March 25, 2020
By Jariatu S. Bangura
Members of Parliament were yesterday unable to debate and approve the proclamation made by President Julius Maada Bio on the State of Public Emergency, stating need for thorough consultations among political parties.
Before the adjournment of the House, several in-house consultations were made among the different political heads in and outside of Parliament, together with the Speaker of Parliament, Attorney General and Minister of Justice on the discussion of the proclamation.
Speaker of Parliament, Dr. Abass Bundu, said last Friday at the invitation of Parliament, some minsters went to the house to brief Parliamentarians on the state of the country’s preparedness for the ravaging Coronavirus pandemic.
He said they deliberated on it for two days (Thursday and Friday) and that they were not able to arrive at a definitive conclusion about the outbreak.
“Today, the President has declared a state of public emergency pursuant to the powers vested in him by Section 29 of Constitution Act No.6 of 1991.To all intents and purposes, he has fulfilled his duty to this nation by that proclamation.It is now left with us (Parliament) to decide what is left to do. Because we are still in the process of consulting as to what our response should be, this House stands adjourned to Thursday at 10 am,” he said.
He stated that they would expect the House to be able to arrive at a definitive decision as to how to proceed on that critical matter that is affecting the lives of the nation.
President Bio yesterday declared a- 12 -Month State of Public Emergency, but cautioned that the situation should not prompt people to hoard goods or increase the prices of basic commodities.
“By the authority vested in me under Subsection (1) of Section (29) of the Constitution of Sierra Leone 1991, Act No 6 of 1991, regarding the declaration of a State of Public Emergency Now, Therefore, I, Julius Maada Bio, President of the Republic of Sierra Leone, Supreme Head of State, Grand Commander of the Order of the Republic, and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Sierra Leone, having regard to the threat that the Coronavirus disease poses to the lives of the people and the economy of Sierra Leone, and the need to take effective measures to prevent, protect, and curtail the spread of the disease throughout Sierra Leone, do hereby, by this Proclamation, declare that a State of Public Emergency exists in the whole of the Republic of Sierra Leone with effect from today the 24th Day of March 2020 for a period of twelve months,” he said.
He continued that, ‘‘As I have stated before, I reaffirm the determination of my government to do everything necessary to protect the life of every Sierra Leonean. This is not a lockdown and nobody must use this as an excuse to hoard goods, hike prices, or engage in acts of lawlessness. This public emergency is not meant to make the lives of Sierra Leoneans difficult or unbearable. We will continue to deploy the armed forces and Police, as necessary, to enforce compliance with all public health directives.”
Meanwhile, since the pronouncement of certain measures by the president before the declaration of public emergency, there has been series of complaints from citizens with regards the attitude of traders and commercial drivers, who have taken advantage of the situation to fix prices at the expense of the poor masses.
‘‘We are now at the mercy of commercial drivers and traders. Commercial drivers have decided on their own to increase transport fares because government has asked them to reduce the number of passengers as a measure to prevent the entry or spread of Coronavirus in the country. Government really needs to intervene in order to save us from the wicked claws of these people, who have taken advantage of the current situation,’’ they cried.