Sierra Leone Telegraph: 25 April 2018:
Sierra Leone’s parliament was officially opened today, as MPs from across the political divide took their seats, except for the 68 MPs representing the main opposition APC who refused to obey the Clerk of Parliament when called to order. And it got worse.
At about 10am, the Clerk decided to adjourn the opening session as APC MPs continued their protest of passive resistance, in anticipation of having 16 of their members thrown out by the Clerk after yesterday’s High Court injunction.
And as the noise level grew, with the APC MPs chanting their party’s anthem in defiance, the Clerk of Parliament reminded the MPs that until they have been sworn in, they will be treated as MPs elect and must therefore be mindful of their conduct.
Still there was no order in parliament. The Clerk adjourned the opening till 11am, as he went outside to receive the list of excluded APC MPs from lawyers acting for the government.
On his return he read out the names of 16 APC MPs and ordered them to leave the House. The APC MPs whose names were called out by the Clerk were: Isaac Tucker, John Conteh, Alusine Sesay, Amadu Kanu, Kemokoh conteh, Rugiatu Kanu, Isaac Tarawallie, Wurie Jalloh, Momoh kamara, Mrs. Kadie Kallon, Ahmed Mansaray, Chernoh Bah, Sirajin Rollins – Kamara, Abu Bakarr Sillah, Osman Timbo, Billon Shaw.
Most, if not all of the 16 APC MPs were petitioned in the High Court for failing to resign their respective public offices at least twelve months prior to the elections. Instead, they have been illegally pocketing their monthly public service salaries, prompting accusations of corruption and theft of public funds.
The 16 MPs refused to obey the Clerk’s order to leave the House, as anarchy ensued. The remaining 52 APC MPs formed a chain around their 16 rebel colleagues, acting in defiance of the Clerk’s orders to vacate the House.
The Clerk was to have none of it. He then called in the police, who stormed parliament to force the 16 APC MPs out of parliament.
There were scuffles, as the remaining 52 MPs physically engaged with the police to prevent their colleagues being removed. But it was futile.
All 68 APC MPs finally left the House in protest as the police struggled to maintain the peace, decorum and order of parliament.
But as sanity returned, it was the business of the Clerk to proclaim the opening of parliament which started with a prayer, followed by the swearing of the remaining MPs, which comprised of 49 SLPP, 8 C4C, 4 NGC, 3 Independents and the 14 Paramount Chiefs. (Above Video courtesy of AYV TV).
Next business on the Clerk’s agenda was the election of a Speaker of Parliament, a thorny issue that has led to two days of rioting and anarchy in the wells of parliament by the opposition APC MPs, who are determined to make Sierra Leone ungovernable under the ruling SLPP.
There was only one nomination on the ballot, and that was the veteran SLPP lawyer and politician – Dr Abass Bundu. The opposition APC had, by their self-imposed absence in parliament today, squandered their opportunity to nominate their preferred candidate – the former Speaker Sheku B.B Dumbuya.
And when the secret ballot was taken, Dr Abass Bundu was elected Speaker of the House for the ensuing five years of SLPP governance.
This is a serious political miscalculation, which the opposition APC will come to regret in the coming days, weeks and months – if not years.
Reporting live from the wells of parliament, this is how Augustine Samba described the election result: “The Parliament of the Republic of Sierra Leone has elected Hon. Dr. Abass Chernor Bundu as Speaker of Parliament.
“He was elected opposed. Voting was conducted in accordance with democratic precedence and as stated in the Constitution and Standing Orders of Parliament.
“Dr. Bundu won with 71 votes. There was 1 void and 5 MPs did not vote. According to Hon. Sidi Tunis, the newly elected speaker – Dr Bundu, is from Gbinti in the Port Loko District, Northern Sierra Leone.
“Honourable Tunis informed the House that the elected speaker had served as a Parliamentarian from 1982 to 1992, and has a wealth of experience in international affairs, including the ECOWAS. He is a barrister at law and will serve parliament well.”
With the election of Speaker of parliament today, amid chaos and rioting by the opposition APC MPs who walked out of parliament, after police stormed the building in order to remove their 16 excluded members, SLPP has scored a major victory in its battle to have some control over a parliament it had failed to win at last month’s general elections. (Photo: Empty seats vacated today by the opposition APC).
How the opposition APC respond now, is anyone’s guess. But what is certain is that some senior APC party grandees, including their presidential candidate – Dr. Samura Kamara had promised to make Sierra Leone ungovernable, should the APC lose the 2018 elections.
Losing the 2018 elections, they did. They have a majority in parliament but failed to win the presidency.
Are they now going to destabilise the country, thus ensuring that the SLPP government cannot govern effectively?