Respect the will of the people — Oulanyah
The Deputy Speaker of Parliament, Rt.Hon. Jacob Oulanyah has said that the will of the people, on how they should be governed, should be respected.
Oulanyah says that the argument that the law should be used to stop a leader from seeking election is taking away the mandate granted by the people of that country.
‘Let the people determine how they want to be governed. This should be respected and not be superintended by external forces,” he said.
The Deputy Speaker made these remarks while debating the Report of the Committee on Political Affairs on Constitutional Limits.
The Report was presented at a joint meeting of the African, Caribbean and Pacific-European Union (ACP-EU) Joint Parliamentary Assembly at the EU Parliament in
Brussels, Belgium on Thursday, 13th October 2016.
Oulanyah added that the argument that sitting presidents cannot be removed through elections is also not sustainable as seen by changes in many African countries.
‘There are several countries where incumbents have been removed without using the law. It has been through the general will of the people. If the constitution says that the population wants term limits, that is the view, and if not, so be it,” he stated.
Hon. Fitz Jackson from Jamaica also added that if it is the will of the people to have a leader for more years, this will should not be denied or suppressed.
‘We have to be careful that while we need to insulate against dictatorships, we should not cause the will of the people to be suppressed,” he said.
Fitz suggested that if there is a change in constitutional terms, the sitting president should not be a beneficiary of that change but the one who comes after.
‘There is need to ensure that people from respective countries have the will of constitutional amendments and mitigate against the danger of sitting leaders perpetuating their leadership,” he added.
The Report of the Committee states that there is an emerging trend where constitutional provisions are being reversed with attempts to drop term limits in many countries.
The report identifies use of a weak judiciary to creatively interpret term limits, use of the legislature to extend time in power beyond the mandated tenure without abolishing term limits and abolishing of term limits through referenda or parliament.
The Committee however, adds that the citizenry of a country should judge the legitimacy of its president.
“The growing consciousness of civil society of the need to strengthen the democratic culture through effective and fair political competition implies an increasingly important rejection of the life presidency model with a recent survey revealing that 75 percent of Africans prefer terms limits,” the report concludes.