December 2, 2016 By Patrick Jaiah Kamara
Chairman of the Constitutional Review Committee (CRC) has said that the refusal of the ruling All Peoples Congress (APC) party to sign the final report and the subsequent withdrawal of signatures of its members were a ploy to delay the process, stating that everybody in the committee knows what’s in the report because they have all been part of the discussion throughout the process.
Justice Edmund Cowan, who was on the popular 98.1 Good Salone Programme, said at the completion of the work of the committees, a plenary session was held and that the recommendations were discussed and agreed upon.
He said after the validation process, the committees were given ten days to look at the report and bring out issues.
In July 2013, President Ernest Bai Koroma launched the CRC with the mandate to review the 1991 constitution as stated in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) report. It was anticipated to reorganise the country’s democratic platform and takeout some of the issues that led to the 11 year rebel war. The current constitution was also written under the watch of an APC regime.
According to Justice Cowan, when they met on October 12 to finalise the process; the All People’s Congress (APC) party members didn’t question the entire process, adding that the only issue that was raised, came from the representative of Disable Commission and that the said contention was well discussed and concluded.
“I am surprised at the APC stalwarts, saying that the appointment of Chief Justice is no longer in the hands of the president. All the powers in Section 53 still remain. The only change we made is the “Supreme Executive Authority” which we replaced with “Chief Executive Authority”. The figures we got showed that 12 areas agreed that the supreme executive authority remains, while 13 areas opted it removal,” he said.
Justice Cowan said during the review process, if any issue became a contention, they went into vote and that the majority carried the day. He said they always try to arrive at a consensus among the committee members before a decision was guaranteed.
He said about 55% or more members of the committee signed the document and that he only learnt later from his Executive Secretary that one or two people have refused to sign, but they went ahead and sent it to the printing department since majority had signed.
Justice Cowan said erstwhile Information Minister and current Member of Parliament, Ibrahim Ben Kargbo, Elizabeth Mans; and Dawda Kamara, were the three APC representatives, who signed the report before being ordered by their party to withdraw their signatures.
The former Speaker of the House and current Ombudsman, said only three out of the six members representing the APC were frequent in all of their meetings. He said Alpha Khanu was not a member of any of the committees and that he hadn’t the locust standi to talk on the issue.
He said the APC Secretary General, Osman Foday Yasanneh, who doubles as the Chairman of the Research Committee at the CRC was regularly absenting himself from the process, while Alpha Khanu was not a member of any of the sub-committees.
He noted that he was surprised at the APC Scribe, saying that he had not seen the document and that they were just making a heavy whether about the report.
“We were hoodwinked by the APC because they never raised any issue during the process,” he said.
He agreed that they gave the draft report to the APC which was about 300 pages but that the party never requested the 700 pages that contained the views of both the majority and the minority.
On the issue of coercing members to sign the document, the Ombudsman said those that signed it did that voluntarily and that there were procedures to follow should any of the members wanted to withdraw their signatures.
He said they have completed the process and that all the signatories to the report remained valid.
On Tuesday 28, November, the APC Scribe said at a presser that they would not sign the draft report, stating that major concerns were not captured in the report.