By Omar Bah
The leader of the Gambia Moral Congress has opposed the government’s plan to extend the state of emergency to three months.
This morning the National Assembly will debate over the extension of the emergence to three months.
“Executive decisions must be predicated on evidence-based policy or law. So far, there is no empirical or quantitative evidence presented by the State, or impact assessment report to justify the emergency extension for up to another three months,” Mai Ahmad Fatty told The Standard yesterday.
Fatty, who was among the first people to call on the Gambian leader to declare a state of emergency, added: “This would be the longest duration imposed by any country in West Africa, exceeding countries like Senegal with over 190 confirmed cases or Ghana with 106 and Ivory Coast with 165 confirmed cases. Ghana and Ivory Coast limited executive measures to major cities.”
The former special adviser to the President said although Senegal has imposed a curfew under their emergency declaration, the lockdown is for 30 days.
“The Gambia has only four confirmed cases, and we jump from a week to three months.”
“The reason why states apply interim measures for shorter duration is to retain the situation under continuous evaluation. Heightened actions are then gradually or exponentially introduced to raise the level of national response depending on ongoing assessment. No such situation exists in The Gambia,” he said.
Fatty said the government must not appear to be groping in the dark on this matter, or proceed on the fact-less basis of disconnected probabilities.
“We must take advantage of knowledge and experience sharing in dealing with The Gambia specifics. Actions, decisions or measures taken in a void without any coherent policy nexus or factual grounding is not recommended,” he added.
He continued: “State House informed us of a cabinet sub-committee that is seeing to this matter. Do they have a policy on the pandemic or is it just a mere discussion forum? What are their findings of the potential national trend and threats to demand such a lengthy extension? Government must tell us what they know that we don’t know about the emerging transmission situation potential in our country.”
This, he said, will enable the citizens acquiesce to sub-letting their sacred entrenched constitutional rights unto the pernicious custody of the State for next three months.
The GMC leader said government should consider relief measures to ease the tough living conditions.
“Prolonging the dire situation of thousands of poor and vulnerable families for three months, without palliative intervention by the State, is unreasonable and unwise. We must effectively tackle COVID-19 without equivocation, and we must do so without inflicting untold human suffering of a national scale on our people,” he added.
Fatty added that the government should seek parliamentary approval for the extension of the state of emergency limiting it to three weeks and not three months as proposed.
This, he added, will further provide the National Assembly sufficient opportunity with verifiable data on government’s enforcement measures and overall conduct relating to the suspended constitutional provisions or any new decrees proclaimed under emergency powers.
Fatty said the government should clearly stipulate which specific provisions of the constitution and other laws are being suspended under emergency powers.
“The principle of certainty requires that this be made public and known to citizens. It’s the law. If the principle of certainty is vitiated, the State cannot punish specific violations particularly entrenched provisions or enforce unknown measures against the public. They too must be proclaimed or may fall within the exceptions of ignorance of the law as a defence,” he noted.
He urged the Justice Minister Abubacarr Tambadou to review his proposals and perhaps conduct additional consultations, including with lead stakeholders and our development partners. “If he hadn’t done so.”
“If the National Assembly approves the 90 days extension, they should accompany this with a stimulus package to mitigate the severity of human suffering,” he said.