Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Sierra Leone Democracy at Risk as Parliament Gets Ready to Degrade Speaker Position

Jonathan Leigh
Over the past few weeks the All People Congress (APC) Government has embarked on a campaign of intimidation of journalists and opposition figures in Sierra Leone.

Jonathan Leigh and Bai Bai Sesay, editors of the Independent Observer  have been arrested, locked up for days and refused bail for comparing the President to a rat. When the pro-government Awareness Times Newspaper had somebody writing as Mohamed Azonto Kamara calling the Vice President an ASS, nothing happened, as the publisher  of the rag, who is also the Special Assistant to the President has launched a campaign of disrespect against the VP on the grounds that people are disrespecting the President for his sake. She had earlier in the year promised the journalists in the country that they Will be ''sanitized," and it seems she is using her influence with the President to make good on her threat to 'sanitize' the few independent journalists left in the country.

The two journalists are both to be dragged out of prison today and arraigned in court on charges of calling the President a rat instead of calling him a toy lion. Of course these two journalists are definitely not members of the President's sycophantic brigade, a group of journalist who have now devoted their whole professional life to feeding the President false compliments. The Siera Leone President is notorious for his weakness for praise singing and people are getting prime jobs in the country, just singing his name.
Main Prison in Freetown
Pademba Road Office

However, as the whole Sierra Leone pays attention to the problems of Jonathan and Bai Bai, a more dangerous thing is happening today in the country's Parliament which if successful, will put the initial nail in the coffin of multiparty democracy in Sierra Leone and it seems as if the arrest of the two journalist and some opposition figures has just been a diversion.

There is a bill being introduced in Parliament today that will change the qualification requirements for speaker of Parliament, with the sole purpose of removing the current speaker and replacing him with a stooge of the president, as the current deputy speaker Hon. Chericoco is already Koroma's boy.

Under Section 79 of Act 6 of the 1991 constitution, the speaker of parliament must be from a legal background. The act states that the speaker of parliament " shall be elected by the Members of Parliament from among persons who are members of Parliament or are qualified to be elected as such and who are qualified to be appointed judges of the superior court of Judicature or have held such office"

Even though there is some ambiguity in the phrase "or are qualified to be elected," it is very clear that the writers of the constitution wanted a legal person to hold the office, as such a person will be able to understand the intricacies of the law making process and be of sound legal mind to interpret the provisions of the constitution.

However, the government is now using the ambiguity in the act to change the fundamental requirement of a speaker, so that anybody elected to parliament and can command a majority, regardless of legal or educational background can now become a Speaker of Parliament. APC Parliamentarians know a lot of things, but law is not one of their strong points.

Under the new amendments being proposed the section will now read as follows:
   The Speaker                     79(1) The speaker shall be elected by the Members of Parliament from among persons who are-
  • a. Members of Parliament and who had served as such for not less than five years: or
  • b. qualified to be members of Parliament.
Gone is the legal background provision, which means that any Jack or Jill who is awarded a party symbol and has influence with the President, now has the capacity to be Speaker of Parliament.
Speaker Justice Abel Stronge

What is even more troubling is that with the passage this amendment, there are moves underground to remove the current Speaker Abel Nathaniel Bankole Stronge and replace him with the majority leader of the house Sheku Badara Bashiru Dumbuya, who is a very close ally of the President. That being done, the two outstanding MP seats in contention will be decided in favor of APC, giving them 2/3 majority in Parliament and the ability to implement their grand plan, which is either to give their patron Koroma a 3rd term or make the presidency 2 seven year terms, as they will have the parliamentary majority to do as they please.

Alas, the whole of Sierra Leone is focused on the sensational journalists rat case, the constitution is being bastardized under their very noses.With the opposition SLPP plagued by perpetual infighting, it wont be long before Koroma and his cronies evolve from rats into crocodiles, devouring everything that lie in their paths.


Andrew said...

As always, thank you Sheku for giving us updates. You are so right when you made mention of the infighting in the opposition party - SLPP. They are so obsessed with tearing down each other that the party is failing in its responsibility of 'checks and balances.' I hope the SLPP leadership is closely following events that affect the country as a whole.

Dr.Mohamed A. Bereteh said...

Under the APC of Siaka Stevens rule, Mr. M.S. Conteh of Makeni town, a business entrepreneur with no legal background, was appointed as the Speaker of Parliament and things went unchecked in a one party government. APC may be heading towards such unconstitutional dominance of executive power under the 1991 multiparty constitution. We must put our hope, as SLPP stake holders, in addressing the amendment clause, if it has any hidden agenda, and if the right thing is not being done for the good of all Sierra Leoneans, then we must protest to dissociate ourselves from any illegal threat of governance now and in the future. SLPP PROTEST is the only way to bring about a change and for our voices to be heard against all odds. Public protest has palliative effect. My Views! Dr. Mohamed A. Bereteh, SLPP NORCAL