There is no state of public emergency in Sierra Leone – says opposition APC

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 26 February 2019:

Parliamentarians in Sierra Leone return to parliament today, after last week’s controversial and unprecedented decision  by the Speaker of the House – Dr Abbas Bundu, to grant parliamentary assent to the president’s proposal to declare a state of public emergency on rape, without seeking a two-thirds majority vote through ballot – as provided for in the country’s constitution.

This decision has angered the opposition APC, who are accusing the Speaker of undemocratically conferring sweeping state of emergency powers on to the president, without recourse to the judiciary in rape and sexual violence cases. The president they say, will effectively become the Judge, Jury and Executioner.

According to the opposition APC, such sweeping state of emergency powers is open to abuse and can be used to intimidate, harass, and worse – incarcerate opposition politicians.

But the government disagrees. Yesterday, Monday 25th February 2019, the Leader of Government Business in the House of Parliament – Sidi Mohamed Tunis MP, presented  President Julius Maada Bio with a Parliamentary Certificate of Approval of the Proclamation of a State of Emergency on  Rape and Sexual Violence, at State House.

Presenting the controversial Certificate, Sidi Mohamed Tunis said: “Your Excellency sir, having gone through Parliament, I hereby present you with the Certificate of Approval of the Proclamation on the State of Emergency on Rape and Sexual Violence.”

Receiving the Certificate, President Julius Maada Bio said he is pleased that Parliament has done their bit of the work to translate his words into action.

He said he is very passionate and cared about the welfare of everyone in the country, adding that he has already made a commitment on rape and sexual violence, which according to the president has been well received both locally and internationally.

President Bio thanked Members of Parliament for approving the Declaration and expressed hope for their continued support in implementing the other parts of the Declaration.

But the opposition APC members of parliament – commanding a majority in the Houses of Parliament, say that they never gave their assent to the president’s proposal to declare a state of emergency.

The speaker of parliament says that he has granted approval for the declaration of a state of emergency because when members of parliament where asked to indicate their approval, the majority he said shouted‘Ayes’ – meaning yes.

But many listeners of the BBC Focus on Africa recording of the event in parliament, said that those MPs shouting ‘No’ clearly shouted loudest, adding to the controversy and political intrigue.

And this is what the opposition APC are complaining about, along with the refusal of the speaker of parliament to grant MPs a ballot vote, so as to ascertain whether two-thirds of MPs had given their assent to the Bill.

As the political row continues, the opposition APC will today return to parliament, expecting the debate on the state of emergency Bill to continue – followed by a meaningful vote.

Yesterday, the APC party published a letter – signed by Ibrahim Ben Kargbo MP, Acting Leader of the party (Photo), stating their position on the declaration of state of emergency. This is what they said:

“We the APC Members of Parliament wish to inform members of our Party, the International Community, Civil Society, the Media and the general public that, Parliament has not approved His Excellency’s Proclamation of a State of Public Emergency. Section 29 (3) of the 1991 Constitution provides that such a proclamation must be approved by a vote of two-thirds of Members of Parliament present.

“Parliamentary sitting was abruptly adjourned to Tuesday 26th February 2019 without votes being taken as prescribed by the Constitution and the Standing Orders.

“While we applaud President Julius Maada Bio in his determination to combat sexual crimes, it is in the legislative competence of Parliament to make laws for good governance. In this respect, our Constitution emphatically states in Section 105:

“Subject to the provisions of this Constitution, Parliament shall be the supreme legislative authority for Sierra Leone.”

“Accordingly, we the APC Members of Parliament made our position abundantly clear in the Well of Parliament that we support the fight against rape and all forms of sexual violence against women and girls and that more punitive measures ought to be adopted to control same.

“In addition, we the APC Members of Parliament hold the view that such measures are not beyond the reach of the President, as such can be adequately achieved by strengthening the Sexual Offences Laws and their enforcement followed by stronger regulations.

“If President Bio wishes to have Parliament amend the Sexual Offences Laws and enact stricter laws and regulations, he should commence the initiative rather than pre-empt Parliament by proclaiming a State of Public Emergency.

