Parliament Enacts Bill to Amend the 1991 Constitution

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Bill to Amend the 1991 Constitution
Bill to Amend the 1991 Constitution

By Ophaniel Gooding

The Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Mohamed Lamin Tarawally on Tuesday 12th July, 2022 presented two Bills in Parliament.

He said that the proposed Bill seeks to amend for two reasons:

(a) that the members of the Electoral Commission who shall be the Chairman and such other members appointed for each electoral region shall be known as Electoral Commissioners and

(b) by replacing the word misbehavior with the words “gross misconduct”.

The object of the Bill sought to amend Subsections (2) and (8) of Section 32 of the Constitution of Sierra Leone, 1991 (Act No. 6 of 1991) respectively, by repealing and replacing those subsections with new subsections and by repealing the word “misbehavior” and replacing it with the words “gross misconduct”.

Hon. Sulaiman Marray-Conteh, Chairman of the Legislature Committee in Parliament, stated that they were in Parliament as representatives of the people and to promote patriotic motives, adding that the modifications were not in controversy.

Hon. Agibola Manly Spain stated that the term “gross misconduct” must be defined before proceeding to query, raise issues, and express skepticism.

Hon. Ibrahim Tawa Conteh informed Parliament that Section 5 of the 2012 Public Election Act addressed the amendment and that there was no cause for it to be modified again.

Hon. Alpha Amadu Bah Esq said that, the current opposition is very effective and that is why such issues are coming up for clarity.

Hon. Saa Emerson Lamina, Leader of the C4C, stated the words, “grave misconduct”, were justified, referring to international benchmarks and criticizing the previous administration for specific activities.

Hon. Daniel Koroma questioned whether the bills before them were sufficient, stating that they were in Parliament to avoid the wrath of a specific Section of Article 108 of the Constitution and advised the Minister to keep that section in mind.

“We are advising the Attorney General and Minister of Justice that these two instruments do not suffice,” he stated, adding that they will always support good things in the interest of the nation.

According to the MP, there are four (4) regions in the Constitution, but there are currently five (5), and he requested that the figure be appended. “We are prepared to assume the place of the Constitution’s drafters. Let’s go with the present trend of 5 points, “he stated.

Hon. Daniel went on to say that “misbehavior” is likewise weak, and “severe misconduct” is standard. He stated that they want clarification and action to introduce the phrases by definition in order to make the Electoral Commissioner more independent.

According to Hon. Osman Wurie Jalloh, revising the constitution will stand the test of time.

Hon. Sahr Charles said the amendment is not controversial and informed that they needed more explanations on the changes. He also suggested that let number be attached to the regional amendment in light of Electoral Commissioners.  According to him, they are asking the Government to be very clear about the amendments and to bring the amendments in full, not in piecemeal. “We don’t want to commit treason,” he noted.

Deputy Leader of Government Business Hon. Bashiru Silikie recalled how the 2012 Public Election Act was passed and spoke about the lapses.  He patriotically asked the House to support the Attorney General and Minister of Justice on the passage of the bill, adding that they are making it very difficult not to remove Electoral Commissioners, just like Judges or President. He encouraged the opposition to support the bill to become law.

Opposition Whip, Hon. Hassan Sesay, said they were asking for specificity of figure and definition, making reference to the recent saga related to the Auditor General. He said they want to ensure that things are done properly, relative to the Commissioner’s independence and specific figure attached to regions, in tandem with the Electoral Commissioners.

The Leader of Opposition, Hon. Chernor R. M. Bah said the two issues are direct and let specific figures be tied to the number of regions they have.  He spoke about the trend of times for a change and circumstances, in light of future amendments.  “We do not want to be obstructed, but we want specific figures to be tied to it,” he concluded.

Leader of Government Business, Hon. Mathew Sahr Nyuma said they were positive about the process and supported the position to have the Chairman and five commissioners. He applauded the opposition for their support and went on to express disappointment over the negative public perception about MPs regarding the bill.

The Leader expressed happiness over the process and went to thank all Members of Parliament for their various contributions.

For “gross misconduct” he referred to Section 5 of the Public Election Act of 2012. He suggested that either they leave the definition to the tribunal or leave it.

Responding, the Attorney General and Minister of Justice cleared some issues and concerns. He said the words “gross misconduct” intends to harmonize the law, in light of the protection of the Electoral Commissioners.

For 32 (2), he said, they are correcting the wrongs and went on to say, the issue is not about five to be specific.

According to him, the country is growing and the provision is not a trap.  He said the amendment cannot harm anyone.

The Bill for the amendment of the Constitution was passed into law unanimously, with some amendments and without a dissenting voice in the midst of one hundred and thirty-five Members of Parliament present.

 

 

1 COMMENT

  1. […] Parliament unanimously amended the constitution, changing the designation of the Electoral Commission head, from Chief Electoral Commissioner to Chairman (Section 32 (2)) and that the president may remove the EC chairman in case of “gross misconduct” instead of misbehaviour (Section 32 (8)) (Parliament – 12/07). https://thecalabashnewspaper.com/parliament-enacts-bill-to-amend-the-1991-constitution/ […]

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