Kandeh Yumkella MP: Sierra Leone Telegraph: 10 April 2020:
With all due respect to all of us in this noble House, who are all in this forum, a string of press releases from State House, various ministries, departments and the police do not constitute “regulations” for a State of Public Emergency (SoPE).
In fact, it is becoming chaotic with a new release by some entity every other day. We need to protect the president, and also elevate our standard of governance by playing our legislative role properly.
Please see below the regulations for COVID-19 for Kenya (where we spent a lot of money on a study tour for MPs). It has a proper title, code number and was duly gazetted. It serves as an omnibus Bill to cover several measures.
During our last session on March 26, 2020, I moved a motion for the regulations of the SoPE to be presented to Parliament within two weeks. The motion was seconded by the Leader of Government Business and carried unanimously by the full house.
This was the same way the SoPE itself was approved. The Deputy Minister of Justice assured us that they will have such regulations ready for our session on April 7th. Suddenly that session was cancelled indefinitely.
A motion passed by parliament requiring documents to be presented to Parliament (or for a person to appear in front of Parliament) has “vires” meaning power or force of law. So I still maintain that the government should present the SoPE regulations to Parliament to avoid illegality of emergency actions and violations of rights.
Presenting the regulations is a demand by Parliament based on a motion approved by the full house. It can only be set aside by another motion of Parliament. It is bad governance to arbitrarily disregard constitutional provisions and resort to governing by decree.
I am sure that Mr. President does not want to govern by decrees through press releases. So we should support him by acting as responsible legislators.
Further, I do not agree with the loose and arbitrary interpretation of Section 29(10) for the sake of expediency. All Ebola regulations went through Parliament. Parliament even convened during the Ebola epidemic. After all, the US Congress meets; our president meets regularly with the COVID Coordination group. Why not us; it can even be a subset of MPs to ensure a quorum and social distancing.
Further, having conferred with some jurists, and those involved in writing the 1991 Constitution, it is clear that Sub-section 7 of Section 170 makes it mandatory that any rules or regulations must be approved by Parliament.
If the framers of the constitution wanted to exempt rules and regulations under Sub-sections 9 and 10 of Section 29 they would have stated such an exception explicitly. Instead, they stated clearly in Sub-section 7 of Section 170 that “Any orders, rules or regulations made by any person or authority pursuant to a power conferred in that behalf by this Constitution or any other law:
a. shall be laid before Parliament; and, b. shall be published in the Gazette on or before the day they are so laid before Parliament”.
In conclusion, when persons or MDAs reach an agreement with Parliament, and a motion is passed by the full house to seal the agreement, then MDAs must obey.
Four leaders, including the leader of government business, assured this nation at a joint press conference, that the regulations will be laid in Parliament on April 7. The failure to do so erodes trust and may come back to haunt us in the future. (Watch video below).
The least we can do is to respect the people we govern by doing our job properly, and establishing high standards and respect for due process. If we really feel strongly that these regulations should be laid before us, we only need 29 MPs to request the Speaker to convene the sitting.
About the author
Dr Kandeh Yumkella is an elected member of Sierra Leone’s Parliament and Leader of his National Grand Coalition (NGC) Party in the Parliament. He was the party’s presidential candidate in the country’s 2018 presidential and general elections.
These are the gazetted Kenyan government’s Regulations for fighting COVID-19. Why hasn’t President Bio done the same as he promised to the people of Sierra Leone? Ruling by presidental decree is dangerous to democracy and will lead to dictatorship: