Civil society groups call for reinstatement of suspended members of parliament

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 25 October 2020:

Pressure is growing on the Speaker of Sierra Leone’s parliament to reinstate four members of parliament suspended for what the Speaker described as gross misconduct.

One of the MPs suspended is Hindolo Moiwo Ngevao, who few weeks ago was on BBC Focus on Africa saying that there is corruption in Sierra Leone’s parliament, supporting the findings of a perception survey of Sierra Leoneans which concludes that the country’s parliament is one of the most corrupt institutions in Sierra Leone.

With freedom of speech not so free in Sierra Leone today, member of parliament – Ngevao, has been suspended for speaking honestly. Reacting to his suspension, this is what Ngevao said:

The latest voice calling for the reinstatement of the four MPs is a group of civil society organisations and the country’s media body – the Sierra Leone association of Journalists. This is what they say:

“We the undersigned organisations are gravely concerned about recent happenings in the Parliament of Sierra Leone, especially those relating to the suspension of four Members including Hon. Hindolo Moiwo Ngevao, an anti-corruption whistle-blower, from participating in parliamentary committee proceedings even without having found them culpable of any wrongdoing.

This decision to suspend them is not only atrocious for our collective effort to strengthen democratic governance, but it also sends a very unfortunate message about our parliament’s attitude towards persons who raise their voices for accountability and institutional integrity.

“A press statement dated 20th October, 2020 issued by the Department of Public Relations of the Parliament of Sierra Leone stated as follows:

“Four Hon. Members of Parliament have been committed to the Parliamentary Committee on Privileges and Ethics for investigation, pending approval by the House for complaints relating to intimidation and verbal abuse, indecent and derogatory text messages, unverified corruption allegation against Parliament on BBC Focus on Africa and alleged arm-twisting by the leadership of Parliament resulting in resignation…”

Ironically, the same statement pointed out that “…the following Members of Parliament so referred are presumed innocent until proven otherwise by the said Committee’s investigation and recommendations.

While it may be within the powers of parliament to inquire into the general conduct of the Members of Parliament, we fail to see the legal basis for hurriedly suspending elected officials from performing their functions especially for whistleblowing on corruption.

It is simply unjust and profoundly repugnant to all the guarantees of due process and presumption of innocence enshrined in our Constitution.

Corruption is pervasive and remains a major impediment to our collective effort to address poverty and deliver basic social and economic services, despite the best efforts of the Government of Sierra Leone and its partners.

It is, therefore, quite worrying that the leadership of Parliament has reacted angrily to public opinion on corruption and went further to punish MPs either for expressing their views about corruption in parliament or complaining about attempts by the leadership of Parliament to scupper their efforts to address the scourge.

We are shocked to learn that even before the Committee on Ethics and Privileges complete investigation of the misdemeanours the MPs and the public are unanimously complaining about Parliament has turn round to punish the whistle-blowers by suspending them from their committees.

Civil society is particularly concerned that arm-twisting and unjustly punishing MPs for whistle-blowing on corruption will in turn discourage ordinary citizens who want to report corruption.

This is worrying, as a recent (2020) studies by Afrobarometer shows that 61% of citizens fear the risk of retaliation for reporting corruption.

Under the circumstances, we hereby urge the Speaker of Parliament and the leadership of all the political parties represented in parliament to immediately take steps to re-instate all parliamentary entitlements and privileges to the affected parliamentarians.

We further urge the leadership of Parliament to demonstrate more commitment in the fight against corruption by protecting persons who speak up against the scourge – rather than punishing or suppressing their voices.

We stand ready to support Parliament in deepening the culture of accountability and integrity in Sierra Leone.

Signed:

1. ActionAid Sierra Leone

2. Amnesty International – Sierra Leone

3. Budget Advocacy Network (BAN)

4. Campaign for Good Governance (CGG)

5. Campaign for Human Rights and Development International (CHRDI)

6. Center for Accountability and the Rule of Law (CARL)

7. Center for Democracy and Human Rights (CDHR)

8. Citizens Advocacy Network (CAN)

9. Foundation for Rural and Urban Transformation (FoRUT)

10. Human Rights Defenders Network

11. Institute for Governance Reform (IGR)

12. The 50/50, Group Sierra Leone

13. National Advocacy Coalition on Extractives (NACE)

14. Network Movement for Justice and Development (NMJD)

15. Peace Africa Alliance Consulting Education and Training Centre (PACET)

16. Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ)

17. Society for Democratic Initiatives (SDI)

18. West African Network for Peacebuilding (WANEP) Sierra Leone

 

4 Comments

  1. I have done a lot of soul searching on the suspensions matters, trying to rationalize the action of the Speaker; weighing through the actions of the honorable MPs as alleged, one is giving conscientious opinions in an interview on a matter of national importance and the other is an act of voluntarily resigning from a position for conscientious reasons. I’m afraid theirs is a strange case. I just don’t see it. I simply cannot understand the so called parliamentary ethical values or conduct which the two representatives of the people, voted in their parliamentary seats, are standing in violation of and deserving to be suspended for, by the mighty Speaker, unconscionably, preventing them from carrying their constitutional mandates, save only the act of raw and corrupt power play.

