Sierra Leone Telegraph: 14 August 2015
One has to wonder why on earth some of Sierra Leone’s senior fat cats in government that are responsible for advising president Koroma, are entitled to receiving their monthly salary.
This is an important matter of public interest, because since coming into power in 2007, the president has cheerfully and blindly bungled along, from one bad executive and constitutional blunder to the next.
Robert Mugabe must be hailing himself a saint, after reading about what is happening in Koroma’s Sierra Leone today.
If it is not about the sale and conferring of citizenship on foreigners, in return for millions of dollars, it is the abuse of executive orders – so called powers from above, to arrest political opponents; the signing of dodgy mining agreements and sale of public lands to foreign investors for cash; the by-passing of public procurement laws for personal gain and contract kickbacks – for example, the $12 million buses bought from China on loan without parliament’s prior approval.
Then there is the constitutional blunder, embroiling parliament in corruption cases such as the stolen $14 Million Ebola funds; cases that are within the purview and scope of the police and the Anti-Corruption Commission for proper investigation and prosecution, yet denied of their constitutional duty to perform by the president.
And who will also forget the unconstitutional sacking of the elected vice president Sam Sumana by president Koroma, without going through parliament for a vote of no confidence that could have sanctioned the sacking.
What crass stupidity and buffoonery.
But what is seriously worrying about these unconstitutional blunders, which many in Sierra Leone regard as nothing other than dictatorship, is that they are fast becoming the norm and modus operandi of a failed president, whose end of term of office is nigh.
Typical end of term schoolyard bully boy tactics, some would say.
And the latest episode in this series of constitutional blunders, which should not really happen if the opposition SLPP was doing its job, is the public proclamation by the president, extending some of the Ebola emergency regulations that have been in force for a year, and had de jury come to an end.
What is really annoying independent political observers in the country and the diaspora is that, these Ebola emergency regulations came into force a year ago, in accordance with the constitution, and after parliament had passed a Bill promulgating their enforcement. And, accordingly therefore, only parliament has the right to extend them, once they come to an end after twelve months – not the president.
The constitution does allow for the president to put forward a motion to parliament, if he strongly believes that the country needs another period of emergency restrictions to help tackle the Ebola crisis. Simple as that.
What the president does not have, is the right or privilege of unilaterally proclaiming an extension to the emergency restrictions in any shape or form, without the prior approval of parliament, once those restrictions have ended – de jury.
So last week, president Koroma delivered a radio broadcast announcing the lifting of some of the emergency restrictions and the continuation of others, thus by-passing the provisions clearly laid out in the country’s constitution.
In a properly run democratic parliament, such bad behaviour by the president will automatically set the stage for a showdown with the elected opposition members; but oh no – not in Sierra Leone, despite the opposition – including Charles Margai’s PMDC party, enjoying more than 40% presence in parliament.
Legal luminary, constitutional expert and leader of the PMDC party – Charles Francis Margai (Photo – left with president Koroma, after Koroma had won the 2007 elections with his support), wrote a highly charged letter to the country’s attorney general – Frank kargbo (and quite rightly so), accusing him of failing in his duty yet again, to guide and advice president Koroma about the scope of his constitutional powers, rights and obligations, so as to prevent the president from arrogating powers he does not have.
But the reply sent to Charles Margai by the attorney general is to say the least despicable and shameful.
And one sometimes wonders whether these so called occupants of high offices in the Koroma government, have any respect for the offices they hold.
This is what Charles Margai said in his letter to the attorney general to warrant all the abuse he got in reply:
11th August, 2015
Attorney-General & Minister of Justice,
Lamina Sankoh Street,
Dear Mr. Attorney,
RE: PRESIDENTIAL BROADCAST.
I refer to the question posed by me in a short letter addressed to you dated 7th instant.
Considering the importance of its contents, I must confess that I am not amused at your failure to respond promptly or at all.
The language employed by Mr. President in the said broadcast to wit, in paragraph (8) eight (5) five “…I hereby proclaim another State of Public Emergency as provided by Law,” is to say the least, self defeating!
One may ask which Law is he referring to? Could it be subsection (14) of section 29 of Act No.6 of 1991?
I appreciate the fact that Mr. President is not a Lawyer and therefore depends on you as “the principal Legal adviser to the Government”, as provided for by section 64(1) of the Constitution of Sierra Leone, Act No.6 of 1991, to profer honest and meaningful advice to Mr. President and the Government and not to think that every Sierra Leonean is a fool and could be hoodwinked into swallowing whatever is presented, lock, stock and barrel.
The President not being a Lawyer does not exonerate him from responsibility in ensuring that the Nation is not deceived into believing that he was doing them a favour by lifting the restrictions outlined in his broadcast, when he knew or ought to have known, that there were no restrictions to be lifted, as the State of Emergency lapsed since Thursday 6th instant and that only Parliament has by Law, the authority to extend same (See Section 29(13) of the Constitution of Sierra Leone Act No.6 of 1991).
