All People’s Congress (APC) Members of Parliament have in a press conference made their position clear on the May 31st 2019 High Court judgement, describing it as politically motivated and illegal.
Reading a prepared statement, the APC Leader in Parliament, Hon. Chernor R. Bah had this to say: ‘Exactly fourteen days ago, on the 31st of May 2019, the High Court of Sierra Leone wrongfully evicted ten of our members from the Parliament of Sierra Leone. Hitherto to that day, they were representing over 500,000 people within the Western Area having pulled the highest number of valid votes in their various constituencies in the General Election held on the 7th of March 2018 – an election which was declared by local and international observers alike, in addition to the National Elections Commission as free, fair and credible.
‘On that fateful day, we also witnessed the hasty and illegal swearing in as members of parliament persons who were not elected by their constituents to represent them in parliament.
‘We wish to inform the public that while our confidence in the Judiciary is at its all-time low, we will continue to respect due process and the rule of law. We believe that the learned judges erred in law and in fact in declaring their elections null and void and even acted outside their powers and usurped the powers of the electorate when they declared the runners – up as winners of the elections. We find it preposterous to declare an election of a candidate void because the election was marred with electoral malpractices and in the same election declare the runner – up the winner. This is against commonsense and every reasoning. Such decisions have the potential not only to undermine the rule of law and democracy but a potential to create instability and wreak havoc in our nation.
‘Being dissatisfied with the judgements of the 31st of May 2019, in line with the provision of Section 78 (3) of the Constitution of Sierra Leone which provides that:
“An appeal shall lie to the Court of Appeal from the decision of the High Court….”
and in conformity with the provision of Section 146 (1) of the Public Elections Act 2012 which provides inter alia that notice of appeal may be filed within fourteen days from the time of the notice of the decision of the High Court, we inform the general public that we have, on Tuesday the 11th of June 2019, filed ten (10) notices of appeal to the Court of Appeal from all the decisions entered against our members by the high court and that we have also served same on the solicitors for the respondents.
‘We also want the general public to know that before now, we had filed to the Supreme Court an action for the interpretation of Section 78 (2) of the Constitution which provides that:
“The High Court to which any question is brought under subsection (1) SHALL determine the said question and give judgement thereon WITHIN FOUR MONTHS after the commencement of the proceedings before that court”.
‘Until today, the Judiciary has not empaneled judges to sit on this matter.
‘We hasten to remind the Judiciary of its indictment in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Report and the political sensitivity of these matters and the propensity they have to jeopardize the peace, security and stability of this nation. In this vein, we call on the Judiciary to promptly empanel judges to hear and determine the matters both in the Appeal and Supreme Courts.
‘We further remind the Judiciary of the provision of Section 78 (4) of the Constitution which provides that “The Court of Appeal before which an appeal is brought pursuant to subsection (3) SHALL determine the appeal and give judgement thereon WITHIN FOUR MONTHS after the appeal is filed”.
‘Similarly, we remind the Judiciary that election petitions are to be heard in public and thus ask that the hearings be televised and broadcast nationally in line with international best practice since these are matters of public interest. If the Commission of Inquiry can be broadcast live, why not the hearings of these matters?
‘On the illegal swearing in as members of Parliament persons who were appointed by the Court, we reproduce verbatim the provisions of Section 146 of the Public Elections Act 2012.
- (1) If the High Court determines that a candidate returned as elected was not duly elected and that the election was void, then the candidate’s seat SHALL BECOME VACANT from the time of the notice of the decision of the High Court AND IF NOTICE OF APPEAL has been given within fourteen days, THE SEAT SHALL REMAIN VACANT FOR THE PERIOD UNTIL THE DETERMINATION OF THE COURT OF APPEAL IS GIVEN ON THE APPEAL OR THE APPEAL IS ABANDONED.
(2) Where the question to be decided by the Court of Appeal concerns an election to or right to remain a member of Parliament, the Registrar of the Court of Appeal shall certify the decision in writing to the Speaker and the Electoral Commission.
(3) Where the High Court has determined that a candidate was duly returned or elected, or that the decision was void, and no notice of appeal has been given against that determination within fourteen days, or where on appeal the Court of Appeal has determined that a candidate was duly returned or elected, or that the election was void, then the Speaker shall publish by notification in the Gazette whether the candidate whose return or election is questioned is duly returned or elected or whether the election is void.
(4) If the election is declared void, ANOTHER ELECTION SHALL BE HELD.
We consider the swearing in conducted by the Clerk of Parliament on the 31st of May 2019 as illegal and a flagrant violation of the entirety of the provisions of Section 146 of the Public Elections Act 2012 and we thus call on the Speaker of Parliament to do what is honorable and protect the sanctity of Parliament by rejecting strangers illegally sworn in as members of Parliament from occupying Parliamentary seats or taking part in Parliamentary proceedings. THESE SEATS MUST REMAIN VACANT UNTIL THE APPEAL IS DETERMINED AS PROVIDED FOR IN SECTION 146 (1) OF THE PUBLIC ELECTIONS ACT 2012.
Finally, while we reiterate the innocence of our illegally removed members of Parliament, we continue to maintain that they are victims of injustice, and we call on our supporters and sympathizers to remain calm, peaceful, law abiding and respect the due process.