Increase Text Size Decrease Text Size Default Text Size
 
OOPS. Your Flash player is missing or outdated.Click here to update your player so you can see this content.
Featured Links:
Banner
ExpoNet
EXpoNet Services!
Banner
Subscribe Now
Subscribe Now.
Sierra Leone’s constitutional review up in smoke- the people lose again PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sonkita Conteh, Director, Namati Sierra Leone   
Wednesday, 06 December 2017 07:36

After three years of arduous work collecting, deliberating and collating views across the country for a new constitution, it looks like Sierra Leone may end up not having one- yet again.The government published its official response to the recommendations of the Constitutional Review Committee (CRC) in a White Paper dated 10th November 2017 and made short work of the 680 page recommendation-laden report of the 80 person committee.

 

 

 

According to the White Paper the committee was mandated to ascertain “from the people of Sierra Leone, their views on the operation of the 1991 Constitution…, in particular the strengths and weaknesses… and articulate the concerns of the people ….on amendments that may be required for a comprehensive review of the 1991constitution.” The committee claimed to have done exactly that when it submitted a final report to the President in 2016. It reportedly received several thousand suggestions from the publicthrough submission forms and dozens of position papers from institutions and individuals within and outside the country.

The content of the White Paper seems to suggest however that either the government did not really think that the committee truly represented the views of the people or it simply did not like the views expressed by the people. Of a total of 134 recommendations set out in the whitepaper, the government rejected a whopping 102. The main justification for these rejections was that the provisions in the current constitution were adequate or that existing statutes already addressed the issue.

As far back as 1999 when the warring factions in the country’s civil conflict were negotiating for peace, there were calls for a review of the constitution. Article 10 of the resulting Lome Peace Accord called for a review of the constitution to ensure it “represents the needs and aspirations” of the people. The country’s post-war Truth and Reconciliation Commission, whilst noting that the current constitution was not “the product of a wide, participatory process” felt it was desirable to reformulate the constitution, particularly the bill of rights to take into account the full range of the country’s international human rights obligations. The commission also wanted the numerous “claw-back clauses” reduced.

 

The first attempt at constitutional review started in 2007 but fell short of completion. The review commission produced a report in 2008 recommending certain amendments to the 1991 constitution. It simply gathered dust on the government’s shelf.

After much fanfare, a new 80 person constitutional review committee was launched by the President in July 2013. The President reportedly called on all to “fully participate and take ownership of the entire review process” noting that “good constitutions are not imposed.”

Against this backdrop, it is fair to say that the government’s response to the recommendations of the review committee and subsequent legislative action betray the principles on which the review process was built. It also devalues the struggle of the people to build a better post-war society based on rules that reflect their circumstances.

It is important to point out that many of the recommendations from the committee that met the approval of government were either cosmetic in nature or limiting of recognised basic rights. For example the government accepts the recommendation to include the words “human dignity” and “equality” in the chapter of the constitution known as the “fundamental principles of state policy” but rejected the recommendation to make these principles “justiciable.”

The government similarly accepted the recommendationto amend the description of the bill of rights section to include the word “promotion” but could not accept recommendations to (i) abolish the death penalty (ii) ensure equality of women and men in political, economic, cultural and social spheres (iii) include a right to the environment, the rights of the aged, the rights of persons with disability or the rights of children in the constitution.

Not satisfied with simply refusing improvedconstitutional protection of rights, the government approves ofthe recommendation to include a new “clawback clause” to the existing ones in the bill of rights- “national security interests”.This new limitation will afford limitless opportunities to the government to constrain rights even further.

Being the opportunist that governments are known to be, the Whitepaper also includes some “suggestions” from the government that were not covered in the review committee’s recommendations.For example, the government has proposed a reduction in the threshold for election to the office of president from 55% of the valid votes cast to “more than fifty percent.”It argues that the economic cost of run-off elections and national security concerns necessitate this alteration. Others see this as an attempt to change the rules of the game some three months to general and presidential elections.

The Attorney-General’s office is now rushing a constitutional amendment bill through parliament to give effect to the government’s “suggestions”and make some cosmetic “choice of words” changes to the constitution. The governing party has a clear majority in parliament and the bill is expected to pass without any significant challenge.

In its haste however, the government has not been able to mask the deception inherent in the bill, the object of which is ostensibly“to make better provision for the recognition and protection of fundamental human rights and freedoms of the individual….”.Sadly, none of the provisions in the amendment bill touch on any of the fundamental human rights and freedoms of the individual-talk less of making better provision to recognise and protect them.The government seems to have anagenda with this bill and it is not about crafting a good constitution or giving effect to the views of the people.

