February 14, 2018 By Ishmael Sallieu Koroma
The Inspector General of Police has issued a stern warning to the general public against what he called incitement and misinformation as to the proposed ban on vehicular movement on elections day.
IGP Richard Moigbe was speaking at the British Council auditorium in Freetown during the launch of the 2018 elections project and handbook on electoral laws by the Sierra Lone Bar Association (SLBA), with support from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
“This is a warning to the entire public, the media, and political parties and all Sierra Leoneans, irrespective of political interest or belonging, if you are aggrieved with the ban police has placed on vehicular movement on polling day, you can go to court but not to incite people on social media. I am prepared to be in court at any time,” he said.
He stated that their decision was being supported by provisions in the 1991 Constitution, specifically Sections 18, 25 & 26 respectively.
However, the said provisions guaranty freedom of movement, protection of freedom of expression and the press and protection of freedom of assembly and association, respectively, while stating specific exceptions that are “reasonably required in the interest of defence, public safety, public order….” It remains vague though whether the police ban on vehicular movement and threat to clamp down on persons who resist same, is consistent with the constitution.
Yet the police boss said his patience was running thin as discussions on the proposed restriction of movement on polling day have been very ‘inciteful(sic), misinforming and unpatriotic.’
He opined that irresponsible conduct to undermine social order, public safety and national security on polling day must stop; thus stressing that police would soon pursue and bring to book people for incitement.
“We will not sit and watch people misinforming and fermenting trouble in this country. The SLP is in full compliance with freedoms of movement and speech as provided for in the 1991 Constitution,” he said
He remarked that some people have voiced their intention to file a case in the Supreme Court for an interpretation of the aforementioned sections, but that the same constitution that grants freedoms of movement and expressions has limitations as well.
“Now let me tell you about the issue of movement that is being trumpeted, politicised and misused. The restriction of movement we are talking about here is not directed at people or persons. It would be stupid on our part if we stopped movement of people because they have to go out and vote,” he strenuously explained.
He added that the restriction would sole target private and commercial bikes and vehicles without National Electoral Commission (NEC) accreditation, adding that political parties have right to apply for accreditations at NEC for their vehicles.
He said the SLP human resources would be beefed-up on polling day with the view to providing special election policing as they did in the 2012 presidential and parliamentary elections.
“The Sierra Leone Police is very pleased and honoured to be part of the history making today and we will support the SLBA in the execution of the 2018 elections project,” he said.
Sierra Leone Bar Association President, Rhoda Sufian–Kargbo Nuni, said it was part of their commitment to fostering credible electoral processes in Sierra Leone and to promoting awareness on electoral laws of the country.
She assured the gathering that they would be providing legal representation and advisory services to the most vulnerable people that would come in conflict with the law during electioneering period.
“The handbook is divided into three parts: stages in electoral cycle i.e. pre elections, elections and post –elections and the electoral offences court,” she said.
The SLBA president thanked the UNDP, judiciary, Canadian government and other partners for making the book launch a reality.
Also speaking was chairman of Political Parties Registration Commission (PPRC), Justice Patrick O. Hamilton, who noted that the handbook was very important and that it would definitely assist political parties.
He called on SLBA to make the handbook accessible in brail copies for blind people and to popularise it all over the country.
On his part, National Electoral Commission boss, Mohamed Nfa Alie Conteh, said the document was timely, maintaining that NEC was committed to conducting free, fair and credible elections on March 7th.
He urged SLBA to sensitise political parties as some do not understand electoral laws and processes.
A representative of the UNDP country director, Annette Nalwoga, said the handbook was an important achievement for the SLBA in fostering credible elections in Sierra Leone.
She reiterated UNDP’s commitment to ensuring credible, peaceful, free, fair elections come March 7th.
The SLBA elections project and handbook was launched by the Hon. Justice Abdulai Charm, Chief Justice of the Republic of Sierra Leone.