“We, the APC Members of Parliament strongly consider the proclamation of a State of Public Emergency as an overreach by the Government in the fight against rape and sexual offences. A State of Public Emergency may be declared by the President under only the following circumstances:

“When—
a. Sierra Leone is at war;
b. Sierra Leone is in imminent danger of invasion or involvement in a state of war; or
c. there is actual breakdown of public order and public safety in the whole of Sierra Leone or any part thereof to such an extent as to require extraordinary measures to restore peace and security; or
d. there is a clear and present danger of an actual breakdown of public order and public safety in the whole of Sierra Leone or any part thereof requiring extraordinary measures to avert the same; or
e. there is an occurrence of imminent danger, or the occurrence of any disaster or natural calamity affecting the community or a section of the community in Sierra Leone; or
f. there is any other public danger which clearly constitutes a threat to the existence of Sierra Leone.
It is clear our Constitution reserves these specific circumstances to declare a State of Public

“Emergency in Sierra Leone and the present societal menace doesn’t constitute one. We believe a declaration of a State of Public Emergency is a wrong manner to approach a societal problem for which appropriate laws and regulations may be enacted by Parliament.

“A State of Public Emergency may provide temporary measures but it cannot stop a scourge of sexual offences in our communities in the long run when the period of emergency expires. As the Proclamation of a State of Public Emergency is at variance with curbing sexual crimes, so is the ‘collection of voices’ in approving it by Parliament.

“We refer our objections to the International Community, Civil Society Organizations, the Media and all men and women of goodwill, that we share President Julius Maada Bio’s quest to fight sexual offences but we do not share his Proclamation of a State of Public Emergency and we frown on the heavy-handedness of the Speaker in attempting to carry the Motion for the approval of the State of Public Emergency by a mere ‘collection of voices’ contrary to the mandatory Provision of Section 29(3) of the 1991 Constitution and Standing Order 44(4) – for a two- thirds vote for its approval.

“We therefore wish to reiterate that the Debate for the approval of the said Proclamation was inconclusive; hence a Public State of Emergency does not exist. The Debate on the Proclamation is to continue on the next sitting of Parliament.”

With president Bio yesterday receiving his Certificate of Parliamentary approval of the declaration of state of emergency on rape and sexual violence at State House, and the opposition APC denying that such an assent was granted by the majority of MPs in parliament, today’s sitting by MPs will determine the shape and tone of politics in Sierra Leone for the next few months.

7 Comments

  1. Andrew Banya

    Mr Banya, any straight thinking individual would be 100% in support of your views regarding the present fiasco in Sierra Leone House of Parliament. It appears as if there is a big headed and arrogant Speaker, who is causing turmoil in Parliament from day one of his controversial inception.

    How can a Speaker depend on a voice vote on an important issue such as a public emergency on rape? Did he use a sound-level meter that measured the decibels of the ‘YES’ and ‘NO’ of the SLPP and APC respectively, and thereby came to the conclusion that the ‘AYES’ have it?

    In fact, it is not certain whether the APC can muster the two-thirds majority stipulated by the 1991 constitution. But the issue here is, in democratic setting, one should be given a clear opportunity to register their opinion especially in a critical case like an emergency proclamation on sexual violence.

    The guy has caused a lot of controversy in the past eleven months of his tenure and must consider his position seriously.

  2. Thank Goodness the argument about the Commission of Enquiry has subsided especially about the rules of evidence and witch hunting and my prediction is APC will soon realize that politics is all about manoeuvring that’s why the nuclear option is sometimes used in the US Congress.

    To APC’s credit they have learned from the first mistake they made after losing the speakership – that violence doesn’t have any place in our democracy and now they are taking baby steps in the right direction by just putting up temper tantrums.

    • Even the COI, if only the required rules were implemented, we all could have had a very easy and smooth investigation. The APC would have nothing to complained about. But here we are now, talking about a chaotic due process when it comes to forming vital policies. You now see the reason why APC is freaking out!

  3. A voice vote cannot substantiate for the passing of such a crucial bill. I strongly believe that the best way to resolve the impasse is through the ballot box. Let the MPs vote on the bill – simple and transparent. I am a strong SLPP supporter but, I think the APC’s position on this is in the best interest of Sierra Leone and a recipe for ‘best practice’.

    Our President’s intention on clamping down on rape and its attendant vices is genuine. He shouldn’t let that good will be smeared by cheap politics. My take.

