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:

 

 

5 Comments

  1. Abass Bundu May be a legal luminary, but this does not preclude procedural missteps, depending on the prevailing circumstances. This applies to all professions, be it in medicine, aviation, accounting, the law, etc. we have all heard of pilot error leading to a plane crash with hundreds of people losing their lives. It may well be a pilot with thousands of hours under his belt, but on that fateful day he failed to interpret conditions he was dealing with – perhaps turbulence the plane was not designed for.

    As a trained lawyer and speaker of Parliament, common sense should have got hold of Abass Bundu to slant him towards the understanding that there was the likelihood that the constitution would be misunderstood and hence misinterpreted by all sides. To avoid the nasty incident which took place at Bintumani he should have summoned the government and opposition to his office to explain to them the technicalities of the law under which the extraordinary meeting of Parliament was to be held. All ambiguities would thus have been mitigated, thereby ensuring a smooth meeting.

    The speaker knows or should know that there is almost tangible tension, mutual suspicion and hatred between the government and the main APC opposition. Therefore anything that could develop into thuggery should be avoided. What happened at Bintumani should only be expected in a school yard full of five year olds. I hope Abass Bundu has been taught a lesson. Good thing he didn’t find himself on the floor, unable to get up.

  2. Leo Africanus,

    You are on point. Dark and ominous clouds could clearly be discerned hovering on the horizon. Most West African countries occupy the top spots on the international risk registers of most risk-rating organisations. The sub-region seems to have a fault-line of constantly shifting tectonic plates of political instability.Islamic militancy, coups, kidnappings, police brutality, constitution-fiddling, you name it, are most common in the west of Africa.

    The embers of such instability are being stoked invariably by our pea-brained, myopic and visionless politicians. The seeds of division,discord and disarray are being scattered and sown almost every week in the Motherland by a Junta-like Government that had a 51% ruling mandate.The patience,perseverance and resilience of the long-suffering people of Sierra Leone are being tested and stretched beyond the elastic limit. Sooner or later, something has to give.

    Bio should not allow a war to break out in Sierra Leone. The last time it happened, he ran away from the war front, committed treason and failed woefully to bring the war to an end when he forced himself into the corridors of power as part of the infamous NPRC. If you believe in prayers, pray for peace.

    • There is so much going on around the West African region. Terrorism, Kidnapping of school children for ransom in Northern Nigeria, Banditry, Idis Deby – one the most fearsome Preident and military commander dying in the field of battle, and security challenges facing West African countries near our borders. One would have thought any responsible government in the ECOWAS region will strive not to plunge their country into political turmoil. And the only way governments can do that, is to work with the opposition in their countries to provide the basic necessities of life for their population. Bio, and his government should not ignore the issues in our country.

      Playing political brinkmanship is not only dangerous, but a national security threat to the state. Lets don’t forget, Libya is still awashed with weapons and is a lawless State. Terrorists are looking for weaker states to impose their form of caliphate. And we should not ignore that. There are guns for hire, free lance terrorist fighters all over the Sahel region. We should learn from our past, so history doesn’t repeat itself.

  3. ART, please accept my deepest sympathies and commiserations for the sad loss of your Mother. May the Almighty grant her eternal peace.

  4. O gentle loving soul, wipe away your copious tears and endless cares and be of good cheer, for it has always been clear, there is nothing for men to fear – the transition of the human soul is only a new glorious beginning and certainly not their dreaded end. It is the same delicate process as planting a seed – it must first be ingested by the majestic earth before it can sprout and bring forth fruits and flowers on its own. Losing a loved one is a traumatic ordeal like being inside a building you thought was secure that suddenly collapses on all sides without giving any warning signs that it was about to crumble into dust. Gone but certainly not forgotten. Haja Madinatu will forever be highly revered for her kindness to our people, because Goodbyes are for those who love with lips.

    Those who love with their hearts know any separation that comes with the transition of souls is only an eerie illusion. With hearts overflowing with love, we can be as close to those that have moved on as if they were still here with us on earth. Love is the giant magnet that attracts all things; it finds that which is lost, brings and aligns spiritual dimensions together in order to unite souls craving for a moment of solitude and reflection with their departed beloved brethren. And remember nothing is ever lost from the Almighty God.

    It is our duty to now intercede on behalf of those in transition, for the Almighty God to show them mercy through our prayers. If we are prepared to cross vast expanses of waters that had been accumulated because of our ceaseless, heartfelt tears when asking for mercy – surely, the Master of Creation is bound to honor our humble,heartfelt requests with joy. Rest in Perfect Peace and bliss – Mama Haja Madinatu.

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