January 30, 2019
By Ishmael Sallieu Koroma
The All Peoples Congress Party (APC) has in press conference yesterday raised concern over what they described as the constitutionality of the Commissions of Inquiry (COI), as they believed the process was not consistent with the 1991 Constitution of Sierra Leone.
While reading a press statement, Secretary General of the party, Ambassador Osman Foday Yansaneh, reiterated that the instruments establishing the Commissions of Inquiry (COI) were not consistent with the provisions of Section 150 of the 1991 Constitution, adding that despite their party and other bodies including the Sierra Leone Bar Association (SLBA) had raised issues regarding the instruments, government has refused to pay heed.
“Those instruments establishing the COI are not consistent with the provisions of Section 150 of the 1991 Constitution of Sierra Leone which states “Subject to the provisions of this chapter, the Rules of Court Committee shall, by constitutional instrument makes rules regulating the practice and procedure of all Commissions of Inquiry. The APC Party is of the view that this committee was not constituted prior to the enactment of the Constitutional Instruments referred to,’’ he said.
He, however, noted that they were not against the COI as long as they follow the law, and that that they were prepared to obey the rule of law and not the rule of man.
“What is more worrisome is that in Section 6(1) of the Constitutional Instruments 64, 65 and 67, the Commissioner has powers to modify, adapt and except himself from abiding by the practice and procedure in force in the High Court if he so feels like it. This is in sharp contrast with the provisions of Section 150 of the Sierra Leone Constitution,’’ Ambassador Yansaneh averred.
According to the party, Section 6(2) of the said Instruments stated that the Commissioner shall not be bound by the Rules of Evidence in civil or criminal proceeding.
“This is also against the spirit and content of Section 150 of the Constitution of the Republic of Sierra Leone.”
He said as a party they were also noting with concern that Section 149, subsection 4 of the 1991 Constitution, provides that where a Commission of Inquiry makes an adverse finding against any person which may result in a penalty, forfeiture or loss of status, the report of the Commission of Inquiry shall, for the purpose of this Constitution, be deemed to be a judgement of the High Court of Justice and accordingly, an appeal shall lie as of right from the Commission to the Court of Appeal.
“The APC Party is concerned that this provision gives the Commission the status of a High Court which can recommend penalties that are enforceable by law. The Rules of Evidence applicable in the High Court should therefore apply,’’ Yansaneh urged.
According the APC scribe, the source document for the Commissions of Inquiry -the Governance Transition Team (GTT) report 2018, was replete with tribal, regional and partisan sentiments and incitement and therefore posed a serious national security threat to the country.
“Even today, the way and manner the Supreme Court judge and the Minister of Justice spoke showed that they have taken sides. They are biased. The APC Party is even more appalled that in his statement at the launch of the Commissions of Inquiry, the Chief Justice of the Republic of Sierra Leone, who is expected to be the custodian of the Rule of Law in the country, has seemingly taken a partisan position that is firmly consistent with that already taken by the president and his Government,’’ he reiterated.
He noted that their membership was ready and prepared to fully support and cooperate with the Commissions, if the aforementioned concerns were addressed by the government.