Is the Presidency Consulting the AG?

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By Simon Sabally

The principal mandate of the Attorney General and Minister of Justice Baa Tambadou is to provide legal advice to the president who is vested with executive power pursuant to s. 76 of the Constitution. He is obligated to provide both legal opinion and advice to the president and the government before they take or make decisions.

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Unfortunately, it is becoming very glaring to everyone that either the AG is not performing his foremost constitutional mandate and/or the presidency is not consulting the AG before taking decisions. I said these assertions due to the following:

1. On 28 February 2017, Mai Ahmed Fatty presented a Bill on removing the upper age limit enshrined in s. 62(1)(b) of the Constution. When erudite NAMs challenged the legality of the Bill, AG Tambadou advised the president not to sign the flawed Bill. I wondered why the interior minister Fatty took the Bill to the NA seeking to amend the Constitution only for the AG to declare the process flawed. It could either be that he was not consulted or he erred in his understanding of the amendment process. If he was not put on the loop, he should have protested to his principal.

2. On 28 August 2018, SveinAge Sandaker, a Norwegian convicted Paedophile was pardoned by President Barrow a day before Eidul Adha prayer. After a sustained public outcry, AG Tambadou who was in Mecca revealed that he did not participate in the proceedings of the committee of the prerogative of mercy and his representative was instructed not to support the pardon of any person convicted of rape and child abuse. Again, the power to pardon a person is regulated by s. 82(1) and (2) of the Constitution and AG was categorically mentioned as a member of the committee. This decision would have made a diligent adviser to step aside voluntarily based on the consistent failure of the principal to consult him.

3. On 8 January 2019, Directorate of Press & Public Relations Office of the president in a press released stated that the president has ” accordingly accepted to respect and grant the wishes of the community, particularly families of the victims, to immediately withdraw all the charges against the PIU officers and civilian perpetrators concerned.” Barely after 24 hours, the press release from the Ministry of Justice said the presidency’s press release was “unfortunate choice of words.” What? Why was AG not consulted before the release of the OP press release? Again, it showed a pattern which keeps unfolding since February 2017.

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I will not impugn the academic and legal qualification of AG Tambadou. By many measures, he is qualified and knowledgeable. He has proven his mettle both home and abroad. What I have not seen him do since February 28 is his decision to hand back his job to Barrow who has penchant for taking decisions without his advice. I believe such a decision by the AG will complete his resume of excellence and integrity. He cannot continue to blame other people to cover up his indecision and /or the presidency’s decision not to consult him. First time, he blamed Mai Fatty, second time round, he blamed other members of the committee of the prerogative of Mercy and now he puts it to the ‘choice of words’, meaning the writer(s).

President Barrow appears to be the mastermind of his own government. The decisions he and government take continued to be inimical to the progress and aspirations we yearned for when we voted on the 1st of December.

Please AG tell the president that rule of law is the foundation of good governance and democracy and take the most appropriate decision.

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