“Good constitutions are not imposed” the President reportedly said at the launch of the review process in 2013, “…they are genuine pacts amongst citizens to constitute themselves into a polity that they would love and honour and whose interests they would put above all else….”.

These words now ring hollow in the face of government’s determination to silence the voice of the people and hijack what is supposed to be a citizen-based decision-making process.Sooner or later, the people will become tired of losing.

 

 

Editorial

26th IPRA Conference in Sierra Leone Ends on a High Note

The International Peace Research Association (IPRA) successfully held its 26th General Conference on ‘Agenda for Peace and Development: Conflict Prevention, Post-Conflict Transformation, and the Conflict, Disaster Risk and Sustainable Development Debate’ in collaboration with the 10TH Dealing With Disasters Series, Northumbria University (UK)and Sakarya University (Turkey) and  the University of  Sierra Leone at the Bintumani Conference Centre in Freetown, Sierra Leone from November 27 to 1st December 2016.

Read more...

Business News

PARLIAMENT RATIFIES TWO AGREEMENTS TO IMPROVE ON PORTS FACILITIES

The Parliament of Sierra Leone on Monday 04th December 2017 debated and ratified two additional agreements aimed at improving and expanding Ports facilities in Sierra Leone to be at par with international best practices.

Presenting both Agreements prior to ratification, the Minister of Transport and Aviation, Balogun Koroma said that the additional Agreements are geared towards addressing some of the concerns raised by MPs, in respect of expanding our Ports facilities to accommodate larger vessels, and the issuance of license with the view of combating money laundering, contra-band goods, and attracting more funds for Government.

Hon. Dr. Bernadette Lahai, Minority Leader of the House, also supported the ratification of the two Agreements, saying if our Ports are not developed, we would not be able to attract huge vessels; thus the need for the continuous improvement of our Ports facilities.

Read more...

Media News

Two veteran Journalists, now in the United States have paid a courtesy call on Sierra Leone's Ambassador

Two very respected and veteran Journalists who are in the United States of America for various reasons have called on Sierra Leone’s Amr. Bockari Kortu Stevens not only to appreciate the work of the Embassy, but also to pay courtesy as protocol demands.

Mr. Rod Mac-Johnson, former Lecturer Fourah Bay College, former Director of Information Ministry of Information and Communications, Former Director Sierra Leone News Agency (SLENA), Former Chairman Independent Media Commission (IMC) and stringer French News Agency  etc. is on vacation and Mr. Cyril Juxon Smith Director Information and Communications House of Parliament, former Acting Director General Sierra Leone Broadcasting Service (SLBS) and former UNESCO Media Consultant  is in the United States of America to attend the funeral of his father.

Speaking at the Ambassador’s residence on 4821 Colorado Avenue, Washington DC  Mr. Rod Mac-Johnson said “Thank  you Amr. Stevens for accommodating us in the middle of your tight schedule, and also to discuss with us in a homely spirit.

Read more...

Commentary

Reasons why Sierra Leoneans Must Think beyond Tribal and Regional Lines Before Casting their Ballots This Time

As the national or general elections loom in Sierra Leone and, as a true citizen, I solemnly pray and hope with all hopes that Sierra Leoneans of the voting age will consider carefully who they would vote for, come March 2018. The divisive and immature nature of politics as it exists in Sierra Leone has, to a greater extent, contributed to the country lagging behind nearly all other countries in terms of progressive development. My readers should be mindful of the fact that certain countries in Africa would rather develop retrogressively than progressively, a situation wherein governments embark on ego-boosting programs that aren’t beneficial to the average citizen.

A government which expends its energy for the benefit of the people is a progressive government and that is what Sierra Leoneans want at this time after being in the doldrums for ages. It is therefore absolutely necessary for fellow citizens to refrain from casting their valued votes in favor of candidates because of tribal or regional affiliations but on how genuine and capable that candidate is, otherwise stagnation in progress is bound to follow.

Read more...

View Point

THE LIBYAN/NORTH AFRICAN “MODERN SLAVE TRADE” SAGAS

Your Excellency Sir,

I write this piece with extreme emotive disdain, in reflection on the “Libyan/North African Modern Slave Trade” horrendous saga - enjoining it with the “Mediterranean Genocide.”  Let me commence by lending my voice to that of countless Africans, who have risen in gross condemnation of this barbaric and heinous “subhuman” trade and phenomenon across the deserts and seas. Those inhumane treatments have lately been also condemned by the UN system, the AU, the ECOWAS and the EU, (alongside several international human right actors); after these ruthless human trafficking syndicates and desperate refuge seeking adventures were graphically brought to the glare of the entire world by the international press.

