February 27, 2018 By Ibrahim Tarawallie
Head of Police Media and Public Relations yesterday stated that the refusal of the National Grand Coalition (NGC) and four other political parties to sign a Memorandum of Understanding agreeing to the restriction on vehicular movement on polling day, adding that it would not in any way pose a threat to security.
“It will not pose a security threat to us. It is seventeen political parties and eleven have signed it. Majority carries the vote in democracy. The document will pave the way for the conduct of peaceful elections,” Superintendent Ibrahim Samura said.
He described the move by the NGC and four political parties not to sign as unfortunate because they were part of the preparation of the said document, putting forward their meaningful contributions.
However, Publicity Secretary of the NGC, Imran Sillah, said they refused to sign the document because it was not in the best interest of citizens who will be exercising their rights on March 7.
“Many people registered to vote away from where they reside and the restriction will make it difficult for them to vote. Why would people’s movement from one place to the other be restricted when they have to go and vote? We are not going to sign. It is left with the police boss to do anything he wished. Even it means arrest, we are ready,” he said.
But the police media head maintained that the NGC was part of the deliberations, and that they made valuable inputs regarding the modification, clarification and amendments to the said document.
He confirmed that a total of eleven out of the sixteen political parties contesting the elections have so far signed the document, which will restrict the movement of commercial and private vehicles as well as tricycles (Keke) and motorcycles (Okada.)
“We are not forcing political parties to sign the document because it has the input of all. It is unfortunate that NGC have refused to sign because they were part of the process,” he said and added that the document represents a national character and map out things that would ensure peaceful elections.
But the NGC are not the only party opposed to the controversial ban on vehicular movement on elections day. The main opposition Sierra Leone Peoples Party has also refused to sign the MOU, arguing that it lacks any basis in law and that the move, introduced in 2012, would only aid alleged plans by the ruling All Peoples Congress to rig.
According to Lawyer Victor Idrissa Lansana, the ban was unconstitutional because section 18 of the 1991 Constitution protects freedom of movement. He challenged the Police to proffer compelling and reasonable justification why vehicular movement should be ban on elections day, adding that at the dawn of democracy in 1996, the SLPP presidential candidate, Retired Brigadier Julius Maada Bio, while serving as Head of State, presided over a smooth transition wherein voters freely moved on Election Day to cast their ballot.
Meanwhile, Executive Director at Centre for Accountability and Rule of Law, Ibrahim Tommy, yesterday blogged on Facebook that the Police lacked any legal justification to ban free movement of citizens on Election Day.
Tommy said: “…The March 7 polls are purely intended to give citizens an opportunity to step out and vote for candidates of their choice. They should be able to do so freely and without unnecessary restrictions. It is within our rights to get to polling stations by any means possible, including by vehicles.”
He added that he was struggling to understand the logic of the ban on vehicular movement “because vehicles do not necessarily cause violence; human beings do. The Police say everyone is free to move about, but vehicular movement is restricted. What’s the point? I don’t get it…”