Democracy at work
Friday, March 27, 2009
Democracy is a means for the people to choose their leaders and to hold their leaders accountable for their policies and their conduct in office. The people decide who will represent them in parliament, and who will head the government at the national and local levels. They do so by choosing between competing parties in regular, free and fair elections; hence government is based on the consent of the governed.
A working democracy is therefore one in which the ability of the elected representatives to exercise decision-making power is subject to the rule of law, moderated by a constitution that emphasizes the protection of the rights and freedoms of individuals, and which places constraints on the leaders, and on the extent to which the will of the majority can be exercised against the rights of minorities.
Today is the state opening of the National Assembly and the president, His Excellency Professor Alhaji Yahya AJJ Jammeh, in his capacity as head of state, as dictated by the constitution, will proclaim the official start of the Legislative Year. During the session, the president will outline the development plans of the government before deputies for scrutiny.
The National Assembly composes of representatives of the people. Therefore it is only a democratic leader responsible to the people, who will appear before such a house to seek the consent of the people on the policies and programs of the government. Moreover, the principle that engenders separation of powers, engenders as well, checks and balance mechanisms. The opening of the National Assembly by the president will permit such mechanisms to operate; thus strengthen the rule of law.
A democratic society is not ordained by God. It is created by people; their conscience. There is no doubt that the leadership of President Jammeh has bred such a society in The Gambia. The three arms of our government are operating on the basis of separation of powers with the necessary checks and balance mechanisms. Citizens are given a choice as they retain political sovereignty and are informed of the actions of the status quo through the legislature. This is what democracy entails.
As the government continues to provide the enabling environment for the citizens, to serve as the ultimate guardians of their own freedom, and to forge their own path towards the recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of humanity, we as citizens should continue to cement our utmost loyalty to the state. If democracy is to work, we must not only participate and exercise our rights, but must also observe certain principles and rules of democratic conduct. For instance, respect the law and reject violence. We should question the decisions of the government, but not reject the government’s authority.