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CRC Saga…

APC, 7 ‘dead’ parties challenge Justice Cowan

December 9, 2016 By Andrew Ngebuva (Intern)

The ruling All People’s Congress (APC) and a moribund group of seven political parties have again challenged the Chairman of the Constitutional Review Committee, Justice Edmond Cowan, over the content of the revised 1991 constitution.

The seven parties – CDP, NDA, PLP, PDP, RUFP, UDM and UNPP – backed by the ruling party, yesterday hosted a press conference at the APC headquarters on Old Railway Line, Brookfields, Freetown, where they informed newsmen that Justice Cowan had refused to heed to their call regarding grey areas in the final report of the revised constitution for the benefit of the country.

Reading from a prepared statement jointly issued by the coalition, Chairperson of All Political Parties Association, Augusta James-Teima, alleged that the CRC did not record statements during the public consultations across the country.

She accused Justice Cowan of discrediting political parties that do not share his personal view on the report.

They claimed that delay in launching the final report of the reviewed constitution was as a result of failure to ascertain facts relating to data gathered from public consultation.

“Justice Cowan will bear the responsibility for the bad recommendations he has superintended. Eyewitnesses and participants in Port Loko, Tonkolili and Koinadugu testified that the CRC wrongly reported what the people preferred in the revised constitution,” the release stated.

They emphasised that after painstakingly reading the report that was made available to them they have discovered that it lacks empirical evidence of what the public consultations entailed, thus describing it as “commonplace anecdotal narrative.”

The parties further accused Justice Cowan of digressing from the official terms of reference by imposing his own idea into the process without notifying the 80-man Committee, insisting that “he misguided the process into political activism.”

Continuing, they said, “In so doing, he put asunder the ruling of the Supreme Court on two questions that were not in the mandate of the official terms of reference.”

They argued that the mandate of the CRC was, therefore, not limited to the review of the text of the constitution, but extended to the operation of the 1991 constitution as well.

They stressed that Justice Edmond Cowan imported his own idea into the revised constitution and further rejected the decision of the Supreme Court which endorsed the ‘Supreme Executive Authority’ that the President invoked to sack his Vice President.

According to them, the respected former Appellate Judge and House Speaker moved beyond his mandate of reviewing the 1991 constitution and went ahead to challenge the decision reached by the five Supreme Court Judges.

“Cowan went ahead into reviewing and settling questions of constitutional law, he exceeded the scope of authority placed on the CRC on the 30th July 2013,” they alleged, although the task of reviewing the 1991 Constitution, which many believe has many legal loopholes, was the responsibility of the 80-man Committee selected by the ruling party.

The parties further argued that the CRC recommendations were rejected by northerners because the survey conducted was inaccurate and improperly recorded, averring that Justice Cowan twisted the result to suit his comfort.

Thus, they demanded evidence from the chairman regarding his statement on Radio Democracy last month that 13 areas voted for the removal of ‘Supreme Executive Authority’ in the constitution to be replaced with ‘Chief Executive’.

The alleged that the CRC Chairman distorted and improperly interpreted the evidence gathered from the 12 Districts and became angry after several political parties raised objections in about it.

They said they were willing to engage Justice Cowan in a public debate on whether all the concerns of the people were factored into the final report.

However, in an exclusive interview with Concord Times last week, Justice Cowan said much of what the APC was peddling against him was “hearsay and misinformation” about his singular role in writing the report.

He said: I don’t take decisions. I am just the chairman. When the committees take their decision and bring it to the plenary meeting, my duty is to guide the process,” adding that the 80-man committee had highly qualified Sierra Leoneans.

The CRC was established in 2013 to review the 1991 constitution. With billions spent on the process since, it is highly probably that the process will be abandoned as the ruling party is apparently unhappy with the removal of the phase ‘Supreme Executive Authority’.

Meanwhile, the main opposition Sierra Leone Peoples Party – the only opposition party with a sizeable parliamentary seat and in charge of local councils – has backed the chairman and the process. So too the Peoples Movement for Democratic Change, led by veteran lawyer and politician, Charles Francis Margai.

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