If anybody had told me that one day Ghadaffi will be given an Honourary Parliamentarian status, I would have denied it. But actually that would have been very naive of me since with the APC all things are possible under the surface of the earth. The APC can make the impossible possible and the possible impossible.
|The Author: Hon. Dr. Mrs. Bernadette Lahai of Kenema
And so it happened that on Tuesday, 30th December 2008, I received a text message while in my constituency of an emergency meeting of all Parliamentarians in Committee Room 1 on January 1 2009 at 5pm to meet with Ghadaffi. I did not give the message a second thought as there was no way I would leave my Xmas festival programme for my constituents to meet with Ghadaffi regardless of all the billions of dollars he might have have brought.
I therefore went on with my programme until I was shocked by SLAJ President, Mr Umaru Fofanaís report in Focus on Africa that evening of the Honourary Member of Parliament Status given to Ghadaffi. Not believing my ears I quickly reached for my 1991 Constitution and opened to page 64, Section 75-qualifications for Members of Parliament- to look for the clause or provision for Honourary Member of Parliament. I knew I will not find any such clause or provision. Instead, what I found was
"Subject to the provision of section 76, any person who-
(a) Is a citizen of Sierra Leone (otherwise by naturalisation), and
(b) Has attained the age of twenty-one years, and
(c) Is an elector whose name is on a register of electors under the franchised and Electoral Registration Act, 1961 or under any Act of Parliament amending or replacing that Act, and
(d) Is able to speak and read the English Language with a degree of proficiency sufficient to enable him to take an active part in the proceedings of Parliament, shall be qualified for election as such a Member of Parliament.
Provided that a person who becomes a citizen of Sierra Leone by registration by law shall not be qualified for election as such a Member of Parliament or any Local Authority unless he shall have resided continuously in Sierra Leone for twenty-five years after such registration or shall have served in the Civil or Regular Armed Services of Sierra Leone for a continuous period of twenty-five years."
Although Ghadaffi is over twenty-one years of age and I am certain that he can speak and read the English Language with some degree of proficiency, he is neither a Sierra Leonean nor an elector or registered voter of Sierra Leone. However, for Ghadaffi to qualify as a Sierra Leonean or an elector, Section 75, which is an entrenched clause, would need to be amended either through a referendum or by two-thirds of the Parliamentarians thereof.
I did some telephone enquiries from Parliament as to the rationale for such an unconstitutional act and was told that it was in order to solicit funds from Ghadaffi to implement the Parliamentary Service Commission. Like the reaction of most Sierra Leoneans, I dismissed this explanation as uncalled for and bogus. Parliamentarians could still have solicited funds or assistance from Ghadaffi without necessarily adorning him with such an honour. Does it mean that anytime we solicit assistance from outsiders, we have to award them of honorary Parliamentary status, I questioned? We did not have to expose parliament to such public ridicule and scorn. As representatives of the people and custodians of the law, we must be sensitive to the feelings of our representatives, especially those who suffered most from the eleven year war, which Ghadaffi aided and abetted by training and arming the RUF rebels in exchange for our diamonds. The legacies of the war are ubiquitous. Amputees and other disabled due to the war, war widows, unwanted and abandoned children and war orphans stream the streets of Freetown in search of their daily survival under very harsh and inhumane conditions. Every time I see them as I drive along Pademba Road and Siaka Steven Street, I am moved with compassion for these innocent people.
