Pandemonium in Sierra Leone parliament as MPs argue over legality of sitting

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 19 April 2021:

Am emergency sitting of Sierra Leone’s parliament taking place at the Bintumani Conference Hall in Aberdeen, Freetown, summoned by president Julius Maada Bio, is at a standstill, as opposition APC MPs are refusing to allow the session to go ahead.

Today, and once again, Sierra Leone’s democracy is being put to a test; president Bio’s authority is being tested as the main opposition APC party flexes its muscle.

According to the opposition APC leader in parliament – Chernor Bah, “the sitting cannot go ahead because it is illegal. As leader of the opposition I was not consulted about the sitting in accordance with Parliamentary Standing Order 4(3), which stipulates that the Speaker of parliament must consult with the leader of the opposition prior to summoning a sitting”.

But the ruling SLPP party MPs and the speaker of parliament are arguing that the emergency sitting was proclaimed by the president as required by section 86 of the Constitution of Sierra Leone.

The opposition APC leader says that no one is doubting the power of the president to summon an emergency sitting of MPs but that Standing Order 4(3) which requires the Speaker to consult with the opposition, gives effect to the president’s emergency summoning of MPs.

Opposition MPs are angry that they were not formally informed about the emergency sitting. They say that they saw the notice of the emergency meeting on social media, and decided to come to the meeting to express their resentment, which has now turned ugly.

According to an SLPP eye witness in parliament: “Following the defeat of the APC party leader’s motion that the parliamentary sitting  should not proceed, the APC MPs started throwing anything and everything they could lay their hands on while others climbed the stage and dismantled everything in spite of the best efforts to restrain them, all in their effort to thwart the sitting.”

Ruling party MPs along with the Clerk of parliament – Dr Paran, are insisting that today’s sitting must go ahead despite the opposition’s passive resistance.

As we go to press right now, the lights in the conference hall have been turned off, but ruling party MPs are once again arranging the tables and chairs where parliament’s officials including the Speaker of parliament – Dr Abass Bundu will sit to resume the meeting.

There is chaos and noise every where as MPs on both sides express their anger and frustration.

Opposition MPs are calling for the Speaker to adjourn the sitting while consultation with opposition MPs takes place to find a solution to the impasse. But ruling party MPs simply want to get on with the meeting so that the order of business can be transacted.

With anger and frustration building on both sides and the police caught up in the middle of a rapidly deteriorating standoff, the chances of violence errupting and the police making arrests is high.

Power has now been turned back on, and the sitting has at long last resumed. This is the latest report from the parliamentary communication team:

“In spite of the initial impasse over the presidential emergency summoning of Parliament by President Dr. Julius Maada Bio at the Bintumani Conference Center, the Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Anthony Brewah has finally laid on the Table of the House, the Statutory Instrument regarding “The Census Order 2021, The Census Act 2002 (Act No. 14 of 2002), Statutory Instrument No. 4 of 2021”, on Monday 19/04/2021.

“The Speaker and Clerk of Parliament were buoyed up with police assistance to enhance the proceedings of Parliament to go on unhindered.

“Earlier, following objections raised by the Leader of the Opposition, Hon. Chernor R.M Bah regarding the emergency sitting, citing Standing Order 4(3) and no consultations prior to calling a sitting of Parliament, the Speaker of Parliament, Hon. Abass Chernor Bundu ruled against him signifying Section 86 (1) of the 1991 Constitution of Sierra Leone regarding same; adding the grund norm takes precedent over provisions in the Standing Orders of Parliament.

“Pursuant to Section 170 Subsections (1&7a, b & c) of the said Constitution of Sierra Leone, Statutory Instruments do form part of the laws of Sierra Leone, after a period expiring 21 Days except being annulled by 2/3s of votes cast against it by 98 MPs out of a total of 146.

“Amidst the protracted brouhaha, the presidential proclamation for the emergency sitting of Parliament was read by the Clerk of Parliament, Hon. Dr. Paran Umar Tarawally pursuant to Section 86 (1) of the said Constitution and the Statutory Instrument on the Census Order 2021 was laid by the Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Anthony Brewah.

“The Statutory Instrument relating to the Census Order has been published in the gazette and also laid on the Table of Parliament by the Attorney General and Minister of Justice on Monday 19/04/2021 at the Bintumani Conference Center in Freetown.”

