By Winifred Hannah Koroma
All but one Member of Parliament of the opposition Sierra Leone Peoples Party Monday staged a walk out in parliament during the swearing-in-ceremony of two MPs of the ruling All People’s Congress.
The only MP who remained was Francis Konuwaa key ally of the minority leader, Hon. Dr. Bernadette Lahai. Mr. Konuwaa was said to be under tremendous pressure to stand down due to accusations from her colleagues that she is too cozy with the ruling party.
Hon. Francis Konuwa told Concord Times in an interview that nobody informed him about the walkout plan. “I was never informed or aware, nobody told me and I came to Parliament with an intention to contribute to sittings.”
Last week, the two newly sworn in APC lawmakers were declared winners after a controversial court ruling and subsequent announcement by the Electoral Commission that they had won in constituencies 05 and 15 in Kailahun and Kenema districts respectively. Both districts opposition strongholds.
Unofficial results had given commanding leads to SLPP’s Barrister Ansu Lansana and Rtd. Capt. Hafiju Kanja who contested the seats. Hon. Regina Tianga Marah and Hon.
Before the elections, Mr. Lansana and Capt. Kanja had to first win a case in the high court that challenged their party’s primaries. Mr. Macarthy and Dr. Kamanda wanted an injunction restricting the two SLPP candidates from contesting the elections.
Although the court dismissed their petition, it bizarrely also declared them as winners, stating that the other candidates had acted in breach of the injunction.
Hon. Dr. Bu-Buakei Jabbie of SLPP told Concord Times that the swearing in of the two MPs was unconstitutional and undemocratic and that if votes cast for the SLPP candidates in the elections of 2012 in constituencies 05 and 15 were not counted, then such an action could violate voters’ rights.
He said the walk-out was planned because several issues they had raised about the court’s decision and subsequent action by NEC remain unresolved.
However, Hon. Claude Kamanda, the Majority Whip, said the swearing-in of the two candidates was democratic and constitutional. Any names sent to the Clerk of Parliament by the Chief Electoral Commissioner as duly elected Members of Parliament will be sworn in by the House, he said.
In her maiden speech to reporters shortly after she took the oath, Hon. Regina Marah expressed thanks to her constituents and the ruling party executive for her current feat, which she attributed to God’s guidance. Hon. Leonard Solomon Fofanah said he was ready to deliver for his people as he understood the internal mechanisms of the House, having served as MP for two terms, from 1982 to 1992.
Mohamed Bangura, the leader of the United Democratic Movement, told newsmen in parliament that it was constitutionally wrong for the APC to have representatives from that part of the country, regarded as an opposition bastion. He said that would undermine democracy and peace as the ruling party could not have won the seats under normal circumstances.