It is extremely appalling and unimaginable that some of our fellow Africans and Arabs could morally degenerate to such an extent in the 20th and 21st centuries, as to treating their fellowmen in such gruesome, despicable and horrific manner, as inflicting terrible physical tortures, only comparable to that of the “Nazi concentration camps” in the 20th century, infamously referred to as “the holocaust.” Sadly though, this trade that has just been recently trumpeted, has been going on for over half a century right at the fringes of the so-called “civilized and free world,” and under the watchful eyes and impassivity of our continental and global organizations and actors. As such, I could rightfully refer to these dastardly trades as the “neo-colonial slave trade.” What absurdity and aberration!!   

Read more...

News - Press Release

PPRC and UNDP Re-activate District Code Monitoring Committee

The Political Parties Registration Commission (PPRC) in league with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) on Thursday 7th December 2017 re-activated the District Code Monitoring Committee (DCMC).

At a ceremony held at the Family Kingdom in Freetown, the programme brought together members from the fourteen registered political parties, the National Electoral Commission (NEC), the Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces (RSLAF), the Office of National Security (ONS), Traditional Leaders, the Media and Civil Society Organizations from the sixteen districts in Sierra Leone.

In his opening remarks, the Chairman of the Programme, Commissioner Babatunde Pratt says Sierra Leone has come a long way in building our democratic process. This he says has however not been an easy task as we are still faced with the horrors of our past. Regional divide, violence, political intolerance among others he says have marred our political space and if not nip on the bud will affect the growth and political stability of the country.

Read more...

Society -Local News

Ambassador of The Islamic Republic of Iran takes formal leave of the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation

(MFAIC Press Office, 6thDecember, 2017). His Excellency Lotfollah Bakhtiari, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Islamic Republic of Iran accredited to Sierra Leone and resident in Freetown, has taken formal leave of the Minister of State 1 of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Dr.  Mohammed Gibril Sesay, at the Ministry’s office, Tower Hill, Freetown.

In his farewell statement to the Minister of State 1 and Senior Management staff of the Ministry, His Excellency Lotfollah Bakhtiari on behalf of the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran conveyed sincere gratitude to the Minister of Foreign Affairs for the warm reception given to the Iranian community and organisations/or institutions operating in the country.

The outgoing Ambassador underscoredthat in spite the devastating impact of the Ebola scourge in Sierra Leone, coupled with the international challenges facing his country, he has always remained focused and committed in the cause of maintaining, strengthening and broadeningthe  bilateral and multilateral cooperation between the Government of the Republic of Iran and the Republic of Sierra Leone through the implementation of a variety of programmes and projects.

Read more...

Development

UNITED STATES COMMISSIONS 151 SCHOOL STRUCTURES TO SUPPORT GOVERNMENT OF SIERRA LEONE EDUCATION PRIORITIES

On November 21,2017 the United States Department for Agriculture (USDA), through Catholic Relief Services (CRS), commissioned 151 school structures to support the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology (MEST)in promotingquality learning environments within five vulnerable chiefdoms of Koinadugu District, northern Sierra Leone.

The commissioning ceremony was attended by the Honorable Minister of Education, Dr. Minkailu Bah,other senior MEST officials, and 6 Paramount Chiefs and Regents from the “All Pikin for Learn” intervention area.

The program ‘All Pikin for Learn,’funded by USDA’s McGovern-Dole (MGD) International Food for Education and Child Nutrition Program since 2008, is a food assistance and education program that seeks to improve the enrollment, attendance and literacy,along with health and dietary practices, of primary school-aged children.

Read more...

Politics

President Koroma outlines his government achievements in closing address to Parliament

President of the Republic of Sierra Leone, Supreme Head of State and Grand Commander of the Order of the Republic, Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces and Fountain Head of Unity, Honour, Freedom and Justice at Parliament Building, Tower Hill, Freetown

on Thursday, 7th December, 2017 at 10:00 a.m. On the Occasion of the Dissolution of the Fourth Parliament of the Second Republic of Sierra Leone in the Chamber of Parliament Building, Tower Hill, Freetown

Read more...
Copyright © 2017 expotimesonline. All rights reserved.