Assembly approves 45-day state of emergency

Monday, April 6, 2020

Legislators of the National Assembly after long hours of debate on Friday finally approved the extension of the State of Public Emergency across the country for a period of 45 days as measures to combat the spread of covid-19.

The Gambia has registered four cases of covid-19 with two having recovered, one under treatment and one death.

Deputies, however, rejected the initially proposed extension period of 90 days as indicated in the motion tabled by the attorney general and minister of Justice Aboubacarr Tambadu on Thursday.

Suwaibou Touray, member for Wuli East and the vice chairperson of Human Rights and Constitution Matters Committee at the Assembly said the concerns advanced by legislators include: whether Presidential Proclamations followed the due process; proclamation and subsidiary legislations were published in a Gazette; that the 90-day extension is justifiable and whether restrictions imposed are reasonable and justifiable under a democratic society.

According to him, the committee noted that the 21-day proclamation implied that the National Assembly was not in session and that the mentioned subsidiary legislations were published in the Gazette; with each subsidiary legislation imposing restrictions on the enjoyment of fundamental human rights and freedoms, but without compensation.

Hon. Touray added that the committee is of the view that commercial businesses should not be totally banned, but only opening and closing times should be restricted.

He said there have been divergent views among deputies, but finally agreed on recommending for 45 days. “However, it is equally advised to take note of the seriousness of the pandemic,” he underlined.

He pointed out that the committee also recommends that the Finance, Health, Trade, Tourism, Transport and Interior ministries to work with Justice Ministry to come up with a compensatory mechanism to provide relief package to the most vulnerable during the times of restrictions. The committee also advised the Justice Ministry to clarify the reason that led to the declaration of the second proclamation and the non-applicability of the 21 days’ duration of the first proclamation as the National Assembly was in session.

In response, Aboubacarr Tambadu, the attorney general and minister of Justice, made reference to the first proclamation by the president on 18 March 2020, saying the situation dramatically changed in the country and around the world in the ensuing week with reports of three cases of infection and one death as a result of the viral infection in the Gambia.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), he added, the number of countries affected by the pandemic increased to 171 and the number of people killed also increased to 20,834 within a week.

“In response to this increased threat of the virus to the country, the President, on 26 March 2020, and acting under section 34(1)(b) of the 1997 Constitution, issued a second proclamation declaring that a state of public emergency exists in the whole of The Gambia,” the minister said.

He added that this was duly communicated to the speaker of the National Assembly with a request for the National Assembly to extend the president’s declaration of a state of public emergency pursuant to section 34(2) of the constitution.

Author: Ismaila Sonko