From Awareness Times Newspaper in Freetown

COMMENTS & OPINIONS
Defending March 7th 2018 Elections Date
By Cabinet Minister Hon. Dr. Sylvia Olayinka Blyden
Feb 22, 2017, 17:02

I have noticed illogical constitutional interpretations and baseless legal arguments being thrown around by persons who deliberately are misinforming the world that the recent pronouncement of President Koroma about the date for next year’s elections is unconstitutional. Whilst no President is immune from making the occasional human mistakes, in this case the President’s announced date is 100% constitutional.

Let me explain.


First of all, President Koroma did not pronounce the date for the next Presidential Elections. What the President specifically asked his Office to do was to put out a public notice announcing the date for the next Parliamentary Elections will be March 7th 2018. It was the Chairman of the National Electoral Commission who then subsequently announced Presidential Elections will be on March 7th 2018 after he consulted with the President.

 

DATE OF PARLIAMENTARY ELECTIONS


Parliament will be dissolved on December 14th 2017 which is exactly 5 years from the date it was first opened on December 14th 2012. Now, the Constitution under Section 87.(1) clearly says Parliamentary elections are to be held within a period between 30 days to 90 days from the date Parliament is dissolved. This is the period that will start from January 14th 2018 until March 14th 2018. The President declared a date of March 7th 2018 for Parliamentary elections so where is the unconstitutionality?

 

Infact, my only problem with the March 7th date is that, as a Gender Activist, I am unhappy that it is going to affect next year’s annual March 8th International Women’s Day. Other than that, there is nothing wrong with that date announced by His Excellency. It is perfectly legal and 100% constitutional. Let us all go and read Section 87.(1) of the Sierra Leone Constitution.

 

DATE OF PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS:


The provisio of Section 49.(1) of our Constitution is one of the most curious but farsighted ones in our current constitution. It is one of few legal curiosities; In this one, a sitting President is ORDERED by the Constitution to not even think about quitting his office even if his tenure has expired. Section 49.(1) forcefully ORDERS that a President SHALL NOT resign or retire even if his tenure has expired “while a general election of Members of Parliament is pending within the ensuing three months”. This basically means even if the tenure expires on February 23rd 2018, as long as a Parliamentary election is pending, the President is ORDERED to continue in office.

 

Furthermore, a Constitutional Amendment submitted to Parliament in the year 2001 by the SLPP Cabinet at a time when Lawyer Charles Francis Margai was a senior Cabinet Minister, gives the power to extend the date of presidential elections by an additional 4 months beyond the expiration of tenure of a President.

 

As I always say, I have so much respect for Lawyer C.F. Margai but in this case, his agitations are legally wrong; totally and completely wrong on the Law. In case he has forgotten what he himself as a former Cabinet Minister had sent to Parliament and which Parliament then passed, let me remind him that the original provisio of Section 43 had been amended as desired by a White Paper Margai had himself helped crafted when he was a Cabinet Minister. I will recommend he gets a copy of the Supplement to the Sierra Leone Gazette Vol. CXXXIII No. 6 dated 7th February 2002 which had published the details of the Constitutional Amendment of 21st December 2001.

 

That amendment, passed by SLPP-led Government of which C.F. Margai Esq. was a very senior member, is where the NEC Chairman has derived his powers from to choose March 7th 2018 as date of next presidential elections. This falls outside of February 23rd 2018 but within the allowed four months period of the constitutional amendment that Lawyer Margai himself had helped to pass into Law.

 

So between the original provisio of Section 49.(1) and the amended provisio of Section 43.(1), the Chairman of the National Electoral Commission (NEC) is perfectly within all legal ambits to have declared March 7th 2018 as the date for the next Presidential Elections.

 

OPEN CHALLENGE


Of course, I am not a trained lawyer but as I have proven time and time and time again, I am very well grounded in the contents of the 1991 Constitution of Sierra Leone. Bottomline, neither His Excellency the President nor the NEC Chairman committed any Contravention of the 1991 Constitution. It is unfortunate that ordinary citizens are being misinformed by those who might simply want to score cheap political points. Our people deserve better; much, much better than the unfortunate grandstanding from detractors of President Koroma.


After reading my legal submissions above, I now challenge anyone else (lawyer or not) to prove me wrong when I assert that the March 7th 2018 date is perfectly constitutional.


I rest my pen.



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