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HomeGambia NewsPRESIDENT OF THE BAR ASSOCIATION SPEAKS ON THE JUDICIAL OFFICERS REMUNERATION BILL

PRESIDENT OF THE BAR ASSOCIATION SPEAKS ON THE JUDICIAL OFFICERS REMUNERATION BILL

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Salieu Taal, the president of the Gambia Bar Association, has spoken on the hotly debated judicial officers’ compensation bill, claiming that it will protect the impartiality and integrity of judges.

The administration introduced a law last Monday that aims to make numerous modifications to the terms of employment for judges, including generous allowances and pensions, cars, lodging, and even payments to the wives of judges who pass away in office.
The measure, which will be given a second reading today, sparked controversy and outrage in the public, with several commentators claiming that “following the executive and legislature, it is now the turn of the judiciary to rip Gambians off their hard-earned tax money.”

But in his response as a private person, Mr. Taal said that it’s crucial for the public to comprehend the context and history of the issue of paying judges “because of the uniqueness of their role as the independent arbiters of law.”

“In my opinion, this is really about helping to safeguard the independence and integrity of the offices they hold and the delicate high stakes issues they adjudicate on a daily basis,” he said in an interview with The Standard yesterday.

As a nation emerging from a dictatorship, the judiciary is one of the key institutions of the state alongside other state organs that needs its independence safeguarded and protected, he continued, adding that without a better pay structure, it will be difficult to attract and retain high quality legal practitioners to work for government. “So I support the enhancement and improvement of the remunerations,” he stated.

While acknowledging the fury that the measure sparked, Mr. Taal urged people to keep in mind that its specifics can be examined in the light of today’s economic reality.

“I have faith that our NAMs will accomplish this conscientiously while taking inspiration from similar experiences in sister jurisdictions. After saying that, let me add that the overall pay system for the entire public sector, and in particular the lower cadre, needs to be evaluated and improved,” stated Mr. Taal.

When asked about the assertion made by certain observers that the proposed bill amounts to “public thievery,” Mr. Taal responded that this charge is unjust.

“I do not believe it is appropriate to label the idea as public theft. The judiciary does not have the power to make law or policy. They put out a plan, which was discussed in cabinet and is now being considered by the National Assembly. People have the right to completely or partially disagree with the bill depending on how they understand it. I think we could have a more educated debate if there were more in-depth talks and exchanges regarding the rationale for the bill. Our chosen national representatives have the final say on whether to adopt, reject, or change the measure. “My recommendation is that the bill be referred to the proper committee for careful examination,” he said in conclusion.

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