November 11, 2020
By Jariatu S. Bangura
Leader of the main opposition All Peoples Congress, Hon. Chernor R.M Bah, has picked holes in the four constitutional instruments that were laid before Parliament by the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Anthony Y. Brewah
Early this year, when President Bio declared one year Health Emergency on the coronavirus pandemic, the government’s legal adviser was supposed to have taken the regulations to parliament after every three months, but that hasn’t been the case.
Yesterday, Hon. Bah argued that the Constitutional instruments No. 26 and 27 (Corona Virus disease emergency fund regulations 2020) should not be tabled before the plenary because the said documents supposed to have been brought to the House long before now, but that the former Attorney General (Priscilla Schwartz) ‘deliberately’ refused to do so.
He said the instruments contain many promiscuous provisions that contravened financial provisions and the laws of the country, thus blaming the former Attorney General and Minister of Justice.
“The regulations should have been brought to the House before the 90 days elapsed, but let us accept it for argument sake as that would be a case for the Supreme Court. Even though papers have been filed in the apex court months ago, the judiciary has deliberately failed to decide on the matters and there are four documents before us,” he said.
He added that “instrument 26 and 27 cannot be laid before us simply because we have been asked to make these regulations retroactive. This House does not have the authority, and if we do, we will be flouting Section 23 (7) of the Constitution.”
He said punitive action needed to be taken and the current AG was very much aware that penalties cannot be made retroactive.
He said Instrument 28 and 29 (Covid-19 Public Emergency Response Coordination regulations) were fine documents, but contained many provisions within that contravene the financial laws of the country.
“I am not blaming the new Attorney General because if his predecessor had done it properly, today we would not have been where we are, but she deliberately refused to listen to pieces of advice she received from all quarters. We don’t know where she was standing and I still remember in one of the press conferences held at State House when she walked up the stage like a militant,” he said .
He stressed that the regulations be returned so that it would be properly prepared before being should be brought to this House.
“Otherwise, they will be laid upon this table and be here, but posterity not too long from now might put government in more jeopardy than we are,” he said.
He said if those instruments are not withdrawn they will be left with no alternative but to move a motion for them to be discussed with all its flaws.
However, other opposition lawmakers opted that the counting for the instrument to become law be put on hold until the AG explains what has been the reason for the long delay to table the documents, despite the advice given to the sacked AG, Priscilla Schwartz by MPs.
However, the Attorney General said it was never anticipated for him to give the House detail reason as to why the regulations were tabled at that point in time but urged the house to give him time to go and prepare himself within the shortest possible time to explain better.
Hon. Daniel B. Koroma, another opposition lawmaker, suggested that since the AG had asked for time to prepare well, the house should put on hold the counting of the 21 days before the instrument come to effect.
Meanwhile, the Speaker, Dr. Abass Bundu ‘empathized’ with the new AG for the mistakes his predecessor made.
He ordered that the document remain on the table till the AG comes back within 14 days and tell the plenary what was the reason for long delay.
On his part, Leader of the National Grand Coalition, Hon. Kandeh Yumkella, said the whole issue of the State of Emergency and its regulations have long overdue as it has been almost 220 days since the sacked AG promised to bring the regulations to the plenary for discuss instead of the 90 days.
He said they have heard and seen many people going to the media to say all sort of things concerning the regulations, noting that once trust has been broken, it will be very difficult to earn that trust from the public.
He re-echoed to the Speaker to put on hold the counting of the 21 days for the Instrument to become law till the AG comes and explain.
He said many compromises have been taken that is in line with the national Constitution and they will continue to do so if the right things are done.