Sierra Leone’s Speaker of Parliament debunks Elections Bill outcry

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 15 July 2022:

A new legislation proposed by the government of Sierra Leone which many believe could bring in sweeping changes to the country’s electoral laws, has generated mixed reactions from the public and media.

The Public Elections Bill 2022 is currently being debated in parliament, with critics of the government and opposition MPs accusing the government of failing to make the Bill publicly available for consultation and debate.

But perhaps the most serious criticism levied at the government is that the ruling SLPP is trying to change the 1991 Constitution through the backdoor to replace constituency elections with proportional representation.

Although the ruling SLPP party does not have the majority in parliament to effect the legislative changes it requires, there are allegations of the president bribing paramount chiefs and leaders of smaller opposition parties to garner support.

Amidst all the suspicions, allegations and criticisms, the Speaker of Parliament – Dr Abass Bundu, on Tuesday 12 July 2022, made a statement in parliament to debunk what he referred to as “a mountain of mischaracterisation, misunderstanding and misinformation of monumental proportions about the work of this Parliament.”

This is what he said:

“Honourable Members, since our last meeting in this Chamber of Parliament in plenary, a lot has been said and written on social media about the role of this current Parliament and more especially about this particular sitting and what is perceived by many to be its aim and objective today; about my role in it as Speaker; and equally importantly about the Constitutional Instruments and the Public Elections Bill 2022 that are presently before us for consideration.

“Most of what I have read and heard on social media seemed to me to have stemmed from a mountain of mischaracterisation, misunderstanding and misinformation of monumental proportions about the work of this Parliament.

“It is a big shame that as a nation that has earned self-rule as an Independent Sovereign Nation for over 61 years, and had once been the pride of West Africa as the “Athens of Education” there are still in our midst adult men and women who deliberately and maliciously set out through political propaganda to manipulate and deceive the masses of our people. This is most lamentable, to say the least.

“So let me take this opportunity to make it abundantly clear that contrary to the hype given to the general public, the Public Elections Bill of 2022 currently before this Parliament does not introduce any new proportional representation into our law.

“The District Block Representation System, a form of PR, which is mentioned in the Bill, was introduced into our laws as far back as 2001 by way of a constitutional amendment that was encapsulated in Section 38A. Therefore, the debate about the PR system is not going to happen in this Parliament because it is already embedded in the laws of Sierra Leone, in the Constitution of Sierra Leone, the highest law of our land.

“Instead, what the Public Elections Bill before this Parliament seeks to introduce is the empowerment of women to give them a justifiable say in the Parliamentary affairs of this country by raising the percentage of their representation to a minimum of thirty per cent. The Bill also seeks to strengthen the independence of the Electoral Commission by making it extremely difficult to remove the Commissioners from office.

“The Bill also seeks to take away the prerogative power of the President to determine the date of elections by fixing a date for such elections and this will now be set in the Constitution in the same way as is done in the United States of America. These are the main issues that should focus our attention.

“I propose to explain in greater detail to this House and to the general public the true nature and character of the Instruments that are currently before this Parliament if only to enhance their better understanding and appreciation of both their content and their implications for the political development, peace and stability of our country. In this regard, I shall also call upon the leadership of all the political parties represented in this Parliament to lend their respective voices in removing the cobwebs of misunderstanding and misinformation that seem to have surrounded the Bills before this House.

“To join me in this assignment will be a hallmark of great leadership and a fitting performance of our collective duty to maintain peace and stability in this country and to promote, preserve and protect the wellbeing and prosperity of all who dwell in it. This is a primordial duty that we all owe to the people of this country as Members of Parliament and to this veritable institution of Parliament.

“I shall most certainly perform mine as and when necessary. For now I shall just simply say here clearly and loudly, and with all the authority at my command as Speaker of this Parliament, and mindful also of the need to accelerate momentum in our consideration of the important Bills currently before this Parliament, that our unsuspecting compatriots within this country and around the world have been hugely and thoroughly misinformed, misguided and misdirected. But, as promised, I shall elaborate on this further when we get to that point.

“Also, at this crucial juncture, we should address what in my opinion constitutes the foundation upon which so much that is contained in the Public Elections Bill of 2022 is grounded. And it is imperative that first and foremost we construct the foundation of the metaphoric building if the essence of the new electoral edifice – the Public Elections Bill of 2022- is to be understood and accepted by all and sundry. This is precisely the manner in which the Order Paper for today’s sitting has been crafted.

