Virtual Kollage: The main features of the 1954 constitution of the Gambia

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The main features of the 1954 constitution of the Gambia


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THE MAIN FEATURES OF THE 1954 CONSTITUTION OF THE GAMBIA
Introduction
The 1954 constitution of colonial Gambia was introduced by the then Governor called Sir. Percy Wyn-Harris. He was the Governor of the Gambia between 1st December 1949 and 19th June 1958. This new constitution was an improvement over the previous one introduced in 1951.

MAIN FEATURES OF THE CONSTITUTION
Legislative Council
The constitution established a Legislative Council for the colony which increased the membership of the body. There were seven unelected members who included the Colonial Secretary, the Financial Secretary, the Attorney-General, the Senior Commissioner, the Director of Medical Services and two others appointed by the Governor. There were also four elected members. They were, Pierre Sarr N’Jie of the United Party, John Colley Faye of the Democratic Party, and Ibrahima Momodou Garba-Jahumpa of the Musim Congress Party. The fourth was an independent candidate called Henry Madi. Their main function was to make laws.

Executive Council
The membership of the Executive Council, provided for under the 1954 constitution included, the Governor of the colony presiding, the Colonial Secretary, the Director of Medical Services and the Collector of Customs. The main function was to assist the Governor to administer the colony. Provision was also made for the appointment of African members to the Council by the Governor.

SIGNIFICANT ELEMENTS OF THE 1954 CONSTITUTION
Elective principle maintained
Under the 1954 constitution, like the previous one in 1951, the elective principle was maintained in getting some members into the Legislative Council. Thus, three members, including Pierre Sarr N’Jie of the United Party, John Colley Faye of the Democratic Party, Ibrahima Momodou Garba-Jahumpa of the Musim Congress Party were elected into the Legislative Council. The fourth, an independent candidate called Henry Madi also became a member when he won the seat in his constituency.

Partisan politics maintained
The constitution also maintained political party activities as a means of selecting some of the members of the Legislative Council. Therefore, under the arrangement, three members of the Council were elected on the ticket of a political party. They were Pierre Sarr N’Jie of the United Party, John Colley Faye of the Democratic Party, Ibrahima Momodou Garba-Jahumpa of the Musim Congress Party and Henry Madi an independent candidate.

Number of parties increased
Again, it is significant to mention that the number of political parties which contested the elections under the 1954 constitution increased from two to three, they were the Democratic Party, the Muslim Congress Party and the latest one, the United Party. 

Increased elected members in the Legislative Council
Also, the number of elected members in the Legislative Council was increased from three to four. Thus three people, Pierre Sarr N’Jie of the United Party, John Colley Faye of the Democratic Party, Ibrahima Momodou Garba-Jahumpa of the Muslim Congress Party. An independent candidate called Henry Madi was also elected to serve on the Council.

DISADVANTAGES OF THE CONSTITUTION
Limited Franchise
Though the elective principle was maintained under the 1954 constitution it was still inadequate because before one could qualify to vote, one still had to be of a certain age or own property valued at a certain amount and must be literate to a certain level. Universal Adult Suffrage was still about six years away.

Governor’s Veto Power
The constitution did not meet the aspirations of the people because the Governor still possessed his powers of veto and certification. With the veto powers, the Governor could prevent a bill from being passed into law. With the power of certification, the Governor could force a bill to be passed into law even if majority of the members of the Legislative Council were opposed to it.

Advisory role of the Executive Council
The Executive Council still functioned as an advisory body. It did not have much control over the Governor. In fact, the Governor could choose to or not to take the advice of members of the Executive Council. In other words, he chose to listen or not to listen to them.

Violated the principle of Separation of Powers
The constitution was a violation of the principle of Separation of Powers because some the members of the Legislative Council were also members of the Executive Council. This is not in agreement with the principles of Separation of Powers which says there must be a strict separation between the three arms of government in functions, powers and personnel.

ALSO READ:
The main features of the 1947 constitution of the Gambia
The main features of the 1951 constitution of the Gambia
The main features of the 1960 constitution

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