By Own Correspondent – President Yahya Jammeh has reaffirmed his government’s adherence to the rule of law. The president’s committment to the rule of law was reiterated in a keynote address read on his behalf by the Vice President Isatou Njie-Saidy at the launch of the 2009 Revised Edition of the Laws of The Gambia held at the Ministry of Justice on Friday.
President Jammeh said: “The Government of The Gambia under my leadership is cognizant of the complementary roles of the three organs of government, that is, the Executive, the Legislature and the Judiciary.
“Hence, for the Judiciary, my government has, as its watchword the following adage: that respect for human rights and the rule of law is a formula for peace and sustainable development; that, justice is sweetest when freshest and; that, justice delayed is justice denied and, a violation of rule of law.”
Published in 2010, the publication covers all the Acts and subsidiary legislation currently in operation in The Gambia up to September 2009. A significant development in this revised edition is the publication of the laws in electronic format, thus ensuring a wide distribution of and easy access to the laws of The Gambia.
The revised edition, which consists of 16 volumes, was published by Lexis Nexis, a global provider of legal business and tax information products for governments, professionals, corporate individuals, academicians and students.
According to the Gambian leader, these adage underscored the significance of the launching of the collated revised laws to facilitate the dispensation of justice in a timely, consistent and focused manner by the Judiciary and key stakeholders.
President Jammeh said his government has greatly contributed towards ensuring an effective, efficient and accessible justice delivery system amply manifested, among other things, by the recent establishment of supportive institutions, such as Alternative Dispute Resolution Secretariat and the National Legal Aid Agency, under the purview of the Ministry of Justice.
“Suffice to mention, 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. A new dimension for the realization of the hopes and aspirations of the Gambian people was created, to be underpinned by effective and enabling legislation, grounded on a new fundamental law under the 1997 constitution of the second Republic,” Jammeh stated.
He noted that notwithstanding these “milestone achievements”, his government is equally aware of the fact that access to justice does not end with the construction of new court buildings or the establishment of institutions.
“It requires that the laws, on which the regulation of our interpersonal relationships and the dispensation of justice are based, are accessible to all,” President Jammeh further stated. He added that the laws are not the exclusive preserve of members of the legal profession, although in the daily professional activities, they may need them more than others.
“Laws permeate every stratum of the fabric of society and, as part of society itself, they reflect the political, social, economic and cultural realities and aspirations of the people,” he further noted.
Also speaking at the launching ceremony was the Chief Justice of The Gambia, Justice Emmanuel Akimoye Agim, who asserted that the 2010 revision is one of the many sign posts of President Jammeh’s commitment to the rule of law, noting that periodic revision makes laws more easily known and accessible, and enhances the rule of law.
According to him, the unwritten nature of customary law renders it fluid, inaccessible and difficult to ascertain.
“This rule is soundly defeated by the lack of written records of decisions on the existence of such a rule. The result is that the question of the application of a rule of native law and custom of a community in any situation remains always disputable and requiring proof,” he added.
The Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Edward Anthony Gomez, said the law revision also seeks to improve access to justice by citizens, which he noted is an indispensable attribute of democracy and the rule of law.
“The duty to respect the law has to be accompanied by the right to access to the whole spectrum of legal documents in a way that is meaningful to its citizens and enterprises, rather than just complying with the formal requirement of being publicly aware,” Gomez added.
Justice Minister Gomez stated that law revision is not a new phenomenon in The Gambia, adding that it is a mechanism for the development of a law which has been part of our system since the emergence of our nation.
Also speaking at the launching, the chairman of the Law Reform Commission, Dr. Henry D.R. Carrol, who also doubled as the master of ceremony, revealed that the laws of the Gambia were embedded in nine brown volumes, and they were last revised in 1990.
He stated that the revised laws of the Gambia are now encapsulated in 16 green volumes, giving an additional seven law volumes.
Other speakers at ceremony included Sheriff M. Tamdedou, the President of the Gambia Bar Association, and Raymond Sock Commissioner of Law Revision and a former Attorney General and Minister of Justice.