Assuming Mr. President’s second proclamation referred to in paragraph (8) eight (5) five of his broadcast was made pursuant to subsection (14) of section 29 of Act No.6 of 1991, I submit that such should be limited/restricted to the affected areas, namely, Kambia and Port-Loko Districts and not nationwide.
Subsection 14 of section 29 of Act No.6 of 1991 states:- “any provision of this section that a declaration made under Subsection (1) shall lapse or cease to be in force at any particular time is without prejudice to the making of a further such declaration whether before or after that time”.
Analysing subsection (1) of Section 29 referred to supra, the operative words are:
… a state of public emergency is imminent …
… a state of public emergency has commenced …
It will be observed that the subsection makes no provision for a continuous public state of emergency, which is what Mr. President is trying to address, because of the persistent presence of EBOLA in Kambia and Port-Loko Districts.
I do not know why Mr. President did not invoke S .29(13) of Act No.6 of 1991 for an extension: which provides thus:
“A resolution of Parliament passed for the purpose of this section shall remain in force for a period of twelve months or such shorter period as may be specified therein:
Provided that any such resolution may be extended from time to time by a further such resolution, supported by the votes of two-thirds of Members of Parliament, each extension not exceeding twelve months from the date of the resolution effecting the extension; and any such resolution may be revoked at any time by a resolution supported by the votes of a simple majority of all the Members of Parliament”.
Be that as it may, I find subsection (14) of section 29 ibid, not only infelicitously worded but also convoluted, admitting of diverse interpretations.
In the circumstance, Mr. President should have sought interpretation of subsection (14) of section 29 supra, (as to whether the extension of the State of Emergency by him and not by Parliament is legitimate) from the Supreme Court, using section 122 (the proviso thereof) of Act No.6 of 1991, notwithstanding that he was not confronted with a petition in which he had to give a final decision, so as to avoid the controversy he has engendered.
The position as I see it, is that, Sierra Leoneans will be left in the ridiculous situation of Mr. President issuing proclamation after proclamation to address the continuous presence of Ebola in specific areas, even in circumstances not envisaged by subsection (1) of section 29 aforesaid, as a spurious way of circumventing going to Parliament for an extension.
This is a very unsatisfactory state of affairs, as the people of Sierra Leone deserve much more than appears to be the case!
I sincerely hope the Judges are taking note of yet another breach of the constitution with impunity, coupled with an audacious threat to close business, in the event of non-compliance with what I would call a controversial move.
God Bless Sierra Leone!!
C.F. Margai Esq.
Leader – PMDC
End of Letter
Now, here comes that snotty, rude and arrogant reply from our Attorney General – Comrade Field Marshall Frank Kargbo:
RE: PRESIDENTIAL BROADCAST
I acknowledge receipt of your letters of the 7th and 11th August 2015 relative the captioned subject. Let me also express my delight at your belated appreciation of the constitutional purport and intent of the Office of Attorney -General and Minister of Justice, to wit:
“principal legal adviser to the Government”. I am not, therefore, adviser to private individuals or leaders of shell entities of doubtful existence and purpose.
As regards your letter of the 7th August 2015, I hope you are able to recall our (Margai/Kargbo), telephone conversation on or about that date.
I also hope that you are able to remember that I referred you to the Government Bookshop where you can easily purchase a copy of the Proclamation dated 6th August (P.N.1) 2015.
Certainly, even a cursory perusal of the same would have informed, even a non-lawyer, of the law on which the proclamation was premised.
I note the intemperate and “beneath-contempt” language in your letter of the 11th August 2015. But for my previous knowledge of you (and I sincerely hope that things have remained the same) I would certainly have ascribed the contents to a person with a profoundly disturbed mind.
However, I also note, and put it squarely to your continued sad and unsuccessful quest for relevance in the national political discourse.
Consequently, I will not dignify your said letter with a reply, your serious and unfortunate misunderstanding/misinterpretation of law under reference notwithstanding.
Franklyn Bai Kargbo
Attorney General & Minister of Justice
Cc: Secretary-General S.L.P.P.
End of Letter
So, when you read a letter such as that from the country’s Attorney General, you begin to give credence to Sierra Leone being referred to as a banana republic, where civility is a rare commodity, especially on the part of those governing the country.
But be that as it may, the fact remains that president Koroma has once again driven rough shod over constitutionality and justice in Sierra Leone.
What is the opposition SLPP and Charles Margai’s PMDC parties going to do about it, in order to stop this rot from destroying an already fragile democratic fabric of Sierra Leone? (SLPP Chairman – Chief Kapen – must wake up and smell the coffee).
Has no one in the opposition got what it takes, to bring forward to parliament – a motion and vote of no confidence on the president – even if symbolic?
Opposition political leaders like Charles Margai, must stop blowing hot air and put their money where their mouth is for the good of country.
Both the SLPP and PMDC must convene an emergency joint meeting of their executive councils and parliamentarians, to discuss this growing problem and resolve to take forward a joint motion calling for the impeachment of president Koroma.