3 March 2017

Sierra Leone: Government White Paper On Constitutional Review Soon

The Deputy Minister of Information and Communications yesterday informed journalists at the regular press briefing in Freetown tha, cabinet will soon complete the normal protocols regarding Government White Paper on the constitutional review process for it to be tabled in the House of Parliament.

Cornelius Deveaux said it was unfortunate that some civil society and political party representatives were accusing government of manipulating the review of the 1991 Constitution in order to retain the ruling All Peoples Congress APC in governance, adding that in the proposed Government White Paper, there would no provision relating to the extension of the mandate of President Ernest Bai, reiterating that very soon the document would be forwarded to law makers for a subsequent referendum.

It could be recalled that on the 24th January, 2017, the Constitutional Review Committee (CRC) presented its report to President Koroma. Part of the Committee's work was to proffer recommendations as to what should be in a new Constitution. The said recommendations were a culmination of consultations and deliberations by the 80-person CRC Committee and public input.

Close to the end of the process, the APC and eight other political parties raised objection on the grounds that the report did not capture some of the views of the public, thus withdrawing their signatures.

The Chairman of the Committee, Justice Edmond Cowan, stood his grounds that final work on the report was concluded.

Also, the Centre for Accountability and Rule of Law (CARL), called on the government to adopt the recommendations made by the Committee. According to the Access to Justice Coordinator, Moses Massa, government was obliged to adopt the recommendations in the report that were deliberated upon and discussed by the Committee members and their nation-wide sensitization and presentations.

Massa said all annexes to the recommendations and report were not subject to public scrutiny and did not represent the views of the public. Massa said the government should respect the will of citizens, and that issues which did not come from the people should not be part of the referendum.

Meanwhile, the Deputy Minister yesterday hinted journalists that despite all prior recommendations, government has now resolved that the death penalty should not be removed in the law books of the country, and that the title of the president as the Supreme Executive Authority should be maintained, because any attempt to rephrase that aspect of the constitution would undermine the authority of the president.

"We are doing this not because we want to continue to be in governance but rather to strengthen the democracy of the country. Also, we are aware that some politicians have been making negative statements about the entire process. It will be a surprise to them that we did not add anything to the mandate of the president," he said.

The National Elections Watch NEW some few weeks ago urged President Koroma and National Electoral Commission NEC not to conduct the referendum examining the extent of tedious procedures around the referendum, drafting and passing of referendum Act, drafting of referendum question, preparation of referendum education materials and accreditation of referendum committees, public sensitization and campaign, referendum poll and announcement of referendum results, etc.

"Furthermore the Public Elections Act 2012 Section 17 states that the registration of voters, updating and revision of the voters register shall be conducted not later than six months before an election or referendum, as the case may be. NEW sees this as not feasible to be accommodated in an already tight Elections calendar and therefore, recommends deferring the conduct of the referendum after 2018 electoral cycle," NEW Marcella Samba-Sesay noted.

Sierra Leone

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