February 17, 2016 By Ibrahim Tarawallie
The Constitutional Review Committee (CRC) has proposed four new chapters – Local Government and Decentralisation, Citizenship, Land, Natural Resources and the Environment as well as Information, Communication and the Media – to be included in the revised 1991 Constitution of Sierra Leone.
President Ernest Bai Koroma official launched the Constitutional Review Committee (CRC), comprising 80 members representing different stakeholders in society, including political parties, democratic institutions, NGOs and the media, in July 2013 with the mandate to review the 1991 Constitution of Sierra Leone and the Peter Tucker Constitutional Commission Report (PTCR), submitted to the government in January 2008 as a working document.
During the official launch of the abridged draft report of the CRC yesterday, Chairman Justice Edmond Cowan stated that their proposition of four new chapters in the new constitution emanated from the people during consultative meetings, as well as position papers from individuals and organisations.
According to Justice Cowan, the proposed four thematic areas were new as they do not form chapters within the current constitution.
“These are very important areas, but they were not captured in the constitution as you would find other areas like the protection of human rights,” observed the CRC boss. “Although they can be found in other legislations but they were not embedded in the constitution. As we went round the country the people raised these issues. These are not our views but it came from the people.”
With regards citizenship, Justice Cowan emphasised the importance of its inclusion in the revised constitution because “one needs to know who is a citizen and what rights citizens enjoy”.
He also talked about the many problems associated with natural resources, which according to him, people and organisations have always held the view that citizens are not benefiting from natural resources, adding that something should be done to address that.
The former Speaker of Parliament also noted that the committee also proposed that the retirement age for judges be pegged at 70 years instead of 65 years, and for the two-term limit for the presidency to remain.
“Following three detailed presentations made to the CRC with very strong recommendations in the Paramount Chiefs’ position paper, the CRC arrived at the conclusion that a House of Paramount Chiefs should be established and included in the revised constitution,” Justice Cowan said.
He added that the document has been produced to highlight major recommendations from the 80-man committee, for further consideration and validation by the people, with the final report expected to be submitted to the government in March this year.