Sierra Leone Parliament kicks out statutory instruments as legality of 2018 elections process questioned

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 6 April 2017

After several days of political wrangling and jostling, the parliament of Sierra Leone yesterday voted unanimously to throw out the constitutional / statutory instruments Nos. 43 and 46 of 2017, tabled by the Attorney General and Minister of Justice for ratification.

The Instruments were meant to legitimise the ongoing electoral registration and boundary delimitation process that began weeks ago.

This electoral somersault – as it is now described by critics, calls into question the legality of the voter registration process that has seen over one million people across the country, painstakingly lined up in sweltering heat to register their intention to vote at the presidential and general elections scheduled for 7th of March 2018.

According to the Department of Public Relations – Parliament of Sierra Leone, the  constitutional/statutory instruments dealing with ward and constituency boundary delimitation were described by MPs on both sides of the aisle as “not being properly tabled before the House and should therefore be expunged from its books or records”.

Prior to his ruling, the Rt. Hon. Speaker of Parliament said that since the Chief Electoral Commissioner of NEC, N’fah Alie Conteh had admitted procedural and constitutional breaches and that Parliament is right for raising legitimate concerns, “the House is therefore constrained to allow or validate the instruments”.

Commenting after consultations with NEC, the Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Joseph F. Kamara offered two options regarding the validation of the two instruments. Both options were rejected by Parliament, as it was made very clear by the MPs that “they do not have the power to amend constitutional/statutory instruments”.

As such, leaving the constitutional/statutory instruments to mature will be of no use and amending it afterwards would be impossible.

Majority Leader of the House, Hon. Leonard Fofanah said that “Parliament had earlier accepted and agreed to expunge the two instruments referred above as they are not properly tabled before the House”. He also said that “the motion was moved in good faith”.

Acting Minority Leader of the House, Hon. Ansumana J. Kaikai concurred with the Majority Leader saying that “the two documents should be expunged and revisited to conform with provisions of the 1991 Constitution of Sierra Leone.

Had it not been for the withdrawal of the said statutory instruments by votes in Parliament, they would have become law on the 06th April, 2017, as per dictates of the 1991 Constitution of Sierra Leone, which MPs had taken oath to defend at all times.

The questions many in Sierra Leone are now asking are; what happens now to the ongoing voter registration process which is based on the proposed redrawn constituency boundaries?

Is the ongoing voter registration process legitimate or constitutional, now that parliament has voted unanimously to boot out the Statutory and Constitutional Instruments designed to retrospectively legitimise the elections process?

Will this parliamentary fiasco now be used by the ruling APC to prolong the life of this current parliament and by de-facto means – an extension of the president’s term in office?

Will the Attorney General now be forced to resign, following accusations of incompetence – which many consider to be a witch-hunt designed to disrupt his presidential campaign?

With parliament questioning the professionalism and competence of the chief electoral commissioner Nfa Alie Conteh, surely his position must now be untennable. Can he be trusted and relied upon to conduct such an important election in 2018?

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