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NEWS : Politics  

In matter of Qualifications for Speaker: SLPP Raises Constitution Alarm Bells
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Nov 6, 2013, 17:12
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The main opposition Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP) is raising an alarm that the country might be reverting back to the dark era when a non-legally trained mind would preside over legal matters at the Legislature (i.e: Parliament). According to SLPP, a proposed amendment to the current constitution of Sierra Leone will turn the procedure for election of Parliamentary Speaker to what used to happen under the discarded 1978 One Party Constitution. This 1978 constitution was discarded into the dustbins of history when a citizens referendum brought in the 1991 Multi-party Constitution. There has so far been no reaction from either the ruling APC party or the Government Attorney General. See below for more.


SLPP Raises Alarm over

Constitutional Amendments to

Election of Speaker by MPs

 

SLPP PRESS RELEASE: UNWARRANTED AND DISTURBING AMENDMENTS TO 1991 CONSTITUTION OF SIERRA LEONE


Freetown, Thursday 31st October 2013:
The Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP) notes with utter dismay the proposed Bill entitled: The Constitution of Sierra Leone (Amendments) Act 2013 that is supposed to be laid before the Sierra Leone Parliament by the ruling All Peoples Congress (APC) Government.

 

The proposed Bill seeks to alter a fundamental qualification for those aspiring to be Speaker of Parliament. The present constitutional provision demands that only persons with legal background and with the experience of a judge of the Superior Court of Judicature or qualified to be appointed as such can hold that office. The proposed Bill now suggests that everyone from among Members of Parliament who have served for five years or persons qualified to be Members of Parliament can hold that office.

 

Under section 79 sub-section (1) of the 1991 Constitution 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.

 

The proposed amendment to section 79 referred to above reads: The Speaker of Parliament 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 a Member of Parliament.

 

Government is also proposing an amendment to Section 80 sub-section (3) of the 1991 Constitution by extending the tenure of the Deputy Speaker from being elected at the first sitting of each session of Parliament to election at the first sitting of Parliament which now gives the holder a five year rather than an annual term.

 

The SLPP wish to state that the current provisions are in place because of the decadence that prevailed in Sierra Leone as a result of years of one party rule under the APC Government of President Stevens and President Momoh and are pertinent today as this nation needs to guard against a recurrence of that dark era.

 

Further, that they had the mandate of the people of this country as freely expressed by their representatives in the 1990 Peter Tucker Constitutional Review Commission, Parliament and in the 1991 National Referendum on the Constitution.

 

It is also apparent that the drafters of that Constitution and the representatives of the people then demanded that someone with legal background should hold that office because such persons by their training and experience will be independently minded to impartially arbitrate proceedings, will understand the intricacies of the law making process and will be more equipped to interpret the provisions of the Constitution and standing orders.

 

The amendments suggested by Government, are designed to take us back to those inglorious authoritarian days as they are taken from the pages of the infamous 1978 One Party Constitution which did not provide legal qualification for the speakership and Parliament was reduced to a rubber stamp authority of the Executive. Furthermore, Sierra Leone during that period went through the painful experience of having a Speaker in the person of the late William Conteh that led a Parliament that drifted the country to the political abyss giving rise to the villainous rebel war from 1991 to 2002.

 

These amendments coming at a time when an eighty (80) man Constitutional Review Committee (CRC) has been constituted and have commenced sittings on reviewing the nations extant Constitution, undermines the efforts of that forum in its infancy and fails to depict a commitment to the ongoing national consultative process which they have commenced.

 

We do hope there is no sinister motive to replace the current Speaker and we therefore call on Government to allow the CRC to perform its mandate without direct or indirect interruption and to demonstrate a strong commitment to that venture by withdrawing the proposed amendments in the interest of deepening our fledgling democracy through genuine constitutional reform.


Sulaiman Banja Tejan-Sie
National Secretary General


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