was released but certainly they will be called for proper consultation when the joint committee sit proper.
“The Hopes of Diasporas Voting is killed’’ Yakumba Jiateh
By Almamo Kamaso