Let us do things properly in Sierra Leone – Present the COVID-19 Regulations to Parliament now

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:  

 

5 Comments

  1. Standards are living documents which reflect progress in science, technology and systems. To maintain their currency, and that all Standards are so-often regularly reviewed, and it remains the duty of Parliament to publish new editions – between editions and amendments issued. Parliament may also withdraw standards. It is important that Sierra Leone assure themselves they are using a current Standard, which should include any amendments which Parliament has published since Parliament amended the last Standard. I am careful to inject that these politicians don’t show up every term in parliament not knowing the rudiments of good governance.

    This Standard, proposed by the members of Parliament, recognizes that there are general laws in place regulating how to comply with good governance principles. The intention is not to cut across the laws, but to enhance the legislation. If there are doubts within civil society as to a potential conflict between the law and the Standard produced by the Sierra Leone members of parliament, seek professional advice.

  2. This ‘cowboy’ SLPP government came to power through the back door amid the most deceitful means in the history of Sierra Leone politics. They knew from day one that they have not got the mandate or legitimacy to rule. In fact, that was why they embarked on thieving immediately they assumed power – they were not convinced they could hang on to power for long.

    But now they seem not to believe their luck. In the first instance, through a crooked judiciary, they somewhat succeeded in bringing in their own kind to lead the legislature – an unscrupulous Speaker to the House of Parliament. Even though it meant bringing in police, for the first time ever, to this sacred house. And, that was the day the newfound and fragile DEMOCRACY was dealt with a devastating blow that it (democracy) is still struggling to recover from.

    From then on, it was just a matter of timing to reconstruct all other institutions – the Police, the Armed Forces, Human Rights Agency, the Bar Association, Civil Society Organisations, the National Electoral Commission, Financial Services, to name but a few – in their favour. Interestingly, they achieved all these under the nose of a frightened and gullible populace; and an Opposition shackled with the chains of a devious Commission of Inquiry. It is a pity for Dr Kandeh Kolleh Yumkella (KKY), who was more or less in relatively mute mode when all these transformation was taking place, to now find himself in a strong position to rectify the situation. Is it too late for this aspiring and able politician?

    Notwithstanding, the outcome of the infamous Commission of Inquiry – the biggest anticlimax in the politick of the country – has made the paopa SLPP outfit threatened and unsecured. They have realized that their noose on the main opposition APC party is gradually getting loose – hence the sudden introduction of another chain shackle, in the form of a State of Emergency (SOE). Adherence to democratic principles is not in the vocabulary of these once struggling bunch of inept rogues. Today, the wind of change has flung these stragglers on a fig tree; and they are not prepared to let go easily. What a windfall!

    The sad thing is they are capitalising on the lives of the people, amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, in instigating an unnecessary year-long state of emergency. All over the world, the priority in fighting this dreadful disease, is the mobilization of resources in testing, isolating and treating potential cases – it is only Sierra Leone that adopts a different method. The coronavirus has given these delusional and power-thirsty freaks the right pretext to execute their dangerous and ill-conceived agenda. Undoubtedly, Sierra Leone is at the juncture of a dangerous trajectory.

  3. Dear Dr. Yumkella,
    It is good to compare country’s good practices with another but you must first understand under what social-political context. Note that Kenya did not declare Public Health Emergency compared to Sierra Leone. Note also that all of you who are to represent us in Parliament endorsed the PHE bill that was tabled before you. Your proposition for a regulation was a request submitted verbally and seconded but not voted for.

    Many of us were with the view that you MPs will not endorse the bill but for whatever reason(s), you did it. PHE is an emergency and as such, you must expect the president often and again to make such proclamation without taking it to parliament to ensure that the state and its citizens are protected.

  4. This is what happens when you start a Parliament by electing a controversial Speaker of our Noble House of Representatives. SAD. This was what the wise and learned Dr. Kandeh Yumkella said – “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”. Why was the session cancelled indefinitely? Sahr Matturi asks! Parliament must be allowed to do its job. Have to.

    Now, with Coronavirus, the lockdown and the State of Emergency, God alone knows what will happen to citizens rights during this lockdown exercise. I pray that the police will resist any calls from the executive to crack down on opposition members and law abiding citizens. It should be a lockdown and not a crackdown. Also, the government must make sure, that a substantial amount of food, medicine and clean water is available for our people in any lockdown. As Dr. Kandeh Yumkella rightly said concerning daily wage, of course, he always tries to be diplomatic by saying daily wage, I say, “hand to mot”. That’s the best way to describe majority of the people employed in Sierra Leone.

    Finally, am I right to say, that Dr. Kandeh Yumkella is trying to tell the World – IMF, World Bank, the EU, WHO etc, that “Lockdown alone is not enough and that Sierra Leone needs relief in terms of food, medicines, materials for our healthcare officials, Police etc to combat Coronavirus? Does the learned Dr Kandeh Yumkella want to tell Amnesty International and the International Court of Justice in Den Haag to keep an eye on Sierra Leone during its lockdown”? God bless Dr. Kandeh Yumkella.

Tell us about your views

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.