Hon. Chernor Bah Requests for Public Election Act Soft Copy
The Leader of Opposition in parliament, Hon Chernor Maju Bah, aka Chericoco, has requested that the National Electoral Commission of Sierra Leone and the Office of the Attorney General and Minister of Justice provide a soft copy of ‘The Public Elections Act 2022’ for public consumption.
The Public Elections Act 2022 was extensively debated on Tuesday, 21 June 2022, in the Well of Parliament in Freetown.
Speaking to the media, the leader said as opposition they are firm in their decision that the proportional representation system is undemocratic and will not stand the test of time in a modern day democracy.
He said the bill in other aspects is good but the public need to preview it, and as MPs they are not supporting any bill that is not in the public’s interest.
According to Hon Bah, there is no need to introduce the proportional representation system, adding that the government and the nation need strong institutions to man constituency elections.
He cited that America, Ghana and even neighbouring Liberia are all using constituency elections but no violence erupts during the electioneer process.
Mr Bah said the position of the opposition is that the PR system is not democratic and they will not support it in any way.
The Public Election Act 2022 seeks to repeal and replace the Public Election Act 2022 (Act No.4 of 2012) to provide for supplementary provisions to sections 32 and 33 of the Constitution of Sierra Leone 1991 (Act No. 6 of 1991).
Presenting the bill, the Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Mohamed Lamin Tarawally Esq., said the bill is necessary and went on to highlight the importance and powers of the document relative to voting, elections, registration, technology, and electoral offenses among others.
The Acting Speaker of Parliament, Hon Segepoh Solomon Thomas, said such a bill requires extensive debates and public engagement.
Opening the debate, the Chairman of the Legislative Committee, Hon Abdul S. Murray Conteh, spoke about the importance of the bill and its democratic features. He informed that it was prudent to use the lessons learned after every election to review and improve on election laws and went on to say the document is very essential in light of the conduct of peaceful election, unity, inclusivity for participation, and platform for discussion by all compatriots. The MP advised colleague MPs to debate the bill on the platform of nationalism and in the interest of Sierra Leone.
Hon Hindolo Moiwo Gevao said he was concentrating his debate on a particular section that relates to the district block system, adding that the latter had economic and tremendous advantages, including inclusive politics and national cohesion.
He speaks about the importance of the proposal to indicate the date for the Sierra Leone election. He asked members of Parliament to closely look at the provisions of the National Constitution as some of the proposals in the bill are already provided for in the constitution on the composition of Parliament and the period for both presidential and parliamentary elections.
“What would happen to Sierra Leone if the President-elect dies before the inauguration”?he asked and went on to say there is a lackna in the proposed law.
Hon Rev Sama Sandy spoke about the nexus between sections 76 (1a) and 41 (d) in the 1991 Constitution of Sierra Leone, adding that both speak in spirit and application to the qualification of someone to contest for the Office of the President of the Republic of Sierra Leone and went on to say a repeal of one (Sec 76 (1a) can undermine the other (41d).
He emphatically informed that a presidential candidate must be equally qualified to be elected to Parliament.
On the proportional representation system, he said nearly a hundred countries are practicing it and the system gives minority parties the right to participate in governance and went on to decry the constituency system. He emphatically spoke about the necessity and advantages of the PR system.
The MP described the preservation of safe seats as discriminatory, adding it would cause other segments to request theirs.
Leader of C4C, Hon Saa Emerson Lamina, said the proposal contradicts section 76 (1) of the 1991 Constitution of Sierra Leone, which gives qualifications to dual citizens to be voted for as Members of Parliament but disqualifies them for the presidency. According to him, such provision would result in statelessness, when both the President and Vice are absent and the Speaker becomes President.
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He informed that the bill has the prospect to address many problems including election chaos and addressing the problem of the new districts. He spoke about the lacuna including the election fees.
The Leader said the bill is very solid, in light of addressing the voting problem, elections, and speedy court proceedings on election offenses. He appealed for synergy and supported the gender sensitivity in the bill as well as the peaceful nature of the bill.
The Chief Whip of Parliament, Hon Dickson Rogers, asked the Acting Speaker of Parliament to give them time to consult with their constituents on the bill. He cited a certain lacuna on the qualification for MPs and that of the President, which is contravening. He also spoke well about the advantages and national cohesion and peaceful nature of the PR system.
He decried the proposed reserved seat system and proffered another solution for women’s representation in Parliament.
He commended the Attorney General and the Minister of Justice and team for the specific election date and also asked for additional six months to the one year for a person working for the government to resign from his/her job, be eligible, and contest in the upcoming parliamentary election.
“This bill is born out of the 2012 Election Act,’ he concluded.
Hon Joseph William-Lamin expressed profound thanks to his people and the team who put the document together. He referenced the Constitution of Sierra Leone instead of loyalty to state on the dual citizenship issue, while he spoke well of the bill on the District Block system and the proposal to reduce desperation among contestants. On election offences, he said the fines levied were too small and urged all to demonstrate peace.
Hon Charles Edwin expressed thanks to the team for the document. He threw light on the safe seats and gave a critical analysis on the same. For dual citizenship he said one cannot serve two masters and expressed fear of importing bad behaviour by the latter. The elections he said are laudable and suggested that after the presidential election, the outgoing and incoming presidents should work together to enhance cohesiveness.
Ensuring that the people participle in the process, he said ‘would be less expenditure on the election and there would be no by-election’.
Hon Rebecca Y. Kamara spoke about dual citizenship, adding that compatriots living abroad should come home and settle with the people. The MP wanted the twelve months to remain for the resignation of government workers. She said if someone from the Diaspora is not allowed to be voted for, they should not vote as well.
She appealed for women’s candidature fees to be reduced and expressed disappointment over men who are denouncing women’s safe seats and said some MPs have so much hatred for women. ‘The safe seat is not a taboo,’ she said with venom and anger.
The Independent Member of Parliament from Kailahun District, Hon Quintin Salia-Konneh, asked about the fate of independent contestants, but agreed that the bill is a good one.
The MP said everything is predetermined by the bill relative to the slated election date. ‘PR is the best way to go for Sierra Leone,’ he noted and went on to speak about the transparent and accountable nature of the bill, including that it is developmentally oriented among others.
He also recommended one year and six months for the resignation of people who are receiving salaries from the government consolidated fund, while calling for safe seats for all categories of people.
The Deputy Leader of Government Business, Hon Bashiru Silikie, thanked the previous administration in light of the reviewing of previous election acts.
He informed that there are few areas to be corrected by the bill and went on to give indicators in the proposals. On women’s representation, he recalled how female Members of Parliament defeated strong men in elections and suggested that more strong women be encouraged, rather than having reserved seats as armchairs.
He referenced previous acts and went on to inform that the proposal had some doubts that need clarification and amendments.
Mr Silikie denounced dual citizens’ participation, referencing countries that cannot allow people that have the latter to work in high-profile positions, while also laying emphasis on the lacuna in the proposal.
He used the opportunity to advise the leadership on the controversies and denounced the six months for the resignation of people receiving salaries from the consolidated fund.
The PR system he said would reduce the tension and violence among contenders as well as improve retention. He encouraged colleague MPs to thoroughly review some areas in the bill to make it a good law.
The Acting Speaker meanwhile requested citizens and others to submit their contributions and positions on the bill through the Office of the Clerk of Parliament.