President Koroma added “the Constitution is the Supreme Law, and we all must ensure that this document captures our better habits, our better values, and our better aspirations.”
“The Revised Constitution should be the voice of the People”
The Constitutional Review Committee (CRC) has been reviewing the 1991 National Constitution of Sierra Leone after it was launched on 30th July 2013 and is expected to submit its final report to the Government this month.
“We will not come out publicly with the final report but will present it to the Government sometime in SEPTEMBER, 2016. The Government will come out with a White Paper, that is when the public will know what is in our final report, what the Government agrees with, and what it disagrees with”, the Chairman of the CRC The Honourable Justice (R) Edmond Cowan was quoted as saying in his explanation to one local newspaper published in July, this year.
The 80-man Constitutional Review Commmittee (CRC) has been meeting behind closed doors since Wednesday July 27, 2016 in the Miatta Conference Hall, Youyi Building to write the final report of the “to be Constitution of Sierra Leone” and according to the Chairman of the CRC, the final report that will come from the Plenary Session of the 80 members will be presented to the Government. The Plenary Session has been analysing the reports from the various subcommittees in order to produce the final report.
Justice Edmond Cowan has stated that members of the Committee, during the Plenary Session, has been deliberating on the issues raised by members of the public, after the publication of the abridged draft report earlier this year.
Of late one of the contentious issues in the 1991 Constitution has been the TERM LIMIT of the office of the President of the Republic of Sierra Leone which is two-five-year terms, as some members of the Ruling All Peoples Congress (APC) political party were advocating for “MORE TIME” for the President because of the May, 2014 to November, 2015 Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) outbreak in the Country. Others were calling for MORE TIME for the President. The published abridged draft report maintained the two-five-year term for the Presidency. NO CHANGE.
President Ernest Bai Koroma’s current two consecutive five-year term of office ends in November/December , 2017. He was first elected to the office in 2007 and re-elected in November 2012. According to the 1991 Constitution, Presidential and Parliamentary elections are due “not earlier than thirty (30) and not more than ninety (90) days after the dissolution of Parliament.” The last Presidential and Parliamentary elections were held in November 2012. In other words, the current Government has about fifteen more months to go in office, minus the campaign period.
Tenure of office of President – Section 46 (1) of Act No. 6 of the 1991 Constitution states “No person shall hold office as President for more than two terms of five years each whether or not the terms are consecutive.”
Section 85 subsection (1) of Act No. 6 – the 1991 Constitution of Sierra Leone states “Parliament shall stand dissolved at the expiration of a period of five years commencing from the date of its first sitting after a General Election”
The other contentious issue in the 1991 is the power of the President to sack his Vice President which sparked off controversy last year when President Ernest Bai Koroma sacked former ELECTED Vice President Samuel Sam-Sumana and APPOINTED current Vice President Victor Bockarie Foh.
The published abridged draft Constitution has clarified the issue of “loss of party membership as a means of removing the President and Vice President” from office by proposing that “loss of party membership shall not nullify from office a sitting President or Vice President.”
“The rational for this is, upon taking up office, the said individuals are public servants of the entire Nation and not solely for their political parties on whose ticket they were elected. Intra party politics should not be encouraged to determine the fate of public elected officials.”.
Recounting the further steps to be taken after the presentation of the final report to the Government, Justice Cowan said “from the point of the Government issuing its White Paper on the Final Report, the Government will prepare an Amendment Bill to the 1991 Constitution of Sierra Leone which will be taken to Parliament.
“When Parliament would have passed it with a two-thirds majority of all of the Members of Parliament, it will go to a National Referendum before the President signs it into LAW”.
Asked about the referendum entering into the period of the February 2018 National Elections, Justice Cowan said “the Referendum has its own period but if it comes into the Elections’ sphere, it is the new Government which will conduct it.”
Meanwhile members of the public await the publication of the Government White Paper on the CRC final report which is expected to be presented to the Government this month of September, 2016 and will be crucial to the holding of the much touted National Elections particularly the Presidential election, come February, 2018. The Government White Paper will form the basis on which the Law Officers Department will draft the Amendment Bill to the 1991 Constitution to be presented to Parliament, where the Ruling All Peoples Congress (APC) political party has a two-thirds majority, to be followed by the National Referendum and whether there will be a National Referendum before February, 2018.
The Chairman of the CRC has said “the Government will come out with a White Paper, that is when the public will know what is in our final report, what the Government agrees with, and what it disagrees with”, TO BE OR NOT TO BE THAT IS THE QUESTION. This is something to think about as the next fifteen months is very crucial in the political history of this country.
CLARENCE ROY-MACAULAY OOR
2006 AP (ASSOCIATED PRESS) GRAMLING SPIRIT AWARD WINNER
RETIRED (1989) CONTROLLER (NEWS AND CURRENT AFFAIRS)
FORMER MINISTRY OF INFORMATION & BROADCASTING