VP launches 2009 Revised Laws of The Gambia
Monday, February 14, 2011
The vice president and minister of Women Affairs, Aja Dr Isatou Njie-Saidy, Friday officially launched the 2009 Revised Edition of the Laws of The Gambia, at a ceremony held at the Attorney General and Ministry of Justice complex in Banjul.
The revised laws covered the period 1990 to 2009 and included both status and subsidiary laws operating in The Gambia. The revised law book was published by Lexis Nexis, a publishing company in South Africa, and was prepared by the commissioner of Law Revision for the 2009 Edition, Raymond Shock.
He was assisted by Mrs Grace Mowoe, a parliamentary counsel at the Ministry of Justice; Justice Esther Ota, former president of the Gambia Court of Appeal; Cherno Marena, legal draft man at the Ministry of Justice; and Dr Henry Carrol, the chairman of the Law Reform Commission at the Ministry of Justice. The published version, which can now be accessible through electronic means, was sponsored by the government of The Gambia.
Speaking at the launching ceremony on behalf of the Gambian leader, VP Njie-Saidy told the gathering that the government of The Gambia under the able and dynamic leadership of President Jammeh is cognizant of the complementary roles of the three arms of government such as the executive, judiciary and the legislature.
She noted that justice is sweetest when freshest and that justice delayed is justice denied, which amounts to gross violation of the rule of law. She said: “My government has greatly contributed towards ensuring an effective, efficient and accessible justice delivery system as amply manifested in the recent establishment of supportive institutions such as the Alternative Dispute Resolution Secretariat (ADRS), the National Legal Aid Agency under the purview of the Ministry of Justice. There has been a rapid and significant socio-economic development following the genuine and paradigm shift in political power, ushered in by the July 22nd Revolution of 1994.”
She further stated that a new dispensation for the realisation of hopes and aspirations of Gambian people was created underpinned by an effective and enabling legislations grounded in a new fundamental law under the 1997 Constitution of the Second Republic of The Gambia.
The vice president assured the gathering that the government of The Gambia is aware of the fact that access to justice does not end with construction of new court buildings or establishment of institutions. “But rather it is required among other things that, the laws on which regulation of our interpersonal relationships and dispensation of justice are based are accessible to all,” she said, adding that laws are not the exclusive preserve of members of the legal profession, although in the daily professional activities they may need laws more than others.
She stated that laws permeate every stratum of society and as part of the society itself, reflect the political, social, economic and cultural realities as well as aspirations of the people. She also spoke extensively about the importance of laws in our daily operations such as in commerce, agriculture, health, administration, security, governance among others, explaining that they evolve as the society changes.
Commenting on the laws enacted by the National Assembly since 1990 to 2009 and the need to have them captured in our law books, VP Njie-Saidy said that the National Assembly has been a beehive of legislative activities, because many laws have been repealed including the abrogation of the 1970 Constitution of the Republic of The Gambia.
She continued: “New laws were also enacted to create the necessary environment for socio-economic development of the country and the Assembly continues to enact laws in accordance with development agendas of the government of The Gambia as encapsulated in Vision 2020 and other development programmes. Worthy of note is the volume of new laws and amendments increased over the years and they became increasingly inaccessible even to judges and lawyers.
New acts, regulations and amendments were scattered in a plethora of gazette publications, many of which were in short supply and out of print. This was indeed an unsatisfactory state of our printed laws, which needed to be addressed. I have not lost sight of this reality and such is product of today’s launching of the 2009 Revised Edition of the Laws of The Gambia.”
She said that despite these competing needs, the government of The Gambia decided to fully sponsor the entire publication for the 2009 Revised Edition of the Laws of The Gambia. She then urged all stakeholders including the legal professionals, banks, parastatals and other commercial houses to collaborate with the government in ensuring that the laws are regularly updated and accessible to all, saying, “we cannot afford to wait for another 19 years to put our laws in order”. She finally commended those who in one way or the other contributed towards the revision and publication of the 2009 Revised Edition of the Laws of The Gambia.