    Anyway, the two honorable gentlemen should go to their beds at night, everyday and sleep to slumber. They have done nothing ethically criminal and morally wrong worthy of the Speaker’s action. It cannot be said to be a disciplinary action but act of a bully. Throughout history, people had followed their consciences, spoken the truths to power and they were and to this day well respected. I urge the honorable not to reverse or regret their actions because, the silent majority is with them.

    Who can suspend a member of the British house of Commons or a member of the Congress of the United States for voicing an opinion, exercising free speech, challenging the institutions they are a part of, to do better? It’s unheard off in a democracy. However, a source of great hope is the established pattern of this administration in less than three years, making suspensions a less sleepless matter that is usually, just to throw weights, some even call it grand standing. Listen to the voices of a broadly representative collection which have spoken in favor of rescinding the suspensions, makes me hopeful.

  2. A trillion thanks to the civil society groups for standing up for The Right Honourable Ngevao . The member of parliament uniquely deserves to be respectfully referred to as Right Honourable Hindolo Moiwo Ngevao because he has honour written all over his person, punctuated by patriotism. All those who do anything against him have no class, they are criminals who are in urgent need of a mental asylum. And look at the speaker of parliament – Abass Bundu. He should be the last person to tutor anyone about ethics. He sold our passports which has now come to haunt the country as some of those in whose hands they ended have been apprehended by United States authorities for engaging in criminal acts.

    There is now a tussle between the Sierra Leone and American government. The latter wants to deport the criminals to Sierra Leone because they carry our passports while the Bio government is maintaining that they are not Sierra Leoneans. Therefore the American government has stopped the issuing of most visas to Sierra Leoneans. While serving as ECOWS Secretary General, Abass Bundu was allegedly involved in the selling of arms to rebel groups in the region to turn the region to a killing field. Where’s your conscience Abass Bundu? And who are you to suspend Right Honourable Ngevao from his parliamentary duties? You need him to give you a lesson on ethics.

    The Right Honourable Ngevao’s case exposes President Bio as an erratic fighter against corruption. As head of SLPP to which Honourable Ngevao belong he should say something without infringing on responsibilities of the Legislature. It’s no longer innocent until proven guilty, but guilty until proven innocent. But then what should one expect from a bunch of parliamentarians with thuggish and savage tendencies who consider Right Honourable Ngevao too odd for their comfort?

  3. Politics is not local, but national and international. When civil societies, and international organisations, call for action, governments needs to pay close attention to what they have to say. Any government wishing to move the political, social, economic and cultural dials, should work with such organisation on how to move the country forward. The suspension of these four MPs should be nullified and voided. A country cannot develop on the back of mob rule.

    For a country to develop, it needs comprehensive planning and coordination, working with political groups and NGOs, respect for the rule of law, an independent judiciary, a free press and adhering to the norms of international standards and conventions. Any country that is serious about development, Mr. Ngevao, whilst- blowing activities should be celebrated, not be punished for going against the grain.

    It takes guts and brass neck of steel to go against established norms, work mates, and practices, especially if in his view, what he witnessed goes against his ethical consciousness, and most importantly harm national development for which he took an oath to serve. In other words, there are few GOODMEN and WOMEN left in the corrupt and rotten Sierra Leone Parliament. May God bless Sierra Leone.

  4. This is the reward and consequence we are REAPING now when we allow criminals to rule us and controlled the Grand Old Party the SLPP party founded by God-fearing founders who loved their people and demanded the best for mama Salone. Here we are seeing convicted criminals during the previous Ahmed Tejan-Kabbah led SLPP administration, was convicted of abuse of office activities resulting to his paying back to the state over US$150000/00 in out of court settlement in 1996/97. He is now the speaker of parliament in Salone and this unrepented CRIMINAL IS NOW trying to silence both within and out of the house of parliament, concerned citizens of their concerns BOTH within/OUT OF parliament that is negatively affecting the image of mama Salone.

    The worst of them all is the chief minister who specialised as a professor in conflict resolution with no knowledge in socio-economics PRINCIPLES/POLICIES or public administration, is using a different approach that he has little knowledge about in terms of research to brainwash the gullible populace from the perception survey recently conducted by two highly esteemed non governmental organisations about the three arms of government governing mama Salone.

    Mr Chief Minister I can categorically tell you that you are UNQUALIFIED AS a scientist despite your Ph.D. in conflict resolution that you want to impress the masses with and you want gullible people to worship you. What you are trying to tell us in terms of research CONDUCTION is off track and of little substance in terms OF THE POPULATION sample sizes and validity of the population surveyed.

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