Statement on The University of The Gambia Saga
Friday, May 18, 2012
The Gambia is a Republican State, not a monarchy where pronouncements may amount to law or carry the effect of law. Public officials should appreciate the dichotomy between law and policy.
In a democracy, the Executive must lead the trend in observing transparent respect for, and enforcement of the rule of law, including empowering State institutions tasked with the application of the law.
The undiluted 1997 Constitution is clear on the roles of the three arms of government, and the supreme Law envisages this to be applied to governance. It is trite principle of constitutional law that all arms of government are coordinate.
For GMC, the Judiciary remains the most important arm of government in a proper democracy. It is the only branch of government that has the legal and constitutional power and authority to nullify the acts of the remaining two arms of government.
Therefore, the one with the authority to uproot and tear as under the acts of the remaining two, and require in their place what ordinarily ought to be, is more superior.
It is also the last hope of the ordinary person, even against the pernicious, marauding power of the State. A well constituted, independent judiciary is the strongest pillar of democracy and the most effective arsenal against abuse of power and autocracy.
That is why I support judicial independence without conditions, and for the same reason, I express appreciation to the British Government through DfID for its support to the Legal Sector Capacity Development.
There can be no judicial independence without an effective fire-wall against unlawful interference and undue influence, particularly from those in authority. I uphold the independence of the judiciary.
This brings me to the recent Press Release from the Office of the President, in which The Gambia Government expressed strong confidence in the Vice Chancellor of UTG.
The Vice Chancellor is a proven experienced intellectual of international repute, and it is commendable that he returned home to serve his country.
However, there is a subsisting case under litigation directly involving and impacting the University administration in which startling facts were admitted into evidence.
This case is still pending before the courts, and no conclusive judicial determination has yet been made.
GMC believes the Government’s Press Release may have the effect of subjecting the court in a dilemma in this case. Courts are ordinarily jealous of their jurisdiction, and rightly so.
It is no accident that the law of sub judice is often invoked to preserve the integrity of judicial processes.
GMC believes that in achieving the overriding goal of judicial independence, pronouncements that may border on sub judice should be restrained pending the final determination of the case under litigation.
In effect, it is against the law to try to influence the outcome of a judicial decision with public pronouncements or similar acts. Those who swear an oath to protect, preserve and enforce the Constitution and other Laws of the Land should not be found wanting.
No one is above the law, and no authority should either directly or indirectly endeavour to prejudice the just determination of cases and matters before the courts. GMC advocates for the total independence of the judiciary. The Gambian public and others are keenly watching.
Author: Mai Ahmad Fatty GMC Party Leader