Debate on Public Elections Bill 2022: APC MPs complain of insecurity

House of Parliament

By Jariatu S. Bangura

Members of Parliament of the main opposition All People’s Congress Party (APC) yesterday expressed fear over alleged insult and threat from members of the public who had went to Parliament to listen to debate on the Public Elections Bill 2022.

Earlier,the opposition made a call for the leadership of the House to give the public unfettered access to listen to the debate and the call was answered, with   both the lower and upper galleries of Parliament jam-packed by members of the public to witness the debate.

But,according to the Leader of the APC in parliament, Hon. Chernoh R M. Bah, some members of the public attacked him and his colleague APC MPs, using abusive languages and “we’re also threatened. Our presence as MPs is not safe.

The APC leader earlier complained about the incident to the Speaker, but Hon. Chernor Bah said after a meeting with the Speaker in his Chambers on the complaint he submitted, he (the Speaker)  promised to call on the leader again and discuss the issue before proceeding to the chamber to commence the business of the House.

He said they were shocked to have seen the Speaker in the Well of Parliament to commence sittings without getting back to him as promised.

“I was insulted and my colleagues as well. We are not safe and not comfortable, let the visitors leave us for the proceedings to continue. We don’t want to hold the House to ransom and we want to debate as we earlier said because the bill is very important,” he alleged. 

He also claimed that some members of public, who were seated at the gallery, were supporters of a certain political party.

He noted that their temperature as MPs was not normal and insisted that the Speaker ask the visitors at the gallery out of parliament.

He stated that their call during the last sittings was not for party supporters, but rather the public that have inputs to submit to MPs before the debate so that their concerns would be looked into.

However, the Speaker replied that, “I did not come in breach of our agreement, I called both your numbers but they were engaged which gave me the cause to come and fulfill my constitutional duties. If I feel unsafe and feel the House is unsafe I will advise myself and I am going to listen attentively.”

He stated that he was mindful of the request made during the last sittings by the opposition leader for the  the public to partake in the process and also the call for the  Sierra Leone Broadcasting Corporation (SLBC) to provide live coverage, which he thought was the reason why there was a large crowd of people in both galleries.

Meanwhile,Hon. Bundu also cautioned members of the public present at the galleries that, visitors were supposed to be seen and not heard.

“Every self-respecting citizen is expected to come here but they should respect the law which is the first part of democracy. You are here to witness and not to participate in the proceedings. I hold very high expectations for the good behaviour of you all. My conscience is absolutely clear. If I hear anything from both galleries, I will take appropriate step,” he cautioned.

Leader of Government Business, Hon. Matthew Nyuma, asked that the issue be put aside for them to continue the business of the house, stating that Standing Orders were very clear when it comes to the presence of members of the public 

He assured that their security as MPs was paramount and that they were safe and sound and anyone attempting to disturb the sittings, the needful will be done.

He said the constitutional instruments before the House were two important documents that needed to be discussed.

He said if the opposition MPs were claiming that they were not safe, they have the right to move a motion for investigation to be carried out as there are cameras installed in the Chamber for evidence sake.

He said the presence of the people in the gallery was based on the call made by the opposition for the public to participate in the debate on the Public Elections bill.