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Chaos in Parliament

April 20, 2021

By Jariatu S. Jusu

Scene at the Bintumani Conference Centre where Parliament was seated

The sittings of Parliament  was yesterday disrupted by the opposition All People’s Congress (APC) on the grounds that the leadership of their party and other opposition leaders were not consulted  on the hosting of the emergency parliamentary sittings summoned by President Julius Maada Bio.

According to the Order Paper, the Attorney General and Minister of Justice was supposed to have tabled the Mid -Term Census Order 2021 and Census Act, 2002 (Statutory Instrument  No. 4 of 2021), the Cyber Crime bill 2020, among other documents.

Opposition Members of Parliament chanted slogans that, “This is a House of procedures and it must be followed. No sitting and we don’t need any census. The Speaker is bound to follow the rules.”

After some hours of disruption, the Clerk of Parliament, Hon. Paran Tarawally, entered the Well and announced that the Speaker will arrive and continue the sittings and that they expected decorum in the Chamber.

Upon the resumption of sittings by the Speaker, Leader of the main APC, Hon.  Chernoh R.M Bah, insisted that he concludes the  statement he had started making before the Speaker stood down the House.

He requested for the mic to be handed over to him so that he could be heard, but Speaker Bundu ordered for the Clerk to read out the proclamation.

The Clerk read out the proclamation and the paper was laid by the Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Anthony Brewah.

According to the leader of the main opposition APC in Parliament, “Our duty is to come and make our point and stop the sittings and I expect the Speaker to do the right thing. When the President called for such meeting, the Speaker is expected to call I and the Clerk.We are here to make sure the right things are done. We were not expecting to see this on the Order Paper.”

He said they were expecting that only the proclamation should have been on the Order Paper, but rather there were other documents that they were not notified about, as agreed upon in the Bo declaration.

He insisted that the proviso states that they should be given 21-day notice with consultation before the commencement of such meeting or sittings, adding that as far as they were concerned there was no Maze hence the proclamation was not completed and that they never thought that there was any document laid from their own point of view.

He said the police needed not to enter into the Chamber whenever chaos takes place and that they should be there to protect lives and property.

“What we want you to do is now, go and tell the Speaker and send his Clerk to adjourn the sittings to another date. He summoned us through the social media and he should use the same medium to adjourn the sittings. It is a shame that within the three years of governance, they have brought police into the Chamber. Both the Census and Statistics documents say it should be the Minister of Development and not the Attorney General and Minister of Justice that should be responsible to lay such document and we are not aware whether the Minister is out of the country,” he said.

Hon. Kandeh Yumkella  of the National Grand Coalition (NGC) also argued that a notice should have been  given  to them and not what they saw on the social media that constituted a blatant violation.

“The speaker is at fault as well, he had the right to have called the leadership after such position was raised. I was also about to take the floor but nothing of such was allowed. These things are not correct, procedures must be followed. We are not here for violence but it should have been incumbent on the side of the Speaker to listen to the opposition. The whole process was wrong. Somebody would use this bad precedent again,” he noted.

On his part, Hon. Bendu of the Coalition for Change (C4C), said the proclamation was brought because the opposition raised the issue some days ago, but that they were not allowed to ask questions.

“I hold the Speaker responsible as he did not treat the opposition fairly. I was expecting him to stand down the House and hold some consultations. The presence of the police force was heavy and it is not good. These things will be taken as well by other leaders in the future. The SLPP promised a change and this is not a change on my part. This should have been done peacefully. The State of Emergency was carried out peacefully and this document was not an exception. What transpired today is not good and we have nothing to do,” he said.

However, Speaker of Parliament, Hon Abass Bundu, argued that he did not summon Parliament but rather the President did through a proclamation as per Constitutional provision.

He said the standing Order is subordinate to the constitution, adding that the constitution gives the President more powers at any time to summon a meeting of Parliament and that was what he did.

He said what the opposition leader raised tried  to mislead himself ,his party and his people, noting that Section 2 of the Census Act 2002 gives the power to the President to hold a census of the population of Sierra Leone and it was obliged for the instrument to be laid on the table of the House.

But Hon. Abubakarr Fofanah of the APC buttressed that, “I expected the leadership to have held a meeting this morning before the beginning of the session. This is the third time Parliament is fighting. Heated argument here and there, it requires a civilize approach but that is not the case presently here. This Parliament should be an example. I am disappointed and frustrated as a young MP.”

For Hon. Banya of the SLPP, the situation was an unfortunate one orchestrated by the opposition to disrupt the sitting, noting that they were confidence that the sitting will take place with a number of 2/3majority.

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