Sierra Leone’s Attorney General responds to critics

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 5 April 2017

Sierra Leone’s Attorney General and Minister of Justice – Joseph Franklyn Kamara is at the receiving end of what many independent observers describe as a well organised campaign to derail his presidential ambition.

And there are suspicions the ongoing parliamentary drama over the alleged failure of the National Electoral Commissioner and the Attorney General, to duly table proposals for the electoral boundary delimitation and voter registration, is also a part of a concerted campaign to discredit and derail the Attorney General’s bid to become the presidential candidate of the ruling APC.

Although the Chief National Electoral Commissioner – Nfa Alie (Photo) and Attorney General Joseph Kamara accept that the documents were tabled in parliament later than expected, several members of parliament are now pleading with their parliamentary colleagues for common sense to prevail, so as not to delay or annul the ongoing voter registration process.

The Attorney General told parliament that the slight delay in tabling the documents must not be used as a reason to jeopardise the voter registration process, which started two weeks ago. He told parliament that Statutory Instruments Nos.43 and 46 that are before parliament should not be withdrawn. They can be retroactively approved by parliament to become law, he said.

But after much confusion over the constitutionality of the late tabling of the documents, added to the criticisms and accusations of incompetence levied against the Attorney General, the Sierra Leone Telegraph asked Attorney General Joseph Kamara to set the record straight as regards the constitutional issues relating to the electoral process.  This is what he said:

“The principles governing the conduct of parliamentary elections in Sierra Leone are stipulated in Section 31 to Section 39 of the 1991 Constitution. Powers exercised under Section 38 of the 1991 Constitution can ONLY be by Constitutional Instrument.

“Constitutional Instrument means an instrument made under a power conferred by the Constitution” itself. The Delimitation of Constituencies for the current membership of Parliament was done by Constitutional Instrument titled the “Parliamentary Election (Delimitation of Constituencies)” Order No. 5 of 2007.

“For the purpose of electing ordinary Members of Parliament for the 2017 Election, the Electoral Commission is seeking to divide Sierra Leone into 132 Constituencies upon the written request of this House of Parliament, similarly, via the same Constitutional Instrument process.

The Ward Boundaries (Delimitation) Order 2017

“For the purpose of registering voters for the election of President of Sierra Leone, Members of Parliament and Members of a Local Council, the Electoral Commission may, by Statutory Instrument, divide Sierra Leone into Wards. (Photo: Joseph Kamara).

“The Ward Boundaries Delimitation for the 2012 Elections was made pursuant to the Ward Boundaries (Delimitation) Order No. 4 of 2011, A subsidiary legislation, section 2 of the Electoral laws Act 2002.

“Hence the Ward Boundary Delimitation Order 2017, seeking to divide Sierra Leone into 423 wards is a subsidiary legislation similar to the Ward Boundary Delimitation Order of 2011. In this regard, the process was correct in 2011 and so it is for 2017; as legislations of this nature, have been through subsidiary legislation and not Acts of Parliament, since the coming into operation of the 1991 Constitution.

Timing of laying Paper before Parliament and Boundary Delimitation

“The receipt of the Parliamentary Delimitation of Constituencies and the Ward Boundaries Delimitation Orders 2017, by the Office of the Attorney-General in December 2016 were based on the Provisional Census Report. It is our view that my Office awaited the final Census Report, prior to Parliamentary consideration which was due in January 2017.

“Indeed, in January 2017, Statistics Sierra Leone issued the final Census Report. On a comparative analysis, it was observed that the difference between the Provisional and the Final Report is less than 25% which is allowable within the law for the utility of such a Report.

“It should be noted also that The Proclamation for the Presidential and Parliamentary Elections were made on the 14th of February 2017.

“After review of the submission from NEC, our office forwarded the documents to the Government Printer, for publication in the Gazette, prior to reference to Parliament. After the computation of the publication time, it is safe to conclude that our presentation to Parliament on the 16th of March 2017 is within reasonable time.”

Legality of submission of The Parliamentary Elections (Delimitation of Constituencies) Order, 2017

“Section 38(5) provides that where the boundaries of any constituency are altered in accordance with the provisions of Section 38, that alteration shall come into effect upon the next dissolution of parliament after that has been approved by parliament.

“This section implies that an alteration becomes efficacious upon the next dissolution of Parliament, on December 7th 2017.  Until then, Parliament is at liberty to approve any alteration at any time, so long as it is done on or before the 7th December 2017.

“The Constituency and Ward Boundary delimitations made pursuant to Section 38 of the Constitution of Sierra Leone and Section 14 of the Public Election Act 2012 respectively are a process covering the period between 14th February 2017 and the 7th December 2017 being the date of Dissolution of Parliament.

“It is our considered opinion, that within such period, Parliament enjoys the prerogative to approve the instruments. Now therefore, the legislative Instruments before this House are legal and valid in law,” concludes the Attorney General.

At the close of the parliamentary debate on Tuesday, the Speaker of the House promised the country that the two Statutory Instruments Nos.43 and 46 tabled by the Attorney General and the NEC, will be approved by parliament tomorrow, 6th of April 2017. Will they?

But will the apparent witch-hunt and campaign to derail the presidential ambition of Attorney General Joseph Kamara continue?

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