Sheriff Tambedou, president of the Gambia Bar Association (GBA) on behalf of the entire bar members, thanked the Gambian leader for sponsoring the compilation and publication of the revised edition. He described the 2009 Revised Edition of the Laws of The Gambia as timely considering the nature and fate of some enacted and subsidiary laws, which are most often difficult to be accessed by both lawyers and other interested parties.
The GBA prexy acknowledged that the publication will greatly make the work of lawyers easy and flexible as far as tracing and accessibility of laws of The Gambia are concerned. He suggested for periodic review of the laws of the country so as to keep in tune with the currents of change in the globe, especially in the 21st century, which is considered the century of technology.
Edward Gomez, the Attorney General and minister of Justice said the duty to respect the law has to be accompanied by the rights of access to the whole spectrum of legal documents in a way that is meaningful to the citizens and enterprises rather than just complying with the formal requirement of being publicly aware. Minister Gomez then cited the famous legal adage that “Ignorance of the law is no an excuse”, adding that it is also true that transparency and accountability can be obtained only when legislation is made promptly accessible to citizens in a way that matches best their different information needs.
He stressed that law revision is not new in The Gambia and that it is a mechanism for development of law, which has been part of the country’s system since the emergence of nationhood. “Ideally there should be a revised edition of the laws of The Gambia every 10 years. The last edition prepared under the authority of the Law Revision Act, 1990 came into force on July 1st 1990, about 20 years ago.
Since then laws have been found scattered in supplements to gazettes and legal notices accumulating year after year in unincorporated statutory provisions which resulted in unsatisfactory situation where the laws became increasingly inaccessible to all including the interested laypersons and even lawyers. The public volume of the Laws of The Gambia 1990, therefore ceased to be as authoritative, clear and comprehensive as they should be,” he said.
The Justice minister remarked that justice is the foundation on which civilised societies are founded; he also spoke about the role of his ministry as an institution meant to advance the course of justice by ensuring that legal system goes beyond mere existence of law and order.
He thanked President Jammeh for his foresight in sponsoring the compilation, revision and publication of the 2009 Revised Edition of the Laws of The Gambia. He also thanked the publishers Lexis Nexis for accepting to publish the edition on a loose leaf which will create room for insertion and also accessible on the electronic means.
The chief justice of The Gambia, Justice Emmanuel Agim, described the launching as timely considering the state of some of the enacted status laws and other subsidiary legislations. He also spoke about the importance of the rule of law and the need to have periodic revision of laws. CJ Agim thanked the Gambian leader for his support by sponsoring the whole exercise; and the vice president, for what he called her tireless commitment towards national activities.
Dr Henry D.R Carrol, the chairman of the Law Reform Commission at the Ministry of Justice and law lecturer at the UTG, who chaired occasion, gave a detailed distinction between the status and subsidiary laws of The Gambia. According to him, pursuant to Section 7(c) of the Constitution of The Gambia, the existing laws of The Gambia included laws that are contained in volumes of the laws of The Gambia and others that are not encapsulated in the volumes of the laws of The Gambia.
He cited the old English laws that were enforced in England in 1888 pursuant to Section 2 of the Constitution of The Gambia as the Laws of England Application Act, which was contained in Cap 5 in the 1990 Laws of The Gambia. He then spoke extensively about the importance of periodic revision of laws and its impact on human, political and socio-economic development of any given country.
Dr Carrol also expressed sincere thanks to the Gambian leader for sponsoring the whole process of the compilation, revision and publication of the 2009 Revised Edition of the Laws of The Gambia. David M. Desborough, a representative from Lexis Nexis, thanked the government of The Gambia through the Ministry of Justice for having confidence in them for the publication. According to the publishing company representative, his company is among the biggest law publishers in the world and they are reputed for quality and standard publications.
Raymond Shock, the commissioner for the 2009 Revised Law Edition of The Gambia, thanked his team members for a job well done and their cooperation throughout the course of the work.
Author: by Sanna Jawara & Sidiq Asemota