Amin Kef Sesay: Sierra Leone Telegraph: 14 October 2020:
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), established in 2002 urged the Government of Sierra Leone to give “serious consideration” to the creation of a “new constitution”, in order to contribute to human rights and democracy in the country.
All the political parties agreed that the 1991 Constitution does not reflect the modern values of the country, and requires amendment in order to facilitate the continued development of a democratic and stable country.
As such, the mandate of the Constitutional Review Commission (CRC) which was launched by the former President Koroma, was to review the 1991 Constitution of Sierra Leone and the Peter Tucker’s Constitutional Commission Report (PTCR) submitted to the Government in January 2008 as a working document.
The CRC took particular note of PTCR, the TRC recommendations, position papers submitted by different stakeholders and recommendations from the public, during its nationwide consultation exercise.
The Chapter on State Policy defines the overarching relationship between the State of the Republic of Sierra Leone and its citizens and institutions. It outlines the State’s goal and aspirations towards securing basic rights and development for its people.
In the 1991 Constitution of Sierra Leone, none of these provisions are justiciable which means if there was a breach of these undertakings and promises in the Constitution they are not enforceable by the courts.
During the Consultation process there were many calls for the provisions contained within Chapter II to be made justiciable. This was a major consideration for the deliberations of the CRC.
Other key areas recommended for inclusion were devolution of power, integrity, transparency, accountability and sustainable development as an additional National Value.
In addition, proposals were made to remove restrictions on provisions relating to health, safety, welfare, medical facilities and educational opportunities. So phrases like “having due regard to the resources of the State and “as and where practicable” were deleted.
The CRC also accepted the imperative recommendation by the TRC which had been reiterated by the PTCR to add “human dignity” into the country’s National Values.
The CRC suggests strengthening the provision relating to discrimination by changing “discourage” to “prohibit” discrimination under Economic Objectives.
The CRC reviewed the provisions of Chapter III, The Recognition and Protection of Fundamental Human Rights and Freedoms of the Individual of 1991 Constitution.
The CRC took particular note of the TRC recommendations, those contained in the PTCR and especially the submissions and recommendations received during the nation-wide public consultation exercise.
All human rights are fundamental – life, liberty, security of person, the enjoyment of property, the protection of law, the protection of environment, education, health, dignity and shelter as well as a right to a public apology, as well as compensation for unlawful detention. Numerous position papers reiterated the call by the country’s Human Rights Commission for the abolition of the death penalty.
“From a Political to a Developmental Constitution” as in Ghana, the CRC presented the idea of National Development Planning Commission to the people of Sierra Leone and all relevant national stakeholders to consider the establishment of a constitutionally guaranteed institution to specifically address Sierra Leone’s long term development challenges.
Key among the recommendations made was that national development is not cantered on sectional political party manifestos; manifestos must rather be aligned to the Plan.
The Implementation Plan recommended by the CRC should be binding on all successive governments for the following reasons: This will ensure that projects initiated under a previous government are not abandoned where there is a change of government. The CRC recommended that the National Development Planning Commission should be enshrined within the Constitution.
President Ernest Bai Koroma is no longer in office – president Bio is now in charge. So, what happens now to the Report of the 80 –member Constitutional Review Committee (CRC) which former President Ernest Bai Koroma established in July 2013? The Committee completed its work on 12th October 2016 and presented its Report to the former president.
“We (the Constitutional Review Committee) have completed our work, the mandate to review the 1991 Republican Constitution and not to write a new Constitution. The whole exercise, from what we have been hearing, the people are satisfied that we have done a good job and we do recognize that fact. Posterity will judge us kindly,” the late Chairman of the 80-man CRC Honourable Justice Edmond Cowan told journalist Clarence Roy-Macaulay on October 26, 2016 – four years ago.
Will president Bio now dust off the Report and lay it before his cabinet to decide upon a Plan of Action for its implementation, as he promised over two years ago – during his 2018 election campaign? Or will he renege on that promise?