    • Thank you very much Mr. Banya for your statement and I quote: ‘I think the APC’s position on this is in the best interest of Sierra Leone and a recipe for ‘best practice’’. We need many more people like you, not only on this forum but in our parliament. GOD BLESS YOU.

      You just reminded me of my icon and the greatest politician ever lived (that’s my opinion and belief) – the late ARIZONA senator JOHN McCAIN (MAY HIS SOUL REST IN PERFECT PEACE). John McCain was a politician who can go beyond political lines and boundaries to get things done. He always reaches the other side of the aisle to achieve consensus on every political debate and issue concerning his country. Thereby at least bringing people together and facilitating peace and security in his country. What a FINE and DECENT man he was.

      This is what we lack in Sierra Leone unfortunately. I have never seen or heard any politician or MP reaching the other side, or even opposing the president or their party in parliament on any issue. They just accept whatever the party or the president wants. Politics should not be like that in my opinion.

      I think, it is time for Sierra Leone to move away from partisan politics when it comes to very important issues affecting the country. Bi-partisan politics is achievable in Sierra Leone. The present political set up in our parliament just favours that.

      The president and the government are not in the minority in parliament, which means the government can’t pass it’s agenda through parliament without the support of the other parties.

      One thing should be made clear and that is, the opposition (who are in the majority) should not attempt to block the government’s agenda which is good for the country. Likewise, the government should not take unilateral actions and decisions on a very unpopular policy or issue that will be rejected by Parliament and make it legal by what we say in Sierra Leone YUKI YUKI. The voice voting system does exactly that.

      Moreover, this voice system of voting prevents us from knowing how our politicians vote on the issues concerning the country. We can’t hold any political party responsible for any vote because we don’t have the number of votes for the YES or NO. That is why the PMDC, C4C, NGC and the other political parties remain mute.

      But if there is a ballot vote on the issues which will give us the results in numbers, then we will at least figure out how the political parties voted. The numbers will tell us whether they voted in the interest of the country or for their own political interests. Again, thanks a lot Mr. Banya.

  4. Is it appropriate for me to ask whether there are trouble makers in our parliament? Or our parliamentarians just fancy making a mockery of our laws and DEMOCRATIC INSTITUTIONS? or are they there just there to joke with the lives of the people?
    Why is it that the APC always disagree each time the SLPP says an agreement has been met on any important issue concerning the country.

    First of all, there was an issue with the guidelines concerning the COI and now the APC is saying that parliament did not approve the STATE OF PUBLIC EMERGENCY by any meaningful vote. Is it the APC to blame or the SLPP. God will surely show us which of the two parties are disturbing the peace and minds of public.

    Who should the public believe now when such problems arise. Again, we are not hearing anything from the other opposition parties namely the NGC, C$C and the PMDC. Where are they? MUTE. What is clear now is that one of the two political parties (APC or SLPP) is fomenting this political chaos.

    The APC and the SLPP should note that the people are tired and frustrated with this sort of things. Why not STOP shouting YES or NO and just do ballot voting in parliament. These two parties must know that 2023 is not very far away when the people have to decide.

    • No sir, I disagree with you for saying “What is clear now is that,one of the two…..” if you read the report very clearly I don’t think APC in particular is fomenting any of this chaos as you claim (one of the two). Let us call it out as it is. From the report, we are told that the protocol the speaker took was a very wrong one plain and simple. The speaker of the House should be blamed therefore.

      To me, I do believe that in as much as APC seemed very desperate to be heard in most issues, which sometimes tend to put them in a very unusual position, but one cannot deny the fact that most of the issues they have participated in, they are either sidelined or not even given the platform to be heard. That is why in most cases APC dae tension!

      And this “emergency saga” is not an exception to that. Truth be told, the speaker of the House is really not up to par when it comes to handling his duties in parliament. Therefore he should ‘refresh’ to returning to follow due process or resign. In this very short period of his administration as speaker of the House, the country has recorded and seen more chaos and harm than good. All as a result of his wrongful procedure in parliament.

      The way he carried out the process of this whole thing is a shame, a mess and a disgrace, and it’s all his fault because of failure to do the right thing. If we are ever going to blame the APC for being a troublemaker in the House, we should wait to see when that is going to happen. For now, they are far from being blamed for any of the controversies nor scapegoated!

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