By Alfred Koroma
Following MPs brawl over the laying of the new electoral system regulations in the House of Parliament, the Speaker has expressed dissatisfaction against MPs behaviour on Wednesday, describing it as an affront to the dignity of the House and to his office as Speaker.
Chaotic scene broke out in the Legislative House on Wednesday as the Deputy Minister of Justice, Umaro Napoleon Koroma was about to lay the electoral regulations for next year’s General Elections. Video footage shared on social media shows MPs exchanging punches and throwing object at each other in a noisy and disorderly manner.
In an angry tone yesterday, a day after the hassle, the Speaker of Parliament, Dr. Abass Bundu stated that the conduct of MPs during Wednesday’s sitting will go with severe punishment.
“Consequently, I hereby give notice that the conduct that I observed yesterday (Wednesday) in this Well, will not go unnoticed, and will not go without consequences. And those consequences will be severe. YES, they will be,” the Speaker told MPs during sitting.
“I have exercise patience beyond endurance. What I observed yesterday was an affront to the dignity of this House; an affront to my office as Speaker. And the law will be allowed to take its consequence,” he added.
MPs in Sierra Leone enjoy some privileges which make them immune to certain crimes. However, the Speaker reminded them that the said immunity has a limit.
Quoting Sections 97 and 99 of the Constitution which speak about the responsibilities and privileges of MPs, Dr Bundu said MPs privileges are restricted, only to what they say in Parliament and not what they otherwise do.
“It is very clear. You can shout to high-heaven if you like, and you are privileged. But when you go physical and you go violent, I ‘m sorry, you are not entitled to enjoy any immunity or any protection under the law,” he said.
Proportional representation or electoral system where party representation reflects electoral support, recently declared by the Electoral Commission for Sierra Leone, has faced staunch opposition from the All People’s Congress, the main opposition party which also commands a slight majority in the House of Parliament.
The commotion that took place among MPs in the House that day is not entirely surprising. Exchange of punches may not have been expected, but stiff resistance against the laying the PR regulations, especially from the main opposition MPs was definitely expected.
Despite the row, the two regulations: the Public Elections (District Block Proportional Representation System) Regulations 2022, and the Public Elections (Local Councils Proportional Representation System) Regulations, 2022 were however laid on the table in the Well Parliament.
They will become Laws after 21 days of lying in the House or otherwise annulled by two-thirds of votes cast by MPs before the expiration period.