This is Speaker Bundu at a press conference after today’s fracas:

These are some of the scenes today:

 

 

27 Comments

  1. In what may be described as a robust defence of President Bio’s calling an emergency meeting of Parliament to debate and pass into law the census order of 2021, the legal luminary and Speaker of the House Hon. Abass Bundu and Co have undertaken a pedagogical exercise, showcasing their knowledge of our laws and Constitution and aimed at teaching the rest of us legal ignoramuses what appears to be the very sound legal basis and hence justification of the President’s action.

    Dr Bundu and Co have spoken emphatically, authoritatively, the tone of their voices ringing loudly with unmistakable self-righteous indignation. They have explained grandly that our Constitution is the highest law of the land; the primary law, superior to and superseding all other laws. With an eye for detail, they have elucidated the differences between the legal provisions under Routes S04 and 861, claiming that the latter being the Constitutional route, it is superior to and supersedes the former. In other words, the Opposition Party’s bickering was pointless, being no more than political point scoring; it would be justified only if the route chosen by government was based on the provisions of S04. As it happens, the preferred route has been based on provisions 861 of the Constitution, making null and void the need for consultations prior to laying the census order in Parliament.

    What Dr Bundu and Co have failed to do or conveniently and deliberately ignored is explaining to us poor legal ignoramuses whether the meeting convened by the President qualify as a response to an emergency. An emergency? What emergency? What is so unforeseen and dangerous about our present circumstances as a country as to warrant laying a census order? Is the census to be at par with our nation being at war or being about to go to war? Or is the nation the hapless victim of an unforeseen and cataclysmic natural occurrence: a flood or a mudslide reminiscent of the horrors of August 2017? Maybe to the SLPP Government, losing the general election in 2023 is envisioned vividly as a natural disaster, to forestall which an emergency census legislation now is very much in order. In this sense, the SLPP is Sierra Leone and Sierra Leone is the SLPP. A threat to one is a direct and immediate threat to the other. Hence Bio and his Party’s quick and desperate response designed to keep a looming national tragedy at Bay. Some emergency indeed.

  2. Mr Sensie Bioma, I understand the supremacy of the laws as written in our constitution. So is every member of the Sierra Leone Parliament. Well that is what is expected of them. Your arguments about the laws as written in our constitution, taking precedent above state laws, is firmly rooted in a federal system of government. Your reference to Australia is a case in point. And the other countries that have such constitutional arrangements are: Nigeria, United States, and Germany, etc etc. In Sierra Leone, we have a unicameral form of government, and one constitution. That is all legislative Executives and judicial matters affecting the country is decided in one parliamentary chamber. What we are talking about here, is not whether members of the APC read and understood the 1991 constitution, or the way we interpret it,the issue here is the abuse of parliamentary procedures by president Bio, and SLPP members of Parliament. And I dare say not for the first time. That is why Mr Bah and APC members of Parliament are up in arms. Transparency and accountability is what is missing in this story.

  3. Take courage ART – it is an inevitable process; and it is a pity that there are no other alternatives. My heartfelt condolences to the entire family and beyond. May the gates of Heaven automatically open for our dear lady, Haja Madinatu. Amin/Amen.

  4. I want to Express my heartfelt condolence to the Thomas family,for the loss of Mama Haja Madinatu.May God Almighty forgive all her sins and grant her jannah. Allahuma akhfirli wa arr-hamha!

  5. Losing your “SWEET MOTHER” is the worst news anyone can receive. May her gentle soul Rest In Perfect Peace.

  6. My condolences to the Thomas Family. May Allah strengthen your family at this difficult time.
    Regards
    Jusu Yarmah

  7. Mr. Stargazer made an insightful observation on this forum. Why is Dr Abbass Bundu still active in Sierra Leonean politics? As a nation why on earth we allow a political dinosaurs like him, that have outlived his political usefulness , still welding power behind the scenes? He amongst all those sitting members of Parliament should know better. He should know better because of his experience. President Bio called this meeting. One would have imagined, before MPs were summoned to the meeting at Bintumani conference hall, all relevant parties have being informed by going through the right parliamentary procedures . Bio should understand he didn’t win an overwhelming vote of confidence from the voting public . The 51% to him and 49% to the APC presidential flag bearer was not a claim of resounding victory. That is why he should be mindful of his decisions making process. He wants to take the whole country with him, not half of the country. The APC party was right to challenge him for not going through parliamentary procedures. The constitution of the country was drawn up and agreed upon by all stake holders. Therefore we have to follow it as the guiding principle under which our country is governed.

