Sierra Leone’s judiciary urged to quickly expedite supreme court hearing on change of electoral system

Foday Moriba Conteh: Sierra Leone Telegraph: 6 December 2022:

The Executive Director of the Centre for Accountability and Rule of Law (CARL), Ibrahim Tommy, has called on the leadership of the Sierra Leone Judiciary to promptly look into the recent lawsuit filed by lawyers of the main opposition All Peoples Congress (APC) against the Presidential directive to the Chief Electoral Commissioner of Sierra Leone (ECSL) to use Proportional Representation at the next elections due in six months.

Speaking at a press conference last Wednesday 30th November, 2022 at CARL’s Office on Circular Road in Freetown, Tommy said that the Judiciary should look into their complaint and hand down a decision before the six months cut-off period starts for the 2023 elections.

He added that over the last 15 years, one of the key challenges they have recognized is dealing with resolution of election petitions or matters relating to electoral violence in which the two are embedded with the issue of delay that is at times “unnecessary” and avoidable.

He stated that CARL understands the challenges that the Judiciary faces in terms of personnel and tools, but it not just about the judges and that when the matter comes to court it is about the lawyers on both sides, for the complainant and the defendant, to ensure the matter progresses speedily.

The Executive Director maintained that the constitution makes provision for four months for the resolution of election petitions but that, “It is unclear in the way it is stated because it doesn’t for example provide for interlocutory applications”.

He therefore urged that the Judiciary should ensure that if the constitution puts a stipulated period, it has the responsibility to put out directions or guidelines for all the parties in a case to comply with the orders of the court.

He used the opportunity to inform pressmen that on Thursday 10th November, the Center for Accountability and Rule of Law (CARL-SL), with support from the Irish Embassy, officially launched the study on Electoral Justice in Sierra Leone ahead of the 2023 general elections.

The objective of the study, he said, was to provide an assessment of the legal and structural environment for the effective administration of electoral justice and also seeks to assess the capacity of existing electoral dispute resolution mechanisms and make recommendations for reforms that may expand the opportunities for resolving electoral disputes.

It could be recalled that 4 lawyers representing the main opposition All People’s Congress Party on Monday 28th November 2022, filed an Originating Notice of Motion to the Supreme Court for a Declaration amongst others, that the Directive issued by the President, Rd. Brig. Dr. Julius Maada Bio, to the Electoral Commission of Sierra Leone (ECSL), to hold public elections for ordinary Members of Parliament by the Proportional Representation System, where there are extant and subsisting constituencies, is inconsistent with Section 38A of Constitutional Amendment, Act No. 15 of 2001.

They maintained that the power given to the Electoral Commission is to conduct and supervise elections, and not to determine the form or mode of Elections and that Section 68 of the Public elections Act 2022 is clear as to what constitutes the conduct of elections, furthering that to change the format or mode of elections is a matter of primary legislation, reserved for the Legislature and not the subject of a Statutory Instrument.

According to CARL, in all of these, the controversy generated by the purported Presidential Directive and the irregularity of Statutory Instrument No.83 2022 cannot be underscored, as it degenerated into Parliamentary chaos, public shock and concern.

“Therefore, the Supreme Court in the filed Originating Notice of Motion is urged to declare null and void the Presidential Directive and Statutory Instrument No. 83 of 16 November 2022 now purportedly laid before Parliament,” said CARL.


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