Controversy in Parliament: Leader of Opposition says the Speaker and the Clerk are Ignorant of the Laws of Sierra Leone
In a very sharp response at the wake of a serious controversy between the Speaker and the members of the main opposition All Peoples Congress (APC) Party, Leader of the Opposition in the Sierra Leone House of Parliament has in the afternoon hours of Saturday 25th August 2018, referred to both the Speaker and the Clerk of Sierra Leone Parliament as ignorant of the laws of Sierra Leone.
Honourable Chernor Ramadan Maju Bah, was speaking on behalf of the 68 (sixty eight) APC Members of parliament (MPs), as he was reacting to the comments made by the Clerk of Parliament, Honourable Umaru Paran Tarawally during an earlier 98.1FM Broadcast as dishonest.
It could be recalled that in an earlier 98.1 FM interview, the Clerk of Sierra Leone Parliament had alleged that an Opposition Member of Parliament (MP) Hon. Daniel Koroma had stood on a wrong Parliamentary Standing Order (SO) to discuss a notice of motion on a Constitutional Instrument that was presented in Parliament. The Constitutional Instrument, the Clerk said, is tabled by the Government for the setting-up of a Commission of Inquiry to investigate all officials that served as Ministers, Deputy Ministers and many other top offices between the period of September 2007 to April 2018 (a period for which the APC was in governance).
Hon. Chernor Ramadan Maju Bah, himself an APC MP, whilst responding during an interview with DE MIRROR NEWSPAPER, said it seems both the Speaker and the Clerk of Sierra Leone Parliament lack the prerequisite legal knowledge to interpret both the Laws of Sierra Leone, as well as the Parliamentary Standing Orders. He explained that on Friday 3rd August 2018, his colleague, Hon Daniel Brima Koroma, stood on Standing Order 18 (8) and Section 170 (7) of the 1991 Constitution (Act No. 6 of 1991) to INFORMED THE HOUSE OF HIS INTENTION TO FILE A NOTICE OF MOTION to the office of the clerk for the said Constitutional Instruments to be debated but the speaker wrongly overruled. He stressed that “the actions of Hon. Dauda Brima Koroma was to inform the Speaker.”
The Leader of Opposition in Parliament further confirmed that the Clerk’s claims about Honourable Daniel Brima Koroma using the wrong Standing Order “to inform the House of his intention to file a notice of motion” is dishonest on the side of the Clerk. Honourable Bah said Standing Order (SO) 18(8) of Parliament says:
“A constitutional or statutory instrument shall pursuant to subsection (7) of Section 170 of the Constitution and Section 3 of the Constitutional and Statutory Instrument Act (Act No. 6 of 1991) be laid before Parliament in the manner set out in the preceding provisions of this order.”
Honourable Chernor Bah, said through the Standing Order cited above, it is clear that Parliament has the power to look into any Constitutional or Statutory Instrument that should come into force in Sierra Leone. He therefore said it was correct for Hon. Daniel Brima Koroma to have used SO 18(8) to inform the House of Parliament about his intention to file in a motion on the Constitutional Instrument.
Hon Bah said for the Clerk of Parliament to even say that SO18 was used by Honourable Daniel Brima Koroma to file a notice of motion on a Constitutional Instrument in the is itself wrong. He said, a notice of motion on a Constitutional Instrument is never done “VERBALLY”. He defended: “Hon. Daniel Brima Koroma merely informed the Speaker of his intention to file a notice of motion on a Constitutional Instrument, because in Parliament, notices of motion on a Constitutional Instrument are never done verbally.” He said, SO 25(2) makes it very clear that “When notice of a motion is required, such notice shall be given in WRITING, signed by the member and addressed to the Clerk of Parliament. Such notice may be handed by a Member to the Clerk of Parliament, when Parliament is sitting, or may be sent to or left at the office of the Clerk during working hours.”
The Leader said Honourable Daniel Koroma had within the 21 days period done the Notice of Motion in writing and he had served the Clerk of Parliament. Hon. Chernor Bah went further to confirm that the notice of motion was even seconded by another APC MP, Honourable Hassan Sesay. However, he said, to show how “dishonest” the Clerk is, “when the Clerk responded, in a letter, to the notice of motion filed in by Hon. Daniel Brima Koroma; Hon. Hassan Sesay who was merely copied in the letter, has received his own letter, but the person who was addressed in the letter (Hon. Daniel Koroma) has until now not yet received his own letter.”
Further expanding on the efforts his party’s MPs made to get Parliament to seat and debate the constitutional instrument as prescribed by the laws of Sierra Leone, the Leader of the Opposition parties said “on 9th August, 35 MPs signed a petition requesting the Speaker to summon a seating to debate the Constitutional Instrument, but the Speaker refused.” He blamed the Speaker for blatantly ignoring the rules of parliament, and premised it on what he described as “ignorant of Parliamentary rules and the Constitution of Sierra Leone.”
The Leader of Opposition in Parliament added that Section 170(7)(c) of the Constitutional and Statutory Instrument Act (Act No. 6 of 1991) of Sierra Leone (mostly called the 1991 Constitution of Sierra Leone) says:
“Any orders, rules or regulations made by any person or authority pursuant to a power conferred in that behalf by this Constitution or any other law shall come into force at the expiration of a period of twenty-one days of being so laid UNLESS PARLIAMENT before the expiration of the said period of twenty-one days, annuls any such orders, rules or regulations by the votes of not less than two-thirds of the Members of Parliament.”
Whilst making his final clarifications, Hon. Chernor Bah said, “Parliament does not amend a constitutional instrument, it merely rejects or accepts it.” He said rejecting the Constitutional Instrument goes with sending the view as to why Parliament feels that the Constitutional Instrument is bad, so that the drafters could make amendments and corrections. He said they already called for a division, for which voting should have been done in line with Section 170(7)(c) of the 1991 Constitution of Sierra Leone, but the Speaker has denied any seating in order to prevent MPs from voting.
Meanwhile, it could be recalled that following the March 2018 Parliamentary elections, the APC lost the Presidency but has the largest single block of members in the Sierra Leone House of Parliament, with 68 representatives, followed by the ruling Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP) which has 49 Members in the Sierra Leone Parliament. Other parties including the Coalition for Change (C4C) has 8 MPs, the National Grand Coalition (NGC) has 4 MPs, and 3 Independent MPS, which in total makes it 132 Ordinary Members of Parliament. The other set of 14 MPs and Paramount Chiefs Members of Parliament (PCMP) elected from each of the 14 Provincial Districts in Sierra Leone, making a total of 146 Members in the Sierra Leone House of Parliament.
Earlier, during the election of Hon. Dr. Abass Chernor Bundu (a member of the ruling SLPP) as the Speaker of Parliament, the APC’s 68 MPs were bundled out of Parliament, whilst the NGC’s 4 MPs and 1 PCMP did boycott the process, at the time citing illegality also. That means, only 50% (73 MPs) of the total composition of the House of Parliament did take part in the election of the Speaker, who at the time got 72 votes, since one of the votes was void.
Already, as a Party, the APC in its press release dated August 23rd 2018 says: “Therefore, the failure and /or refusal of the Speaker to respond to the concerns raised by Members of Parliament and considering the delicate and illegal nature of the said Constitutional Instruments, the APC Party is therefore compelled to proceed to the Supreme Court for interpretation of the relevant constitutional provisions in respect of the said Instruments. The APC Party is of the opinion that if these Instruments are allowed to become operational without being debated, Sierra Leoneans will be deprived of their constitutional rights to participate in the law making process.”