  8. This is the difference in our educational pursuits in life in which are tutors/lecturers differentiating to us the differences between going through education and education going through you. Simply put in legal terms and studies though I am not a lawyer but in my university academic years I studied units in law related to my studies. One of the sentences/phrases that I do remember in one of my law related units in uni was that if two laws are in conflict with each other the superior law take precedence over the other minor law in any legal deliberations.
    What I do remember and can relate of such conflict of interest was here in Australia which is a Federal style led of govt like we have in the USA. Here we have states/Territories local laws and Federal laws and if there is collisions between the states/Territorial laws in conflict with the federal law in a matter of deliberations the FEDERAL LAW TAKES PRECEDENT AND IS SUPREME OVER THE STATES/TERRITORIAL LAWS IN THAT MATTER
    And that is what is applicable in mama Salone in which the the laws/findings in the SIERRA LEONE 1991 CONSTITUTIONS IS SUPREME AND TAKES PRECEDENCE OVER THE STANDING ORDER ACTS OF THE PARLIAMENT OF SIERRA LEONE AS ENSHRINE IN THE CONSTITUTIONS
    We the educated and lay people in law were educated by the speaker of the SIERRA LEONEAN PARLIAMENT AFTER THE CHAOTIC/VIOLENT DISRUPTIONS LED BY THE LEADER OF THE MAIN OPPOSITION APC PARTIES AND ITS MEMBERS OF PARLIAMENT recently. I HOPE THE OTHER MEMBERS OF THE OTHER OPPOSITION PARTIES CAN LEARN FROM THEIR MISTAKE AND LACK OF UNDERSTANDING OF THE 1991 SIERRA LEONE CONSTITUTIONS AS APPLICABLE IN PARLIAMENTARY MATTERS WHEN NECESSARY PLEASE. A WORD TO THE WISE IS QUITE SUFFICIENT !!!!

    • Heartfelt condolences to the editor, for his loss.

      Mr Boima, the legal reference made is defined in Latin as “lex superior derogat legi inferiori”, which may be defined as a hierarchy of norms,where the superior law is given priority over the inferior norm.

      Section 86 (1) of the Sierra Leone constitution does indeed give the president the power to summon the legislative at any time, however, it simply states that, with no explanation of the correct procedure. One would therefore stipulate that you are wrong in the above matter and the correct legal principle that should be applied is “Lex specialis derogat legi generali” which is used in law to resolve a conflict of norms.

      In layman terms, the above term means a specific law takes precedence over a general law. Therefore, since the constitution does not express the provision by which Parliament may be summoned, one would assume that the more specific law, the standing order, would dictate the process by which Parliament is summoned.

  9. Sierra Leone democracy is very fragile. In the 21st Century we are still experiencing this kind of democracy.

  10. The explanation of the Speaker of Parliament Hon. Abass Chernor Bundu to the citizens of Sierra Leone referencing the convening of Parliament by the President of Sierra Leone Maada Bio, was plain and simple for the layman in the country to understand. He also made reference of the manner in which members of the main opposition behaved in Parliament was disgraceful and that Honorable members of parliament should behave honorably in line to their titles invested to them by the people of Sierra Leone.
    The Speaker categorically made additional reference of leader of the opposition party of his misleading argument to his parliamentarian party members.One would have expected a fellow party member to have corrected him on this issue and to caution other members not to misbehave. But do we think that all our members of Parliament know and understand the LAWS of the land?. I doubt that and I believe some don’t even know a single law of Sierra Leone. Don’t we think it is about time for our members of Parliament to be tested unexpectedly and randomly about their knowledges of the laws of Sierra Leone?. Thanks Hon. Abass Chenor Bundu for your lecture and simplification of the laws on this issue.

  11. The seeds of Existence that gave birth to a fragrant rose are mourning the loss of a rare flower today; The Queen of the Garden,a kind, munificent,thoughtful fragrant rose that was able to secure the help of butterflies and the winds as tireless messengers for spreading her sweetest most intoxicating scents is no more;The discerning hands of the Divine has plucked her softly from the plants that held her tightly in their grips so that she could be used with Jasmine, Sunflowers and Tulips on a majestic garland to be worn around the neck of the Great Master of Creation.

    My girlfriend and I extend our heartfelt condolences to the Editor of The Sierra Leone Telegraph and the entire Thomas family at home and abroad on the transition of their beloved mother,sister, grandmother and friend Haja Madinatu from our beautiful Earth to her magnificent home in Omnipotent Heaven. Rest in Peace and perfect bliss gentle Queen of the Garden;You will forever remain in hearts overflowing with joy and gratitude for the happiness you gave the people of our beloved Sierra Leone.

