October 26, 2020
By Mohamed M. Sesay
A consortium of Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) including the Centre for Accountability and Rule of Law (CARL), Centre for Democracy and Human Rights (CDHR), Budget Advocacy Network (BAN), Campaign for Good Governance (CGG), Institute for Governance Reform (IGR), and 50/50 Group have on Friday condemned the action of Parliament for suspending four members of parliament on allegation relating to unverified corruption allegations against Parliament on BBC Focus on Africa, alleged arm-twisting by the leadership of Parliament resulting in resignation, intimidation and verbal abuse, and indecent and derogatory text message directed at other members of parliament.
A joint press release, CSOs raised concern that the arm-twisting and unjustly punishing MPs for whistle-blowing on corruption would in turn discourage ordinary citizens who want to report corruption.
It further noted that the existing situation in parliament is worrying as a recent (2020) studies by Afrobarometer shows that 61% of citizens fear the risk of retaliation for reporting corruption.
They urged the Speaker of Parliament and the leadership of all the political parties represented in parliament to immediately take steps to re-instate all parliamentary entitlements and privileges to the affected parliamentarians.
They further urged the leadership of Parliament to demonstrate more commitment in the fight against corruption by protecting persons who speak up against the scourge rather than punishing or suppressing their voices.
The CSOs acknowledged the powers of parliament to inquire into the general conduct of the Members of Parliament, but indicated that they failed to see the legal basis for hurriedly suspending elected officials from performing their functions especially for whistleblowing on corruption.
They described the action of parliament in suspending the four members of parliament as unjust and profoundly repugnant to all the guarantees of due process and presumption of innocence enshrined in the Constitution.
‘’We the undersigned organizations are gravely concerned about recent happenings in the Parliament of Sierra Leone, especially those relating to the suspension of four Members including Hon. Hindolo Moiwo Ngevao, an anti-corruption whistleblower, from participating in parliamentary committee proceedings even without having found them culpable of any wrongdoing. This decision to suspend them is not only atrocious for our collective effort to strengthen democratic governance, but it also sends a very unfortunate message about our parliament’s attitude towards persons who raise their voices for accountability and institutional integrity,’’ it concludes.