Sierra Leone Telegraph: 23 October 2018:
Sierra Leoneans have this morning woken up to a new dawn, a new democracy, a new political landscape, and hopefully the start of a new culture of political and public accountability, that could bring an end to unbridled corruption with impunity.
Yesterday, Monday 22nd October 2018, the Parliament of Sierra Leone debated three constitutional instruments proposing the setting up of Commissions of Inquiry to investigate the conduct of the immediate past APC government from 2007 to April 2018.
The marathon debate, which started yesterday morning and ended late last night, was transmitted live on radio and television for wider coverage. The parliamentary galleries were filled with supporters of both sides of the debate.
But after an exhausting day in parliament for the main opposition APC, constitutionality and democracy reigned supreme. They were unable to secure the two-thirds majority votes needed to stop the three Constitutional Instruments from becoming law, making way for the establishment of the Commissions of Inquiry.
As a strong supporter of the APC – Abdul Malik Bangura explained: ‘APC with 68 MPs had argued that the instruments comprise of several clauses that contravene the Sierra Leone 1991 Constitution, thus calling on all MPs to vote against the proposal to set up the Commission of Inquiry. However, the ruling Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP) with 49 MPs pushed forward the urgent need to approve the Constitutional Instruments so that alleged corrupt officials of the previous APC led government (between September 2007 to April 2018) could be investigated.
‘A total of 72 MPs voted against the Constitutional Instruments – a move backed by the main opposition APC, whilst 60 MPs voted in support of the Constitutional Instruments, with 2 votes voided.
‘But under Sierra Leonean laws, a move to stop a constitutional instrument can only come into effect if two-thirds of all MPs in parliament vote against the constitutional instrument. Thus, although the main opposition APC won with a simple majority with 72 votes in its favour, and the ruling SLPP got 60 votes, the constitutional instruments cannot be stopped, because the main opposition APC failed to have the required two-thirds majority of 94 votes.’
According to report from the Parliament’s Communications Unit, as a result of last night’s vote in parliament, the Speaker of Parliament – Hon. Dr. Abass Chernor Bundu, declared that he will today direct the Clerk of Parliament to issue a certificate to the Executive (the government) that they should now “go ahead and establish the Commissions of Inquiry having satisfied the provisions of the law”.
Moving the motion, Hon. Daniel B. Koroma referred to a press release that had been issued by the APC Secretary General – Ambassador Osman F. Yansaneh (Photo), saying that the APC is not against the Commissions of Inquiry, except for the fact that APC operatives were being selected for investigation and the deliberate exclusion of Permanent Secretaries from the Inquiry.
He also said that the Instruments should be annulled and brought back to Parliament on the grounds of wrong titling, limitless timing; and that the Commissions are not going to be bound by the rules of evidence applicable in both civil and criminal matters.
He furthered that the APC is not against the fight on corruption, but that it is against witch-hunting, which he said is a pretext for rounding up dissenters in the guise of public interest. He also said that in cases of disagreement, provisions contained in the 1991 Constitution of Sierra Leone should take precedence.
Hon. Shiaka Musa Sama, an Independent MP from Pujehun affirmed his support for the setting up of the Commissions of Inquiry to investigate the misuse of public funds that had benefited few people, whilst noting the failure of other Commissions of Inquiry over the years.
He called on President Bio to strive very hard to bring corruption to a halt under the auspices of the New Direction. He said that the Commissions should also look into land lease agreements and that there should not be sacred cows, but the recommendations should be implemented to the letter.
Hon. Matilda Minah, a Paramount Chief Member of Parliament from Pujehun also concurred and supported the formation of the Commissions of Inquiry for the development of the country.
Hon. Saa Emerson Lamina – Leader of C4C (Photo) in supporting the formation of the Commissions of Inquiry said that “the country is plagued and divided along partisan lines”, whilst recalling the establishment and the collapse of the Justice Semega’s Commission of Inquiry by the former APC government into the conduct of the past SLPP Tejan Kabbah led regime.
He also reminded the House that these Instruments could only be overturned by a vote of not less than two-thirds of Members of Parliament, noting that they would clear uncertainties and nip impunity in the bud.
He also said that Section 62 of the 1991 Constitution of Sierra Leone captures Permanent Secretaries for investigations, some of whom are even richer than politically exposed persons, whilst observing that a certain flag bearer had served as Bank Governor, Finance and Foreign Ministers of government and as such participated in the negotiation of loans and other activities of Government, whilst recalling his indictment but was exonerated by a 32 page audit report, the unconstitutional sacking of the former Vice-President, followed by a decision of the Supreme Court that would have almost plunged the country into chaos.
Responding, the Leader of the Opposition – Hon. Chernor R.M Bah (Photo) said the APC is not against the Commissions of Inquiry, whilst assuring the Speaker that most of the ruling MPs will see reason and vote along with them.
He decried clause 4 (a) as completely incorrect as it hinges on the acquisition of assets either lawfully or unlawfully and the failure to include Permanent Secretaries, who depending on the context may be referred to as administrative heads or vote controllers.
He furthered that the wording and other related matters are unclear and ambiguous, whilst calling for the annulment of these Instruments for necessary corrections before being regarded as part of the laws of the country.
He also said that the Commissions of Inquiry should be bound by the rules of natural justice and court evidence, as the allegations impinges on the rights to property and the liberty and freedoms of individuals. He noted that the proposed Commissions do have the effects of court. He also said that he prefers a Sierra Leonean judge to a foreign judge to head the Commission.
Responding, the Leader of Government Business, Hon. Sidie M. Tunis said that the law will not cover everything, and that it is not unlawful by law and practice to solicit the services of foreign Judges, citing Justice Semega Jammeh, a Gambian Judge who led the 2008 APC Commission of Inquiry.
He also confirmed that the Commissions of Inquiry to be established, will not be bound by the rules of evidence and that the Commissioners are not Judges, but investigators.