Virtual Kollage: The main features of the 1947 colonial constitution of the Gambia

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The main features of the 1947 colonial constitution of the Gambia

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THE MAIN FEATURES OF THE 1947 COLONIAL CONSTITUTION OF THE GAMBIA
Introduction
The Gambia was one of the least populated colonies of the British Empire situated in West Africa. It became a colony in 1816, situated on the St. Mary’s island (now Banjul Island). In the lifetime of the colony, many constitutions were used to administer the colony. One of them was the 1947 constitution which was introduced during the tenure of Sir Hilary Blood as the Governor.

THE MAIN FEATURES OF THE CONSTITUTION
Legislative Council
The 1947 colonial constitution of the Gambia provided for a Legislative Council. The membership was made up of three ex-officio members, three official members, six appointees and one elected member. Only one constituency was created at the time. In all, five candidates contested the seat and Edward Francis Small emerged the winner with 1491 votes, constituting 46.67% of the total votes cast. Among the members of the Council were the Governor, the Treasurer, the Chief Magistrate and the Collector of Customs.

Executive Council
The constitution made provisions for an Executive Council. The members included, but were not limited to the Governor, the Treasurer, the Chief Magistrate and the Collector of Customs. In the same 1947, some Africans were appointed to serve on the Council. They included first, John Colley Faye, who was appointed by the Governor, then followed by another appointment by the Governor of Chief Tamba Jammeh. Also, there was an election into the Council which was won by John Francis Small. These three Africans were unofficial members of the Executive Council. The main function of the Executive Council was to give advice to the Governor and to assist him in the administration of the colony.

ADVANTAGES OF THE CONSTITUTION
Increased membership of the Legislative Council
One of the advantages of the new constitution was that the membership was increased from eleven to fourteen. Also, for the first time.

Africans in the Executive Council
In 1947, some Africans were appointed to serve on the Executive Council to serve on the Executive Council. Specifically, in November, 1947, John Colley Faye was appointed by Governor Andrew Barkworth Wright to serve on the Executive Council. Then later, Chief Tamba Jammeh was also appointed to serve on the Council.

Elective Principle
Another advantage of the constitution was that for the first time, the elective principle was used to send a member to the Legislative Council. An African, called Edward Francis Small was elected to serve on the Legislative Council.

DISADVANTAGES OF THE CONSTITUTION
Governor’s Veto Power
One of the disadvantages of the constitution was that the Governor still wielded his power of veto and certification. With the power of veto, the Governor could prevent a bill from being passed into law and with his power of Certification; he could force a bill to be passed into law even if majority of the members of the Legislative Council opposed it.

Advisory capacity of Legislative Council
Another disadvantage of the 1947 constitution was that the Legislative Council continued to function in an advisory capacity. They did not have the powers of a full House of Representative to make laws binding the Governor and the Executive Council. The Governor was under no obligation to accept the advice of the Executive Council.

Limited Franchise
Though the elective principle was used to elect members into the Executive and the Legislative Councils, the franchise was still limited. Up until this stage, the principle of universal adult suffrage had still not been introduced. Also, the election did not cover the entire colony.

African minority in the Executive Council
Also, even though there were Africans in the Executive Council, they were in the minority and coupled with the fact that they were only advisers and the Governor was not bound to take their advice, their collective voice did not carry any much weight. Again, they were not handed any departments to head like some of their European counterparts. In other words, they did not have any portfolios.

Violated the principle of Separation of Powers
The constitution as it stood at the time violated the principle of Separation of Powers. This was because there were members of the Legislative Council who were at the same time members of the Executive Council. The principle of Separation of Powers states that the three organs of government must be separate in functions, powers and personnel. There were no separations in personnel and functions.

SAMPLE QUESTION(S)
1. a. What were the features of the 1947 constitution of the Gambia?
    b. Highlight three advantages and three disadvantages of the constitution.

ALSO READ:
The functions of the Prime Minister under the 1965 independent constitution of the Gambia
The functions of the Governor-General under the independent constitution of the Gambia
The main features of the of the 1965 independent constitution of the Gambia

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