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: