By S.U.Thoronka &Lansana Fofanah…………………………..
The office of Attorney General and Minister of Justice headed by Joseph Fitzgerald Kamara has been implicated in what MPs referred to as a constitutional blunder.
The Chairman of the National Electoral Commission (NEC), Mohamed N’fa Alie Conteh was yesterday summoned by MPs to explain a motion that was moved by Hon. Swahilo Koroma and Dixon Rogers on the boundary delimitation Bill which was laid in the House on the 16th March 2017 and is yet to be approved by Parliament.
“According to procedure NEC is supposed to do boundary delimitation before elections and any additional constituency or ward created should be approved by Parliament before registration of eligible voters. As such, the new districts and constituencies which have been created as a result of the just concluded national census ought to be approved by Parliament before it becomes legal”. However, this does not seem to be the case, as the Bill was laid in Parliament on the 16th March 2017 by the Attorney General’s office while registration commenced on the 20th March 2017.
The Minority Leader, Hon. Dr. Bernadette Lahai said that past records have shown that NEC used to work ahead of time during past elections but now that they have to go through the AG’s office, that has raised serious challenge for the commission.
Hon. Lahai said that the additional constituencies created have to be approved by Parliament before the commencement of registration. She noted that NEC has done a good exercise and that the supervisory ministry should have forwarded the report to Parliament for ratification.
According to Paramount Chief Member of Parliament for Tonkolili District, Hon. Bai Kurr Kanagbaro Sanka 11, sixteen districts have been created by the boundary delimitation and change of constituencies has occurred without the approval of Parliament.
Hon. Ansu Kaikai of the SLPP termed the instrument as the wrong tool that was brought to Parliament by the Attorney General and that NEC should not be blamed for any problems as the mandate of the Attorney General is to advice the Commission on legal instrument and framework.
The Deputy Speaker of Parliament, Hon. Chernor Bah said that it is not only now that Parliament has raised the issue, adding that they were expecting to address many questions that came up during the boundary delimitation during the pre legislation in Parliament. Hon. Chernor Bah allayed the fears of Sierra Leoneans that Parliament has no intention of approving more time.
The Deputy Speaker noted that they as the people’s representatives should not let anomalies happen and that Parliament will not be forced by the Executive arm of government to do anything that is not in line with the law. He promised that Parliament would definitely treat the issue according to the law.
NEC Chairman N’fa Alie Conteh maintained that the commission is a law abiding institution and that they work in collaboration with Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs).
Chairman N’fa Conteh said that they had wanted the civil registration to precede the voter registration but that government did not adhere to their advice.
Mr. N’fa Conteh said that every document that has to do with boundary delimitation has been submitted to the AG’s office since December 2016.
Mr. N’fa Conteh said that he was not new to any procedure at NEC that was why they submitted the document on time to the appropriate office.
In his response, the Deputy Minister of Justice, Arrow John Bockarie said that they have submitted the Bill to Parliament and that they are now waiting for further instructions.
The Majority Leader, Hon. Leonard Fofanah assured that Parliament will not allow any violation of the constitution.