But what really was nauseating about Ghadaffiís visit was APCís double standards, sycophancy and hypocrisy. Was it not under the leadership of Mr Ernest Bai Koroma in 2007 as Opposition Leader that the SLPP government was vehemently condemned for hosting Ghadaffi? Was it not also under Mr Ernest Bai Koromaís leadership of the Opposition that an open call was made for civil society to clad themselves in black and mourn the killing, maiming, abduction, raping and sexually abusing and molesting of women and girls and to demand an apology from Ghadaffi in accordance with the TRC? Was it not under the leadership of Mr Ernest Bai Koroma as Opposition Leader that he incited his membership on the Libyan rice; rice which was sold and proceeds used as seed money for NASSIT by the SLPP government- this NASSIT that the APC has now claimed as their baby and transformed into the Second Bank of Sierra Leone? Was it not under Mr Ernest Bai Koromaís leadership of the opposition that he and the APC justified the vandalisation and stoning of the buses donated by Ghadaffi to the people of Sierra Leone? Was it not under the leadership of Mr Ernest Bai Koroma that the APC vehemently condemned the SLPP for visiting Libya and Ghadaffi? Was it not under Mr Ernest Bai Koromaís leadership of the then-Opposition APC that the acceptance by the SLPP Government of the tractors donated by Ghadaffi to Sierra Leone was vehemently condemned despite the fact that the tractors were part of Libyaís contribution to the tripartite contribution of Nigeria, South Africa and Libya to Sierra Leoneís post conflict recovery programme?
Is it not this same President Ernest Bai Koroma and the APC that are now singing Ghadaffiís praise as the most generous, kind, loving and magnanimous African President?
Is it not this same President Ernest Bai Koroma and the APC that have now made Libya their farmhouse, visiting it every two or three days with cap in hand begging for everything under the sun, including even broom to sweep State House?
Is it not this same President Ernest Bai Koroma and the APC that were running heather-shelter, like madmen chasing nothing, to welcome Ghadaffi, who neither gave prior notice of his arrival nor a programme of his visit?
Is it not this same President Ernest Bai Koroma and the APC that are now justifying the illegal honorary Parliamentarian status bestowed upon Ghadaffi?
Is it not this same President Ernest Bai Koroma and the APC that recently dined and wined with Ghadaffi?
Is it not this same President Ernest Bai Koroma and the APC that have withdrawn virtually from the South and East, all the tractors that Ghadaffi donated only to add them to the ones that had already been operating in the North? Is it only the North that should benefit from this new Ďphenomenoní known as Ďtractorisationí?
Is it not this same President Ernest Bai Koroma and the APC that are now monopolising the use of the buses the Libyan President donated?
What a double standard, hypocrisy and sycophancy! All the things the President and APC accused the SLPP government of doing they are now vigorously pursuing and justifying.
Must the APC shame Mama "Salone" by stooping so low? Poverty is no justification for mortgaging the sovereignty, pride and dignity of Sierra Leoneans. If President Koroma and the APC wanted to honour Ghadaffi, which I am not against, since we must give to Ceasar what is Ceasarís, there are nationally accepted practices, such as Honorary Chieftainship which includes dressing them in our most cherished traditional country cloth or awarding them with the highest honour of the land as Puawui had suggested. It would not have provoked any bad feelings or sentiments.
Now, to my dear colleague SLPP Parliamentarians who took part in the exercise of an unconstitutional honouring of Libyaís Ghadaffi. They should know that the whole of Sierra Leone would have vindicated the SLPP Parliamentarians if they had refused to attend the emergency meeting or preside over such an unconstitutional exercise as they did in the case of the Bank Governor, more so when the APC, while in opposition under Mr Ernest Bai Koroma, made so much noise over Ghadaffiís visit and donations, especially the rice, which was so politicised that it was part of the SLPP undoing in the general election.
As the elected opposition, we have a moral duty to the people of this nation not only to expose any illegal and unconstitutional government dealings but to actually refuse to be a part of it through a staged walk-out from Parliament as was the habit of the APC when it was in opposition under Mr Ernest Bai Koromaís leadership. Some of us donít deserve the public condemnation and insults that all Parliamentarians are now receiving from a disgusted civilian populace; all due to the ruling Majority APCís double standards and sycophancy.
I really just hope next time the APC will look before they leap. LUNTA.
EDITORíS NOTE: Hon. Bernadette Lahai is one of the most articulate & vibrant members of the Opposition SLPP Party. She is also the elected SLPP Womenís Leader and is clearly a force to reckon with in S/Leone.
¬© Copyright by Awareness Times
Newspaper in Freetown, Sierra Leone.