From Awareness Times Newspaper in Freetown

Office of Speaker in the 1991 Constitution
By Mohamed Azonto Kamara
Nov 7, 2013, 17:12

It is to credit of the All Peoples Congress (APC) party led by Joseph Saidu Momoh that lots of deep thought went into crafting of the 1991 Multi-Party Constitution.There are nuances within that Constitution which were brought about because of the experience which the crafters drew from years of observing the governance of this country. For example, in order to totally forestall any over-ambitious Vice-President (VP) from taking certain actions inimical to what the sitting President might want, the crafters ensured no Vice-President in this Republic can ever be described as the ACTING PRESIDENT.

This is why Section 52 of the Constitution says whenever the VP is carrying out¬† Presidentís constitutional functions in absence or illness of the President, ďthe Vice-President shall NOT take and subscribe the oath of office of PresidentĒ. This oath of office of President, is the Presidential Oath which is to be found in the SECOND SCHEDULE of the Sierra Leone Constitution.


However, whilst the current 1991 Constitution ensures the sitting VP could never be described as Acting President since he cannot take the Presidential Oath, those who drafted the Constitution back then, went on in Section 54.(6) to assert that whenever the President and VP are both out of the country or ill and thus unable to perform the functions of president, the Speaker of Parliament shall perform those functions ďand shall take and subscribe the oath of office as set out in the Second Schedule before commencing to perform those functionsĒ.


This is despite the fact that the Speaker has already taken the Oath in THIRD SCHEDULE similar to the oath taken by the VP.

So, why did the drafters trust a sitting Speaker to take the Presidential Oath but TOTALLY BLOCKED a sitting Vice-President from ever taking such Oath unless President dies, resigns or is removed?


The answer is simple. The nuance here is that the drafters had in mind for position of Speaker, someone who is a sedate, non-political, retired Judge or with similar traits and so, who can be trusted to not be politically over-ambitious; unlike a Vice-President who might be in too much of a haste for power (i.e: mago-mago).

The crafters of the Constitution made the criteria for becoming Speaker to be attractive to experienced retired Judges rather than active ambitious politicians.Therefore, they had no hesitation in allowing the Speaker (usually a retired Judge) to take the Presidential Oath in Section 54.(6) even though they blocked the Vice-President from ever taking the Presidential Oath in Section 52.(2).


Those who now want to tamper with the criteria for Speaker without looking into all the nuances and implications of their actions, should reflect. They should also pay attention to other sections included in the 1991 Constitution. For example, what the following sections mean are that the Speaker can never be described as a Member of Parliament so any MP elected as Speaker, automatically loses his seat as an MP:


Section 73.(1): There shall be a legislature of Sierra Leone which shall be known as Parliament, and shall consist of the President, the Speaker and Members of Parliament.


Section 77.(1).(b):  A Member of Parliament shall vacate his seat in Parliament if he is elected Speaker of Parliament.


Once again, let me re-state that it is to the immense credit of the APC Government back then that we are enjoying the current Multi-Party 1991 Constitution. The current APC Government should ensure they do not fall into the trap of destroying the legacy their forefathers laid which they can now boast of. There must be a reason behind why Attorney-General Frank Kargbo has submitted the current amendment to Parliament but until he clearly explains the reasons behind the need for this strange amendment, my submission is that if passed, the amendment is going to be messing up one of the greatest legacies that the APC can boast of.This is the boast that it was APC which singlehandedly mid-wifed the discarding of the contents of the 1978 One-Party Constitution into the dustbins of History.

May God bless the APC and may God bless Sierra Leone.

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