August 6, 2015 By Mohamed Massaquoi and Patrick Jaiah Kamara
Civil society in Sierra Leone, including religious leaders and some politicians, have called on President Ernest Bai Koroma to bring an end to public emergency laws, arguing that it currently lacks efficacy in the fight against the Ebola virus disease.
With the current span of the emergency set to expire on Thursday, 6 August, there have been calls to lift the regulations, almost a year after they were imposed as part of “drastic measures” by the government to contain and defeat the Ebola outbreak.
National Coordinator of Network Movement for Youth and Children’s Welfare (NMYCWSL), Hajie Bah, told Concord Times in a telephone interview that they were strongly against the renewal of the emergency laws as it has put the economy of the country to a standstill.
Bah noted that the government should empower Local Councils to enforce Ebola bye-laws in their respective districts in place of the state of emergency.
“We don’t need the state of emergency any longer; the government has instituted it twice. The economy is bad and business activities are slow. If the government goes ahead to renew it, then am afraid for the people,” Bah said rather ominously.
He urged the Koroma administration to borrow a leaf from the counterparts in Liberia in the way to handle the issue. “In Liberia for instance, the state of emergency regulation was imposed at the initial stage of the disease, but the regulation was immediately lifted by her Excellency Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.”
Executive Director of Think Tank, Institute of Governance Reform, Andrew Lavalie, argues that the state of emergency has no correlation with ongoing efforts to end the Ebola outbreak as extending it would be borne out of a political consideration than public good.
“The State of Emergency has paralyzed the country’s economy and democratic credentials. The government should not be repressive to its people and ending Ebola relatively depends on the contributions of the people, so the state of emergency has nothing to do with Ebola,” Lavalie said.
Also, a senior cleric at the Sierra Leone Muslim Missionary Union, Sheik Alie Kallay lamented that government officials have been ‘selectively’ using state of emergency regulations. He said officials or their relatives have been giving befitting burials whilst the less-privilege are taken to Waterloo, outside Freetown for burial.
The Sierra Leone Peoples Party has also called on their lawmakers not to vote in favour of an extension to the emergency laws. The party, which has 42 lawmakers in Parliament, had twice voted of emergency laws, but their leadership contends that it was high time the regulations were lifted as they were causing increased economic harm to ordinary people and according the ruling party a political advantage.
Our sources though indicate that it looks highly unlikely that the ruling party will table the motion for debate if they are unsure of a bipartisan consensus as they lack two-thirds majority to push it through.