By Jariatu S. Bangura
Parliament has on Tuesday passed into law the Public Elections Petition Rules,2022, with the main opposition All People’s Congress (APC) securing 22 while the ruling Sierra Leone Peoples Parry secured 42 votes.
Paramount Chiefs, one member of the Coalition for Change (C4C) party and 4 MPs of the National Grand Coalition (NGC) abstained on the basis that they didn’t understand what the argument was about.
The said rules will be used for the upcoming June 24th, elections.
The bill was tabled in the House on the 21st December, 2022 by the
Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Mohamed Lamin Tarawally.
Leader of the main opposition APC, Hon. Chernor R.M Bah, argued that the Petition Rules were laid on the 24th December 2022 and the upcoming election is slated for 24th June 2023.
He further argued that the ECOWAS Protocol on Governance and Democracy states that for laws to be used for any elections, they should be younger than 6 months before the elections.
He noted that six months to the country’s general elections date started on
23rd December and that the bill tabled by the Attorney General’s office
should not be accepted by the House and should be annulled and
sent out of parliament.
He said the existing rule didn’t capture presidential elections as
compared to the initial one and also that election offences under the
Public Elections Act, 2022 should not be tried in accordance with the
Criminal Procedure Act, 1965.
He said they should not be accepted by the House for the upcoming election.
Seconder of the motion, Hon. Mark Mahmoud Kalokoh said Section 2
Article 2 (1) of the ECOWAS Protocol on Good Governance and Democracy
2006 (revised), should be considered by his colleagues and not accept
the proposed bill before the House.
He said the Section is mandatory and that they should not use the
instrument for the upcoming elections.
He argued that they should respect and work towards the rules and principles of the ECOWAS protocol.
But Hon. Segepor S. Thomas argued that the Election Petition Rules
before the House didn’t go against the ECOWAS protocols in anyway as
the rules do not relate to the substantive electoral laws but only
relate to the procedural aspect.
He stated that Section 2 Article 2(1) of the ECOWAS Protocols states
that ‘no substantial modifications shall be made to the electoral laws
in the last six months before the elections, except with the consent
of a majority of political actors’.
“I wonder why my friend is bringing this up? The argument is
unnecessary and we should not even be having it in the House. He is
not going to have the two third majority to annul this law but he is
just trying to waste the time of the House. We are comfortable with
this and he knows he is not going to win but I don’t know why we are
wasting time,” he said.
He urged the Speaker to put the question for the House to vote and
continue the business of the House, adding that there was a big
difference between the procedural law and the substantive law.
But Hon. Chernoh said procedures are part of the courtrooms and that
procedural laws are substantive.
“It is a substantive rule as it is from the actual law,” he charged.