By Andrew Sesay
Parliament of Sierra Leone on Monday 22 October lengthily debated three Constitutional Instruments relating to the setting up of Commissions of Inquiry.
The purpose of the setting up of the Commission of Inquiry is to investigate the conduct of the immediate past APC government who had been in power from 2007 to 2018.
The main opposition party (APC) failed to secure two-third of the votes required to throw the instruments out of Parliament.
The Commission will investigate whether assets acquired by members of the former administration in the last 10 years were lawfully gained or through illegal means.
In relation to the above, the Honorable Speaker of Parliament, Dr. Abass Bundu said that having failed to acquire the amount of votes required to throw the instruments out of Parliament by the opposition party, the instruments will mature till midnight the same day.
He furthered that the next day he will direct the Clerk of Parliament to issue a certificate of clearance to the Executive that the constitutional instruments have duly matured by law, they should go ahead to establish the Commission of Inquiry having certified the provisions of the law.
Hon. Daniel B. Koroma referred to a press release that was issued out and signed by the APC Secretary General, Ambassador Osman F. Yansaneh that the APC is not against the Commissions of Inquiry, save for selective APC operatives and the deliberate exclusion of Permanent Secretaries.
He also said that the Instruments should be annulled and brought back to Parliament on the grounds of wrong titling, limitless timing and that the Commissions are not going to be bound by the rules of evidence applicable in both civil and criminal matters.
He noted that the APC is not against the fight on corruption but that against witch-hunting, which he considered as a pretext of rounding up dissenters in the guise of public interest, noting that in cases of disagreement, provisions contained in the 1991 Constitution of Sierra Leone should take precedence.
Hon. Shiaka Musa Sama, an Independent MP from Pujehun affirmed his support for the setting up of the Commissions of Inquiry to investigate the misuse of public funds that had benefited few people, whilst noting the failure of other Commissions of Inquiry over the years.
He called on President Bio to strive very hard to bring corruption to a halt under the auspices of the New Direction, whilst saying that the Commissions should also look into land lease agreements and that there should be no sacred cow, but the recommendations should be implemented to the letter.
Hon. Saa Emerson Lamina, Leader of C4C in supporting the formation of the Commissions of Inquiry said that the country is plague and divided along partisan lines, whilst recalling the establishment and the collapse of the Justice Semega’s Commission of Inquiry into the conduct of the past SLPP Tejan Kabba led regime.
He also reminded the House that these Instruments could only be overturned by a vote of not less than two third of the majority of Members of Parliament, noting that they would clear uncertainties and nip impunity in the bud.
He also said that Section 62 of the 1991 Constitution of Sierra Leone had already captured Permanent Secretaries some of whom are even richer than politically exposed persons, whilst observing that a certain flag bearer had served as Bank Governor, Finance and Foreign Ministers of government and as such participated in the negotiation of loans and other activities of Government, whilst recalling his indictment but was exonerated by a 32 page audit report, the unconstitutional sacking of the former Vice-President, followed by a decision of the Supreme Court that would have almost plunged this country into chaos.
The Leader of the main opposition party, Hon. Chernor M. Bah said that the APC is not against the Commissions of Inquiry, whilst assuring the Speaker that most of the ruling MPs will see reason and vote along with them.
He decried clause 4 (a) as completely incorrect as it hinges on the acquisition of assets either lawfully or unlawfully and the failure to include Permanent Secretaries, who depending on the context may be referred to as administrative heads or vote controllers.
He furthered that the wording and other related matters are unclear and ambiguous, whilst calling for the annulment of these Instruments for necessary corrections before being regarded as part of the laws of the country. He also averred that the Commissions of Inquiry should be bound by natural justice and the rules of court evidence as they are bordered on the rights to property and the liberty and freedoms of individuals, noting the Commissions do have the effects of court and that he prefers a Sierra Leonean judge to a foreign one.
Leader of Government Business, Hon. Sidie M. Tunis said that he is considering himself as a very proud parent as the APC has won the debate and that the SLPP is going to win the vote, whilst recalling the laying of the Instruments and the long rehearsals of the APC that had ended in futility.
He referred to the Leader of the Opposition as having presided over the passage of laws bearing the words and for other related matters, observing that the law will not cover everything, and that it is not unlawful by law and practice to solicit the services of foreign Judges, citing Justice Semega Jammeh, a Gambian Judge led Commission of Inquiry.
He also said that the Commissions will not be bound by the rules of evidence and that the Commissioners are not Judges, but investigators.