  12. May Allah in His Infinite Mercy grant Haja Madinatu Jana Fildous. She has gone through the door which all us have to go through, although it’s always very sad and shocking when the moment arrives. And to you A.R Thomas may the Almighty accord you and your family the emotional strength to cope with such a big loss.

  13. Dear Forumites / Readers

    There will be significant delay in publishing comments in the next few days, due to the sad passing of the mother of the editor of the Sierra Leone Telegraph – Haja Madinatu in London yesterday, aged 93. Kindly exercise patience if your comments are not published right away.
    Thank You: The Sierra Leone Telegraph.

    • To Mr Abdul Rashid Thomas, and your entire family both in UK, Sierra Leone and the entire world, I wish to express my condolences to all of you. May the soul of Haja Madinatu rest in peace. Amen.

    • Dear Mr Thomas

      I am so sorry to hear that your mother has passed away. May her soul rest in perfect peace.

      Wishing you peace as you mourn this great loss.

      Dauda

    • My heart goes out to you after this significant and sudden loss. Please accept my heartfelt sympathy. You’re in my thoughts and prayers at this difficult time. May the soul of Haja Madinatu rest in perfect peace.

    • We are for God and to Him we shall return, “Inna lillah wa inna elaih raajoun” may God foegive Mama Haja and forgive all her mistaken sins. She’s our mother. He provides her Jannat fardous. Aamiin.

    • Incredibly sad news honorable ART!! My heartfelt condolences to you and the entire family sir. May our supreme being, maker of all mankind, tender mercy and forgiveness for any misdeed that late mamy Haja may have done, and may perpetual light shine upon her gentle soul—resting in perfect peace. Dead is an eventuality for all mankind, hence it’s only a matter of time for one’s turn. Humbly take courage sir, and celebrate the 93yrs your dear mom existed on earth.

      Your family, the community, and the world will dearly miss her, however, be rest assure, she will be accorded a befitting reception and a comfortable residence at the heavenly kingdom, where she will be quietly looking down, smiling intermittently, feeling proud for all the good work you have been doing, continue to do for our community, nation, Africa, and the world at large. Once again, extend my sympathy and prayers to the entire family home and abroad.

    • Accept my heartfelt condolence for the passing your dear mother Abdul! May her soul rest in eternal peace. Thanks for your hard work and sacrifice for a better democratic course for Sierra Leone.

  14. It seems to me that all the political actors involved in this needless fracas are only out to seek their own self-centered interests.Its also truly alarming to see that the President has started his questionable maneuverings that will enable him to secure a second term in office.The opposition APC is not going to let that happen without a fight it seems;Governments come and go leaving nothing of benefit and substance behind for our people to hold on to so that they can improve their lives on their own terms.May God continue to bless Sierra Leone.

  15. Disappointing and sickening stuff. How on earth can parliamentarians who should show example behave in such a manner. Do our parliamentarians understand the constitution? If not, let them sit exams on the constitution before taking their oath of office. It’s ridiculous and a disgrace to our country to see such disgusting pictures and video clips. Both sides are arguing and quoting sections on the constitution. But I believe that the constitution can’t give both sides right at the same time. If that is the case, then the constitution is not fit for purpose. Who’s to blame now. I don’t know and don’t know what went wrong and what is going on, talking to myself. One side is right, I reckon.

    My question now is this – was the APC the only opposition party against the sitting? If yes, then the whole drama is about the APC and the SLPP fighting for the remaining meat on the political skeletal pointing towards 2023. President Bio is now making use of the leadership vacuum that has been created in the APC to aggressively flex his political muscles as leader of the SLPP party everywhere. The APC can’t do anything about that until they elect a new leader or form a united front with all the opposition parties and independents in parliament. Such blatant provocation and manoeuvre by President Bio will continue till who knows. I don’t want President Bio to win the next elections. Ladies and Gentlemen, I will support him if he wins the next elections fairly, which I strongly doubt. God bless our democracy.

  16. With a handful of exceptions, we’re dealing with a group of kindergarteners who tries to pass itself off as adults. On top of all our problems President Bio and Parliamentarians have managed to make us the object of ridicule and humiliation. The most important question is why did these infants, starting from the speaker of the House, did not ensure that all constitutional technicalities were unambiguously cleared before convening the extraordinary meeting of Parliament?

    The speaker of the House is supposed to be a lawyer and so is the Attorney-general. Where did they obtain their credentials from? From the corner shop? A student on his first day in secondary school would have done a better job to stop the hooliganism which ensued on Monday.

