Banjul, Gambia (PANA) - Madi Jobarteh, The Gambia’s Representative of the Westminster Foundation for Democracy (WFD), has expressed concerns over the tiny West African nation’s draft criminal offences Bill 2019 scheduled to be tabled by Minister of Justice Abubacarr Baa Tambedou on 2 December,2019.
Jobarteh has therefore called on national assembly members not to approve this bill because it contains provisions that limit citizens’ political rights and places the president and the entire government above public scrutiny.
“They are using ‘insult’ as a strategy to achieve that diabolical objective. Looking at the provisions, the government is proposing criminalising ‘insult’ against the president and public officers and their parents under Section 107,” he said.
The provisions state: “Any person who insults, or does any act to bring into hatred or contempt or to excite disaffection against the person of the President, or the Government of The Gambia as by law established, commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a fine not less than fifty thousand dalasi or a term of imprisonment of not less than one year or to both the fine and imprisonment.
“Any person who directs parental insults to the President, Vice President, Cabinet Ministers, Judicial officers, Members of the National Assembly or any public officer holding a public office or in the exercise of his or her official functions, shall be held liable on summary conviction to a fine of not less than ten thousand dalasi and not more than fifty thousand dalasi or a term of imprisonment of not less than one month and not more than six months or to both the fine and imprisonment.”
Jobarteh stressed that this was not the kind of provision one would have in a democracy, adding that the Criminal Code was a very important law as it dealt with how citizens acted and related with each other on a daily basis.
“Insult laws anywhere are used to silence citizens, to stop citizens from scrutinizing their leaders and government and thereby to prevent citizens from exposing and combating corruption as well as from defending their rights. Above all, insult laws are used to prevent citizens from actively participating in the affairs of their society hence create the ground for dictatorship to emerge.
“All Gambians must stand against this Criminal Code Bill that is going before the National Assembly. Engage your National Assembly Member not to vote for this bill so long as it contains this provision among many other obnoxious provisions. We want democracy and good governance in which Gambians have the right and the space to freely exercise our sovereign citizens,” Jobarteh urged.
“The Criminal Code is the law that determines that acts are called offences or crimes for which one is arrested, tried and jailed if you are found to commit them,” he pointed out
-0- PANA MSS/RA 15Nov2019