Sierra Leone Telegraph: 27 August 2018:
Sierra Leone’s opposition APC party has rejected the parliamentary procedure used by the government in establishing its proposed Commission of Enquiry. The purpose of the proposed Commission of Inquiry is to investigate all former Ministers, Deputy Ministers and senior government officials who were in office between September 2007 to April 2018, for corruption.
But the opposition APC are annoyed with the ruling SLPP. They are accusing them of undemocratically railroading the statutory instrument granting the formation of the commission of enquiry through parliament, without debate and voting by MPs.
According to Section 170(7)(c) of the Constitutional and Statutory Instrument Act No. 6 of 1991) of the 1991 Constitution of Sierra Leone: “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 shall come into force at the expiration of a period of twenty-one days of being so laid unless parliament before the expiration of the said period of twenty-one days, annuls any such orders, rules or regulations by the votes of not less than two-thirds of the Members of Parliament.” (Photo: Opposition APC leader in parliament – Chernor Bah).
The opposition APC say that they have not been given the chance to debate the Bill within the constitutionally required twenty-one days.
But the Clerk of parliament disagrees. He says that the opposition parties were granted the required twenty-one days but had failed to duly file a motion for such a debate.
Last week, the opposition APC took its grievance to the public. Writing in its published statement, this is what the National Secretary General of the APC said:
“The All Peoples Congress (APC) Party wishes to draw the attention of the public to the following:
1. That on the 2nd Day of August 2018, the Attorney General and Minister of Justice laid on the table of the House of Parliament Constitutional Instruments Numbers 64 and 65 of 2018 entitled: ‘’The Commission of Inquiry (Examination, Inquiry and Investigation) Notice (1)” and “The Commission of Inquiry (Examination, Inquiry and Investigation) Notice (2)” respectively and at which said date Parliament was to adjourn for Recess without adequate notice to members of parliament.
2. That on Friday 3rd August 2018, Hon Daniel Brima Koroma for the opposition APC (sic), under S.O 18 (8) and Section 170 (7) of the 1991 Constitution (Act No. 6 of 1991) informed the House of his intention to file a Notice of Motion at the office of the clerk for the said Constitutional Instruments to be debated, but the speaker wrongly overruled and further denied the opportunity to both the said MP and Majority Leader and Leader of the Opposition (APC) to proffer any further explanation.
3. That on the 3rd day of August 2018, Hon. Daniel B. Koroma for the opposition APC (sic) prepared
a Notice of Motion under S.O 18 (8), 25 (2) and Section 170 (7) of the 1991 Constitution which he duly signed and filed at the office of the clerk. The intention of the said Notice of Motion was to enable Parliament to debate the said Constitutional Instruments. Thus the 21 days period required for the Instruments to become law ceases to run on the date the MP filed the Notice of Motion.
4. That on the 7th day of August 2018, the said Hon Daniel B. Koroma together with Hon Hassan A. Sesay for the opposition APC (sic) prepared, signed and filed an Amendment Notice of Motion under S.O. 25 (6), 18 (8), 25(2), 28 (3) and Section 170 (7) of the Constitution of Sierra Leone, which enables the speaker to include the said Constitutional Instruments on the Order Paper at the next sitting of Parliament.
5. That on the 9th day of August 2018, a Request for Meeting of Parliament within 14 days under S.O. 4 (3) (b) (ii) and Section 86 (2) of the 1991 Constitution was prepared, signed by Members of Parliament and duly filed at the office of the clerk. The said 14 days expires today 23rd August 2018 and the said constitutional provisions are yet to be complied with by the speaker of Parliament.
6. To our greatest dismay however, the clerk of Parliament on Radio Democracy 98.1 FM categorically stated that the said instruments were properly laid and that they shall become law today 23rd August 2018.
Furthermore, as at yesterday 22nd August 2018, no written correspondence has been received from the speaker in respect of the said Constitutional Instruments and the concerns raised therein by Members of Parliament.
The speaker also failed and /or refused to convene a meeting of parliament as provided for by section 86 (2) of the 1991 Constitution.
7. The APC Party is therefore of the opinion that the setting up of the proposed Commissions of Inquiry is illegal ab initio. The singular and supreme authority to make laws including delegated legislations rests only with Parliament and which has not been exercised by Parliament in accordance with sections 170 (7) and 86 (2) of the 1991 Constitution which no doubt is a clear violation of the rights of the people whom they represent.
8.The APC Party is also of the opinion that the range of public officials of the former government to appear before these commissions is selective and the deliberate omission of certain names in the GTT Report has the potential of creating tension and insecurity within the country.
9. The APC Party strongly wishes to bring to the notice of the public that it is in full support of the said Commissions of Inquiry and does not in any way intend to frustrate its operations. The Party however holds the view that, the said instruments, considering their wide-ranging implications on society, ought to be debated by the true representatives of the people and that the relevant constitutional provisions to make this possible must be complied with.
10. Therefore, the failure and /or refusal of the Speaker to respond to the concerns raised by Members of Parliament and considering the delicate and illegal nature of the said Constitutional Instruments, the APC Party is therefore compelled to proceed to the Supreme Court for interpretation of the relevant constitutional provisions in respect of the said Instruments.
The APC Party is of the opinion that if these Instruments are allowed to become operational without being debated, Sierra Leoneans will be deprived of their constitutional rights to participate in the law-making process. (END).”
But as the row over parliamentary procedure in bringing the commission of enquiry into existence intensifies, the government says that it is going ahead as schedule.
It blames the opposition parties for not properly filing their motion requesting a parliamentary debate within the mandated twenty-one days.
Legal observers say that it is highly likely that the Supreme Court will not be adjudicating on the matter at the request of the APC anytime soon, certainly not before the commission of enquiry is established; and that its ruling may not halt the work of the commission.
The clerk of parliament – Hon Paran Tarawallie was not available for an interview by the Sierra Leone Telegraph.