ONE COUNTRY ONE PEOPLE
THE CONSTITUTIONAL EXCLUSIVITY OF THE POWER OF THE NATIONAL ELECTORAL COMMISSION TO SUPERVISE AND CONDUCT VOTER REGISTRATION
Freetown, 16th September 2016: The Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) wishes to draw the attention of the general public and the international community to certain moves by the Government that are likely to undermine and compromise the integrity and independence of the National Electoral Commission (NEC), especially coming as they are so dangerously close to the impending public elections scheduled for the early part of 2018.
The Constitution of Sierra Leone Act No. 6 of 1991 establishes an independent National Electoral Commission. It also expressly spells out in Section 33 thereof the powers and functions of the Commission in these terms:
“Subject to the provisions of this Constitution, the Electoral Commission shall be responsible for the conduct and supervision of voters for, and of, all public elections and referenda; and for the purpose shall have power to make regulations by statutory instrument for the registration of voters, the conduct of presidential, parliamentary or local government elections and referenda, and other matters connected therewith, including for voting by proxy”
As thus pellucidlystipulated in the Constitution, the NEC has the sole and exclusive power and authority to supervise and conduct the registration of Sierra Leoneans as voters for all public elections and referenda. In 2012 the Legislature went further. Itaccentuated and amplified the powers of the Commission in the Public Elections Act (Act No. 16 of 2012). In Section 17 thereof the Parliament recognises the NEC as the only institution with the power to register voters for public elections; to update and revise such register; and to perform these acts no later than six months prior to an election or referendum, as the case may be.
Thus seen and understood by the SLPP, we consider it thesacred duty of the Electoral Commission to register voters for public elections. This power belongs to the Electoral Commission wholly and solely and it shares it with no other institution. Accordingly, we shall discountenance any attempt by anyone, whether by word or by deed, to arrogate to itself or devolve to another or otherwise interfere, diminish or undermine this inalienable power of the Commission without express legislative authority to that effect. And this is why the SLPP views with utter dismay and consternation the attempt by the Government, in particular the Ministry of Internal Affairs through the recently established National Civil Registration Authority, to interfere, compromise or undermine the power and authority of the Electoral Commission that the Constitution grants to it to register voters for public elections or referenda.
The SLPP also views this attempt by the APC Government to reduce the Electoral Commission to an entity that should depend upon the data of the National Civil Registration to extract its voter register as unconstitutional and unacceptable as the power to register voters is one given to it directly and exclusively by the National Constitution. There is no justification for this whatsoever in the National Constitution. Nor is there any provision in any other law, still less the National Civil Registration Act 2016 (Act No. 21 of 2016), that permits this. For the APC Government to say or do otherwise is tantamount to machinating a subterfuge that would have the effect of creating a potential conflict with the powers and authority of the Electoral Commission and thereby a potential contravention of the 1991 Constitution. Even more importantly, such a manoeuvre by the Government would create an unjustified intrusion into the sacred independence and integrity of the Electoral Commission, pose an unnecessary threat to the fledgling democracy of the country as well as a serious threat to our nation’s peace, stability and security.
For all the foregoing reasons, the SLPP would like to call upon the entire international community, including governmental and non-governmental agencies, to scrupulously refrain from rendering any support or assistance that might embolden or empower the National Civil Registration Authority to compromise or undermine the integrity and independence of the Electoral Commission, in particular the Commission’s constitutional power solely and exclusively to register the citizens of our country for the purpose of exercising their inalienable right of franchise in all public elections or referenda.
Amb. AlieBadara Kamara
Acting National Secretary -General