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Bar Association proposes limit to Executive Orders

November 18, 2015 By Michael Bockarie

The Sierra Leone Bar Association (SLBA) has proposed a limit on the use of “Executive Orders” and “Supreme Executive Authority” by future presidents in the revised constitution.

The SLBA presented a position paper to the Constitutional Review Committee, chaired by the country’s Ombudsman, retired Justice Edmond Cowan, last Friday, 13 November, at their Youyi building secretariat.

While making a presentation on the above topic before the committee, Francis Ben Kaifala Esq., explained that some strange decisions have been taken by State House, some of which has no basis in law in respect to the phrase “Executive Orders”.

The private legal practitioner noted that the abuse of “Executive Powers” range from arrests and detentions of individuals without trial for a very long time, the hurried extradition of foreign accused persons who should stand trial in Sierra Leone, introduction of the Military Aid to Civil-Power, and the declaration of cleaning Saturdays, which limit individual movement.

He submitted that the issuance of “Executive Orders” by the president should be limited to his role as Head of State and Commander-In Chief of the Armed Forces, and not touch and concern the freedoms and rights of citizens.

He called on Justice Cowan to take a close look at section 40 of the 1991 Constitution, adding that the committee should provide clear ambits within which such authority could be used by the president, thus limiting abuse of power by subsequent presidents.

Kaifala described section 40 of the 1991 constitution as a travesty of rule of law, an infringement of the doctrine of separation of powers and a reproach to democracy. He said any president who has unchecked powers to issue “Executive Orders” might abuse his authority and undermine the doctrine of separation of powers upon which the pillars of our democracy rest.

He said instances of abuse of the “Executive Orders” include the issuance of “Certificate of Emergency” granted for the passage of the Petroleum Bill into law, thus preventing any proper and sober consideration and debates, describing it as interference by the executive in the prescribed duties of the legislature. He also mentioned the recent sacking of the democratically elected Vice President by the president, relying on a vague provision in the constitution which refers to him as the “Supreme Executive Authority” and subsequent ruling of the Supreme Court, as indicators that the powers of the president have been widened with no limitation.

Also, President of the Sierra Leone Bar Association, Ibrahim Sorie Esq., said they were pleased to participate in the Constitutional Review process, which he described as a national task.

He said the Bar Association had set up committees to look into several aspect of the constitution, including the Judiciary, with specific reference to the tenure of office of Judges of the Superior Court of Judicature; the Executive, with reference to the tenure of office of the president; Rights and State Policy, with particular reference to the right to food and other social issues.

Mr. Sorie said the members of Bar Association were comfortable with the current mandatory two terms limit to serve as as president, adding that no president that who has served under the 1991 constitution should be allowed to contest under the new constitution.

Meanwhile, the Bar Association also recommended to the Review Committee that the retirement age of judges be extended to seventy years.

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