4 March 2019

Sierra Leone: State of Emergency - Main Opposition Leader Urges Bio to 'Discountenance' Certificate of Approval

In the wake of the controversial approval of a State of Public Emergency on rape and sexual violence, the main opposition All Peoples Congress (APC) leader in Parliament, Hon. Chernor R.M. Bah, has in a letter dated February 27, 2019, urged President Maada Bio to 'discountenance' the certificate presented to him as it is 'misleading and mischievous'

"In view of this, we the leadership and membership of the APC in parliament, herein called on your Excellency as the Fountain of Honour and a member of this parliament to discountenance the purported certificate of approval of a State of Public Emergency and entreat your leadership in parliament to adhere to the constitution and the standing orders in order to engender an amicable resolution of this parliamentary impasse," the letter states.

The letter notes that there has been no approval of Public Emmergency on rape and sexual violence as the certificate presented to President Bio by the leadership of the ruling Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP) in parliament was 'misleading and mischievous'.

On Friday, 22 February, Parliamentarians debated the State of Public Emergency on rape and sexual violence, but the opposition All Peoples Congress (APC) and the National Grand Coalition lawmakers kicked against the approval on the grounds that there was already an existing statute which only needs to be strengthened.

In a press release dated 25th February, the APC party noted that the declaration was wrong and not in the spirit of the constitution, thus citing Section 29(3) of the 1991 Constitution, which provides that such a proclamation must be approved by a vote of two-thirds majority of Members of Parliament present.

The statement further stated that "Parliamentary sitting was abruptly adjourned to Tuesday, 26th February, without voting as prescribed by the constitution and the Standing Orders,"

Meanwhile, the letter from the opposition leader applauded the determination of President Bio to fight sexual offences and endorsed the recommendations he made in his statement on 7th February, 2019.

The letter states that, "It is our strong believe that in unity of purpose, we collectively achieve this aspiration by strengthening the sexual offence laws and their enforcement, including promulgation of appropriate regulations."

The letter signed by the former Deputy Speaker in the last parliament, notes that the atmosphere of collaboration on issues of national importance has been routinely and persistently undermined by the ruling party leadership in parliament, due to their 'intolerance to the views of the opposition'.

The opposition leader reiterated that there was no public emergency as the vote on the proclamation as required by Section 29(3) of the constitution and Standing Order 44(4) (Standing Order of Parliament), was never taken.

"Therefore, since this was not done and given the national importance of this issue, we herein submit that the debate on your proclamation is inconclusive and it is our standing that it will continue at the next sitting of parliament," the letter states.

The latter drew the attention of the president to 'rancor, chaos and tension' that have characterised the sittings of parliament since its commencement primarily from the violations of various provisions of the laws of Sierra Leone, thus making allusion to the election of the speaker, approval of the anti-corruption commissioner, and the ongoing debate of the present proclamation

"As representatives of our people in our nation's law making body, it is our responsibility and obligation not to allow the continuous violation of our laws. We strongly hold the view that a continuation of the status quo in parliament if not abated, has the tendency to degenerate further," the letter states.

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