    Let us all hope that this is not an omen of what awaits us in 2023. A significant number of us go to bed everyday hungry. That’s more than enough, we don’t want the possibility of ending up in a graveyard added to it. The bad blood between SLPP and APC is a major reason why we should bench them in 2023 in favour of NGC , not to mention their reckless handling of the country for sixty years.

  17. In other news, Sierra Leoneans are being sold into slavery under the kalfala system in the Middle East. Our women are being exported as slaves. If the R.U.F had done this, it would be a war crime. We have a useless and inept parliament. They only care about pay rises and posturing. Makeni lives matter indeed. You are the parliament, what legislation or attempts have been made to restrain the police or resolve the land issues plaguing the country. They fiddle while the country burns. Look at the Sahel, if Isis gets a hold on the coast, it will be ten times worse than the civil war. Countries with more advanced militaries are in chaos. Mali, Burkina, Chad, Niger. Stupidity has a price.

  18. Interesting development!! Tell tale signs of the underlying deep-seated animosity existing between these 2 political parties, with the APC as an opposition party under duress and strangulation for the past 3 years, flexing some muscles to ascertain some amount of legitimacy, while demanding some aspect of reverence.

    As the next election cycle draws closer and closer, we should only expect more of these hooliganism, emanating from either side of the political spectrum—more so from the ruling party, as political gerrymandering policies and legislative calibrations are being put in place to clandestinely secure a second term in office.

  19. Someone once said;” You don’t need Atomic bombs or nuclear devices in order to destroy any nation; Politicians who value their pockets more than the interests and wellbeing of their citizens can accomplish that quite easily for you.”Totally agree. Indeed,those words are the epitome of Truth; With extreme exactness they describe what is happening in our emotionally dysfunctional Sierra Leone today. The words decency and honesty have become obsolete in my country – no one finds them attractive and useful anymore. The actions of this inept undemocratic regime have become migraine headaches for us to deal with. This President is on a mission to tighten his grips on power and not to improve the lives of our struggling poor people.

    Hon. Chernoh Bah and members of the opposition did exactly what needed to be done to salvage whatever is now left of the ailing failing soul of a nation suffering gravely from the Cancer of Corruption. Our country is a failed State – Yup, deny it all you want,point fingers of blame at the APC but that still won’t change the realities on the ground; millions of our people are worse off than ever before. They are wretched and hungry,abjectly poor and mentally frustrated by the suffocating standards of living in Sierra Leone the only place I am proud to call my precious home.

    There are individuals on this glorious forum that have been offering this inadequate SLPP government priceless advice but it all fell on deaf ears – Folks, remember this;Great ideas cannot be deposited in minds accumulated with rubbish.(lol)

  20. The ugly and unedifying spectacle was all too predictable. The Opposition Parties’ stout and vociferous attempt to put paid to the Artful Schemer, Sobel and Two-time Coupist Bio’s legislative manoeuvring for political gain was an accident waiting to happen. The political skulduggery was in fact an open secret, far too blatant an insult to Mr Bah’s and other Opposition figures’ intelligence for them to remain indifferent or contain their fury. They could simply not walk meekly, acquiescently to the slaughterhouse of legislative manipulation and subterfuge. What should be of great concern to us is not what Mr Bah and others said and did but what in fact impelled them to behave the way they did.

    The very moment Bio and his Parliamentary Party decided to ride roughshod over normal legislative procedures by invoking the so-called Presidential Constitutional Prerogative of convening an emergency meeting of the legislature, it became clear that legislative norms and practices counted only if they served the Artful Schemer and his Team’s electoral interests and objectives, and that they were only too ready to violate those norms and practices whenever necessary. An instance yet again of state capture – that vicious, systemic, corrupt political practice in which the private and partisan interests and goals of those holding the reins of power trump everything else, including the interests and welfare of ordinary citizens, whose lives and livlihoods are directly impacted and very negatively so, by a self-serving, uncaring ruling class.

    In the run up to the 2023 general election, the outcome of which Bio and his Party are hell bent on determining two years in advance, Mr Bah and the other Opposition Leaders should team up and present a strong, sustained resistance, not just within the four walls of Parliament but also without, by taking their message to the electorate itself. They can do so via all available media and through direct, visceral contact such as Town Hall and Village Square Encounters with voters. The aim being to unmask, indeed disrobe the Master Schemer and Co by calling out their duplicitous pre-electoral moves and the consequential negative implications of these for the nation as a whole. A well informed electorate is all that is needed to STOP THE SCHEMERS, MANIPULATORS AND NEW MISDIRECTORS DEAD IN THEIR ELECTORAL TRACK.

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