Sierra Leone Telegraph: 29 January 2019:
Today president Julius Maada Bio issued a strong warning to those who would be called before the Commission of Inquiry to cooperate with the Judges. He said: “Let me end by reiterating that all those who will be invited by the Commissions of Inquiry must fully comply. Anyone, I repeat anyone, who fails to honour the invitation of the Commissions of Inquiry will face the full force of the law.”
But despite this warning, the National Secretary General of the main opposition All Peoples Congress (APC) party – Alhaji Dr. Osman Foday Yansaneh, this afternoon issued a defiant statement at a press conference held at the party’s offices in Freetown. This is what he said:
“The All Peoples Congress (APC) party notes with utmost dismay that the Government of H.E. Rtd Brigadier Julius Maada Bio has today, Tuesday 29th January 2019, launched the Commissions of Inquiry (COI) without taking due note of the concerns raised by the All Peoples Congress (APC) Party and other bodies including the Sierra Leone Bar Association, other Political Parties, Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), the Inter-Religious Council, All Political Parties Association (APPA), etc.
“The APC Party hereby wishes to reiterate its concerns relating to the constitutionality or otherwise of the COI:
“1. That the instruments establishing the COI are not consistent with the provisions of Section 150 of the 1991 Constitution of Sierra Leone which states “Subject to the provisions of this chapter, the Rules of Court Committee shall, by constitutional instrument make rules regulating the practice and procedure of all Commissions of Inquiry.” The APC Party is of the view that this committee was not constituted prior to the enactment of the Constitutional Instruments referred to.
“2. What is more worrisome is that in Section 6(1) of the Constitutional Instruments 64, 65 and 67 the Commissioner has powers to modify, adapt and except himself from abiding by the practice and procedure in force in the High Court if he so feels like it. This is in sharp contrast with the provisions of Section 150 of the Sierra Leone Constitution.
“3. Furthermore, in Section 6(2) of the said Instruments, it is stated that “the Commissioner shall not be bound by the Rules of Evidence in civil or criminal proceedings”. This is also against the spirit and content of Section 150 of the Constitution of the Republic of Sierra Leone.
4. We also note with concern, that Section 149, subsection 4 of the 1991 Constitution of the Republic of Sierra Leone, provides that “Where a Commission of Inquiry makes an adverse finding against any person which may result in a penalty, forfeiture or loss of status, the report of the Commission of Inquiry shall, for the purpose of this Constitution, be deemed to be a judgement of the High Court of Justice and accordingly, an appeal shall lie as of right from the Commission to the Court of Appeal”.
“The APC Party is concerned that this provision gives the Commission the status of a High Court which can recommend penalties that are enforceable by law. The Rules of Evidence applicable in the High Court should therefore apply.
“5. That the source document for the Commissions of Inquiry, i.e, the Governance Transition Team (GTT) report 2018, is replete with tribal, regional and partisan sentiments and incitement and therefore poses a serious national security threat.
“6. The APC Party is even more appalled that in his statement at the launch of the Commissions of Inquiry, the Chief Justice of the Republic of Sierra Leone, who is expected to be the custodian of the Rule of Law in the country, has seemingly taken a partisan position that is firmly consistent with that already taken by the President and his Government.
“Therefore, the APC Party wishes to reiterate its position on the Commissions of Inquiry, that its membership is ready and prepared to fully support and cooperate with the Commissions if the aforementioned concerns are addressed.”
With the APC now locked into a dangerous confrontation with the SLPP government, it remains to be seen how this eye-balling war of words will play out.
A few weeks ago, the police questioned key members of the APC party national executive committee, including the chairman and leader of the APC party – former president Ernest Bai Koroma, for statements made by his party executives about the commissions of inquiry, which the police said have the tendency to undermine the peace and security of the country. Any such misleading message – the police said, will be met with the full force of the law.
Will the former ministers and public officials of the previous Koroma-led APC government defy the Judges of the commission of inquiry should they be called upon to answer to allegations of corruption, impropriety and mismanagement?
Will president Bio take his legislative instruments that gave cause to the formation of the Commissions of Inquiry, back to parliament for changes that will meet the demands of the APC executives?
Interesting times ahead for politics in Sierra Leone.
This is what other political leaders think about the launch of the commissions of inquiry (courtesy of AYV TV):