“Suffice it, however, that I should make mention here of the egregious harm that has been committed by a certain individual who decided unilaterally and without prior authorisation from me to upload my personal telephone number on the social media. This singular act of his has caused me great harm. And he did not just stop there. He went on to exhort Sierra Leoneans both at home and abroad to send messages to my phone about the perceptions they hold about the Public Elections Bill and what they believe it is purporting to introduce into our body politic. To say the very least, these acts constitute as much intimidation and harassment as they were unwarranted and unnecessary and in effect an invitation to anarchy under the guise of respectable journalism.

“Frankly, in my considered opinion, it was a most intolerable and unworthy display of reckless journalism. And I want to take this opportunity to condemn it completely and unreservedly so that the individual concerned would be better advised in future to try to think twice before indulging in any more despicable and uncanny activities of this sort from the comfort environment of his overseas habitat. I hope a word for the wise is sufficient.”

6 Comments

  1. Thank you, Mr Jalloh, for your detailed and educative comments. As you rightly point out, the current Speaker of Parliament whom Ms Amina Mansaray seems to idolise, has been in politics for so long and with so little to show for it that he is best described as a political dinosaur. He has indeed outlived his usefulness and should be concerned more with bowing out of politics with grace than with defending the indefensible – his political reputation and the reputation of the institution he heads. Particularly so when one considers that his defence strategy is nothing more than a vituperative outburst aimed at people who courageously and patriotically seek to point out to him the error of his ways and those of the place he governs.

    It is clearly an undignified spectacle for a political leader of Dr Bundu’s stature to indulge in railing publicly against his fellow compatriots living in the diaspora, seeing it as part of his legislative duties. Of course, Ms Mansaray, who obviously wears the same political party colours as Dr Bundu, will beg to differ here and will see our country’s chief legislator’s verbal excesses as a divine right of his.

    I will end on this note though: the best way of not ‘setting the country on fire’ yet again is for political leaders like the Honourable Speaker to do the right and honourable thing. And that means among other things, remaining calm and collected when put under pressure. I hope Ms Mansaray will join me for love of country in saying this to her idol: ‘Calm down Mr Speaker. Please calm down’.

  2. The indisputable fact is that, until Maada Bio and his Londoners gang of kleptomaniacs mistakenly landed their feet at State house, with keys to our nation coffers, they were diasporas, who while in opposition, were constantly involve in voicing out and calling for the former EBK regime to be held accountable—the lest of which involves, calling out for citizens protests both at the local and international level, with major events held in Washington DC, New York, and London, all spearheaded by the inner circle of PAOPA.

    On the aspect of relevance, diasporas and their host countries have always, and will continue to play significant role in so far as our nation’s development, politics, and to an extend governance mechanism is concern. Besides the millions of dollars being remittance on a daily basis to friends and relatives, helping comatose economy staying afloat, leadership in both of our political parties, APC and SLPP, will always run to diasporas, whenever major funding in need for party activities.
    So i am at lost in observing the shallow and disingenuous whaling of diasporas needing to stay off involvement at our national politics.

    Other than a few bad apples social media activist, who apparently exists on both sides of the political divide, majority are calling for justice, the rule of law, and good governance. This is exactly what is require and expected from a patriotic citizen. The threat of harm and anarchy is obviously not from the diasporas, rather it is from the corrupt core, the likes of Abass Bundu, who for the past decades have hold our people to ransom, stealing everything that belongs to them, while keeping them under gun point. At best, this nonsensical whaling and bad mouthing of diasporas can be compare to an arm robber, who have been caught stealing, with area boys giving him a severe beating, turning around protesting, labeling area boys as a menace to society for teaching him a life lesson.

  3. Ms Amina Mansaray you and many others like you are the very people that have helped or have taken the role of being cheer leaders of a failed government under president Bio.Attacking Mr Yillah one of the best minds on this platform is not only regrettable but out of sync with reality of what is really going on in Sierra leone .I wonder how much have your life change from 2018 to 2022 under this poapa government .Majority of Sierra leoeans will tell you their lives is worse today than when they held their noses and voted for Bio .The idea that our comments about issues affecting our country will undermine the security of the state of Sierra Leone is full of hogwash . The people that undermined the security of Sierra Leone are our unrepentant corrupt politicians and public official that used our country’s natural resources like their cash cow or piggy bank .It is as results of corruption that brought us under development and the RUF wars .Lets gets the facts right .Our country is blessed with human and natural resources .

