As The Gambia prepares to introduce a new Bill dubbed: ‘Judicial Officers Remuneration and Other Entitlements Bill 2023’ , there have been mixed reactions from the public regarding the Bill in its entirety. While some think that this is a scam from the government, others think it is a good bill.
However, the Attorney General and Minister of Justice Dawda Jallow is expected to table the Bill before Parliamentarians on Monday.
Previously, this Bill was included in the Draft Constitution 2020, which was rejected by Parliament due to many reasons. Although people might argue that this Bill forms part of the reasons the Draft Constitution was rejected but majority were also interested in the debate of the Two Term Limit of the president and other issues.
The Judicial Officers Remuneration and Other Entitlements Bill 2023 is aimed at establishing a framework for the remuneration, pensions, allowances, and other entitlements of judicial officers in The Gambia. The Bill also recognises the important role that judicial officers play in promoting the rule of law, maintaining good governance, and ensuring the administration of justice.
The controversy surrounding the Bill is the economic aspect of it. The money involved and privildeges in relation to our poor economic status. This is understandable and it is normal when it creates public outcry.
However, I am of the view that it is a piece of progressive law and inline with best practices and international standards, just like in many countries where there is strong democracy. Judicial officers play a very crucial role in the functioning of a democratic State and they deserve to be well paid and looked after.
Democracy is not about mere lip service. If we are really serious about establishing strong and effective democratic credentials for The Gambia, promoting security of tenure and strengthening the independence and sacrosanct nature of the Judiciary is certainly a fundamental ingredient.
Additionally, passing the Bill would fit into the fundamental public outcry to address corruption in public office and its root causes because the better paid the Judicial officers are, the less likely they would be susceptible to financial inducement. One may argue that the introduction of such a Bill is a new initiative in our developing country and people might not fully understand its purport but in the long run it augurs well for fundamentally strengthening good governance, democracy, sustainable development and the rule of law.
Finally it cannot be strongly argued that the Judiciary has not made fundamental strides in advancing the rule of law and access to justice through numerous initiatives of upgrading its infrastructure, enhancing the capacity of Judicial officers and ensuring that progressive Gambianisation of the Judiciary is realised.
The Judiciary, through many judicial decisions have committed to advancing the ideals of accountability in public office, promoting good governance as well as ensuring respect and adherence to the principles of fundamental rights and freedom. To build on this success therefore, it is imperative that judicial officers do not look out of place and also to further ensure that we don’t lose the judicial talents at our disposal in an increasingly competitive job market both at home and abroad.