Unless it states otherwise in documented Parliamentary orders, if we go strictly according to the 1991 National Constitution, then we can safely conclude that there is a huge lacunae (big loophole) in our Constitution which makes it possible for just 16 (sixteen) MPs to agree to pass our National Budget into law (ie: The Appropriation Act of Fiscal Year 2011).
Section 89 of our National Constitution first of all gives the quorum for Parliament to meet as being only 25% which means only 25% of 124 current Parliamentarians are needed for the business of the house to proceed unabated.
That is, ONLY 31 MPs need to be present for Parliament to be duly constituted and considered as sitting.
Moving on to Section 91, it states that a simple majority of a duly constituted Parliamentary sitting can pass an Act or Bill.
There is nowhere else in the Constitution, ((other than for issues concerning entrenched clauses and issues concerning the removal and/or appointment of Bank Governor, Judges, Electoral Commissioners, etc. etc.)) where the quorum and percentile needed to pass Parliamentary decisions, are outlined. Therefore, unless stated elsewhere in Standing Orders or such similar Parliamentary proceeding rules, if we read Sections 89 and 91 together, it means if only 31 MPs are present in Parliament, then the business of the Parliament can continue and if out of this 31 MPs, only 16 of them (ie: a simple majority at that sitting) decide to endorse an Act placed before them, then that Act is so legitimately passed into law including the Appropriations Act (ie: the National Budget).
I of course, make these observations as layman in constitutional affairs and so I stand very ready to be corrected but as of now, this is how I have read into the current impasse up at our sacred House of Parliament.
In my humble interpretation of our National Constitution, the SLPP staying away from the Budget Debate cannot legally stop the Budget from being passed into Law and there is nothing in the Constitution that says two-thirds of MPs are needed to pass a Budget into Law. The sections being quoted over the airwaves by SLPP’s acting Publicity Secretary, our Honourable brother, Musa Tamba Sam, are grossly mis-applied to the current scenario. Those sections are only for if Parliament ever decided to amend certain entrenched clauses and not for the passage of ordinary Bills and Acts.
SLPP Honourables such as Honourable Tamba Sam my dear brother and Honourable Elizabeth Alpha-Lavalie (our dear People’s Mama!) are both seemingly misinformed on Parliament needing 2/3rds majority to pass National Budgets into Law if we go strictly by the Constitution.
However, having said all the above, there is a very strong benefit that the opposition SLPP will get out of their ongoing abstention from the Parliamentary Debates. By walking out of Parliament in such a dramatic fashion, the Sierra Leone Opposition has effectively drawn the world’s attention to a glaring refusal of the ruling APC Party’s to condemn Elections related violence in Sierra Leone.
At a time when Luis Moreno-Ocampo of the International Criminal Court (ICC) is preparing to indict senior Kenyan politicians for their roles in the 2007 Kenyan Elections Violence, I wonder why the ruling APC politicians like President Koroma of Sierra Leone are preferring to be arrogant and seemingly silently acquiesce to Elections violence rather than to publicly condemn the violence meted against the opposition including a female Presidential aspirant!
Indeed, the APC can legitimately pass the Budget with or without input from the SLPP Opposition MPs but at what price to the APC’s reputation? Think APC. Think!
As the Government of the day, all lives and properties are to be secured by APC so it should cost APC Leadership nothing to publicly denounce the attacks on the Opposition Leader John Benjamin, the Parliamentary Minority Leader Emmanuel Tommy and dozens of others like Dr. Kadi Sesay, a woman of no mean stature! Rethink the recalcitrance APC. You do not need it. Lonta!
© Copyright by Awareness Times
Newspaper in Freetown, Sierra Leone.