    Our country’s natural resources through government contracts awarded to jonny foreigners have benefitted those who exploit our minerals for the benefit of foreign governments and entities .Even the RUF war benefited Charles Taylor’s despotic regime in neighbouring Liberia and what did we get back in return ? .He supplied Foday Sankoh with weapons to kill and maimed fellow country men and women and unborn children and worst amputated the hands of fellow citizens that is still visible in our streets fighting to make ends meet .Before the war majority of your fellow countrynen and women will rather spend their entire lives in Sierra Leone than go to foreign lands to seek asylum as refugees because the State of Sierra leone have disintegrated and cannot guarantee their lives and protect their properties .I don’t know how old are you but during that senseless RUF war many Sierra leoneans were forced to leave their homes just like what the Ukrainians are doing today . Some went to Guinea , Ghana ,Liberia and other parts of the world .No one in the Diaspora wants to migrate to foreign lands .Because their is no place like home .So what was the reasons Foday Sankoh and his henchmen used to caused so much suffering , rapes and deaths to their fellow citizens?Answer corruption and lack of economic opportunities , tribalism , North and South divide .And here is a surprise for you .

    The same tried and tested policies pursed by the Stevens, /Momoh government is being repeated by the God like figure you idolise, Bio and his one directionless government .Our country have similar natural resources like the State of Bostwana .Perhaps the only country in Africa that hardly asks for international financial institutions support because their country’s diamonds are managed for the benefit of all not the few . The word Corruption is an endangered lexion in that country . You will be hard pressed to find citizens of Bostwana or Namibia seeking asylum in foreign lands .But plenty from Africas failed state like Ethiopia, Eritrea , Sierra Leone , Guinea , Liberia , Sudan , CAR , and the DRC .What does all this countries have in common , they are coursed by the political leadership in their countries.

  4. “The Speaker is so exercised by criticisms levelled at him and at the way Parliamenrt over which he presides operates that he goes poetically ballistic here” – Dauda Yillah

    Since his inception as Speaker, a lot of negative criticism has been levied against Dr. Bundu. But what he is addressing here is critical to the cohesion of our country. Fools and corrupt politicians would do anything to keep themselves in power caringless about the safety of our people and country. These corrupt politicians are helped by many in the Diaspora.. Our brothers and sisters in the Diaspora need to give peace a chance. You are safe where you are. Stop spreading misinformation and lies that have the potential to set the country up on fire.

  5. Dr Abbas Bundu this octogenarian that have long gone passed his sell by date has become the very thing that epitomised everything that have gone wrong in the sixty one years of our sorry so-called independence and sovereign nation state history .No other person have contributed more to the lack of development and quiet frankly winners take all mentality to our country’s sorry history than Dr Abbas Bundu the Sierra leone political survivor of all kinds of political weather our country finds itself. Is about time someone whisper in his ears that is about time he hangs his political boots and do speaking tours or write a book about his life in Sierra Leone .That will be the ultimate guide of how to play the survivor’s political games in our country. All said and done he is the ultimate cat with nine lives that always managed to reinvent himself and find a role to our country’s political dispensation .Regadless of who is in power , civilian or military dictatorship, you will always guarantee to find him in the thick of things making up things as they go along so they are one step ahead of an increasingly exposed public that knows their rights and what they except from their elected representatives .If former president Bill Clinton was dubbed the come back kid ,Dr Abass Bundu is Sierra leoens answer to that.”The come back octogenarian”. He has the brass neck to declare “It is a big shame that as a nation that has earned self-rule as an independent sovereign nation for over 61years , and had once been the pride of West Africa as ” Athens of Education” There are still in our midst adult men and women who deliberately and maliciously set out through political propaganda to manipulate and deceive the masses of people .This is most mentally, to say the least “.Now one has to be delusional or living in cloud cookoo land to think Dr Abass Bundu can divorce himself from all the problems that have befallen our country.That he can wash his hands squeaky clean ,and not take any or part of the blame .It goes to show how Dr Bundu has over the years after playing such a long active role in public life going back to the former president Stevens days in the 20th century and now we are in the early part of the 21st century and he still continues to lord his authority over us and telling a young generation of political leaders some of them that are old enough to be his grand children of how to run the affairs of the state. At the moment Sierra Leone under Bio is a fragile or a failed state.” Fragile States have the characteristic that substantially impair their economic and social performance.This include a weak governance limited administrative capacity , chronic humanitarian crisis, persistent social tension and often violence or legacy of armed conflict and civil war “Unfortunately our country tick all of the above.This PR is just one of many gimmick projects .We want to see result.Is nothing wrong with the current first past the post system.As one Chines leaders puts it “It doesn’t matter whether the cat is black or white as long as it can catch a mouse is what’s counts .’

  6. The Speaker is so exercised by criticisms levelled at him and at the way Parliamenrt over which he presides operates that he goes poetically ballistic here. To the point of sounding at times downright tautological. Indeed, his apparently well wrought alliterative turn of phrase loses its sparkle (in part at least) considering the redundant use of the words ‘mountain’ and ‘monumental’.

    Rage – blind rage – is the enemy of beauty -beauty of thought and expression.

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