An adamant stance of the main opposition Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP) has created a very grave problem for the State in the fight against the Ebola virus. As a result, President Koroma is now in a dilemma over how to protect his Nation’s health as against attitude of his inconsiderate opposition political rivals. The current dilemma is that the State of Emergency declared last year to combat Ebola, is to expire this week and its extension depends on bi-partisan approval from both SLPP and APC elected parliamentarians. According to Sierra Leone laws, a State of Emergency can only be called by the President and when approved by Parliament can only last for a period of one year. After one year, the emergency can be extended but only upon the votes of two thirds of the elected MPs and the ruling APC does not have up to two thirds of MPs ready to vote on its side. It needs cooperation from some SLPP MPs.
Now, it is a recognized fact that the fight against Ebola demands key measures such as enforcement of swab tests on all corpses to ascertain whether they died from Ebola. Such practice of swabbing has been so effective that it was cited this week by United States government’s CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden.
The fight against Ebola also demands curtailing rights such as forcing all residents and citizens to undergo temperature checks at various checkpoints. However, all such required measures like swabbing, temperature checks, etc. etc. cannot be legally enforced unless the country is first under a State of Emergency for which such specific regulations can then be promulgated.
During the fresh initial declaration by the President of a State of Emergency, he has from between 7 days to a maximum of 21 days period to unilaterally institute Emergency measures without recourse to elected representatives of the people. During normal sittings of Parliament, within 7 days, Parliament should approve the State of Emergency by Resolution supported by the votes of two-thirds of the Members of Parliament. However, during vacation periods when Parliament is on recess, the President has up to 21 days within which he should get the approval.
At the moment, Parliament is currently on recess and not on normal sittings. However, the House should have been summoned to extend the Emergency regulations but the opposition SLPP party has issued an instruction for all their MPs not to cooperate in extending the resolution. The votes of some of the SLPP MPs are needed to extend the emergency. If all the SLPP MPs refuse to cooperate, the effect of this on the fight against Ebola is grave. It means the government can no longer legally enforce measures like the mandatory swabs of all corpses.
President Koroma is now in a dilemma as to how to protect the health of his citizens as against the adamant stance of his opposition. Many citizens are already very concerned that the fight against Ebola might get de-railed because of the inconsiderate stance of the main opposition SLPP and their allies embedded within sections of the civil society and media.
© Copyright by Awareness Times
Newspaper in Freetown, Sierra Leone.