Posted on March 18, 2021 by Pnafrica
The Fortieth plenary sitting of the Fifth Parliament of the Second Republic of Sierra Leone (Third Session) was less intense but quite interesting.
The substantive House Speaker, Hon. Dr. Abass Chernor Bundu returned to his seat after missing out on four consecutive plenary sittings. His experience and candor as ever glaringly stood out in the conduct of the Business of the House.
Aside from the usual traditional parliamentary prayers, consideration of the record of votes and proceedings for Thursday 11th March 2021 plenary sitting, Mr. Speaker announced the holding of the ECOWAS Parliament’s Extraordinary Session and Seminar in Freetown Sierra Leone from the 23rd - 25th March 2021, for which he implored the attendance of every Member of Parliament (MP) especially those from Kono District, who recently benefited from an ECOWAS loan for the construction of a University of Science and Technology in Kono District, Eastern Sierra Leone. The ECOWAS sessions will feature Mr. Speaker and President Julius Maada Bio as keynote speakers in varying events. This issue sparked a frenzy over the venue (Bintumani International Conference Center), seat allocation, timeline, and above all, sitting fees for MPs. It was however made clear by the Leader of the delegation to ECOWAS Parliament, Hon. C.R.M. Bah that the ECOWAS will be managing the administration of the process and Sierra Leone is only playing host to this auspicious event, adding that MPs will be furnished with all necessary information through the office of the Clerk of Parliament. Mr. Speaker also announced his rejection of the Parliamentary Female Caucus’ request to honor an invite for a sideline meeting while plenary sitting was on course, warning that the Caucus ought to know better that plenary sittings of parliament take preeminence.
Mr. Speaker also reminded the House of an extant motion about papers (relating to the state of emergency, etc) laid by the Attorney General and Minister of Justice to wit the Leader of the main opposition had asked that the House consider that those papers do not have a retroactive penal punishment effect upon becoming law. A resolution motion was however moved by Hon. S.S. Thomas and seconded by Hon. Bashiru Silikie. After the House carried the motion, some lawmakers forgetfully were in doubt as to what exactly the papers were all about.
In tandem with item No. 4 on the Order Paper (OP), Kabineh Kallon, Minister of Transport and Aviation laid the papers, “ Agreement cargo tracking note system by and among Sierra Leone Ports Authority (SLPA) and the Government of Sierra Leone; Represented by the Ministry of Transport and Aviation (GoSL) and National Commission for Privatization (NCP) and Logistics Solutions and Services (SL) Ltd (The Contractor), dated 4th Day of February 2020,’ and, “ First Amendment to the Cargo tracking note system by and among Sierra Leone Ports Authority (SLPA) and the Government of Sierra Leone; represented by the Ministry of Transport and Aviation (GoSL) and National Commission for Privatization (NCP) and Logistics Solutions and Services (SL) Ltd (The Contractor), dated 25th day of January 2021.” The tabling of the said papers has been the main opposition leader's (Hon. C.R.M. Bah's) demand in a previous sitting.
Item No. 5 on the OP, Bill, 'The Cybercrime Act, 2020’ underwent continued debate although not necessarily on the merits and demerits, but the popularization strategy, for which the Minister, Mohamed Rahman Swaray updated the House on moves taken so far to get the general public sufficiently engaged and informed about the purport and content of the said law.
In their various suggestions on how could the said bill be made popular and publicized, Hon. PC.B.Kurr suggested the need for MPs to download the relevant international conventions on the subject matter, while Hon. M. Bangura stressed the need to empower MPs to outreach their constituencies. Hon. A.Kumabeh nonetheless suggested the use of musicians and Hon. S.M. Sama called for the use of radio stations, jingles, songs, and vibrant Civil Society Organisations. Hon. D.M. Rogers unscored the need to hold Town Hall meetings and, Hon. B. Silikie, moved under SO 37 (Dilatory Motions) that the bill be further postponed for a continued debate, urging MPs to use the time to study, understand and communicate the bill to their constituents ahead of its debate. A two weeks period was however agreed upon for the Ministry of Information and Communications and all players to popularize the said bill.
Apparently, several pertinent issues were raised under SO 23 (Personal Explanation), with Hon. H. Vincent calling for action on the war on electricity transformers in his constituency and elsewhere in the country. He also threw light on the issue of dilapidated bridges in his constituency. The matter was committed to the Works Committee and a two weeks timeline was given for the outcome. His motion was sympathized with by Hon. K. Vandy, Chairman Energy Oversight Committee who echoed the magnitude of the problem as being nationwide.
Hon. A.K.Kamara highlighted the issue of substandard and expired food in the market, lambasting an ineffective Standards Bureau. However, a two weeks period was given to the Committee on Trade and Industry to investigate and revert to the House on their findings and recommendations.
Hon. C. Abdulai, enquired of Mr. Speaker whether there will ever be question time for Ministers, noting that the matter is long overdue. This was a shared sentiment by Mr. Speaker who ordered for the Clerk to update the House on the status, but unfortunately, he was not around to provide the vital clarification.
Hon. B. Munda, Chairman Information and Communications Committee presented two cartoons of face masks donated by Qcell telecommunication company to MPs.
Of most significance and timeliness, Hon. L. Marah reintroduced one of the current parliament's biggest unfinished businesses, the debate of 2018/19 and COVID-19 Auditor General reports. He said Parliament is in abrogation of Section No.119.5 of the National Constitution by not debating the said reports. This issue prompted the House Speaker to concede that yes indeed the report must be debated and where necessary be referred to the relevant committees, but, Hon. B. Silikie said the House is waiting for the Business Committee in order to take the necessary action. In conclusion, it was agreed that the Leadership of Parliament is to take a keener look at the said matter.
Hon. PCMP B. Kurr also used the issue to take an unusual swipe at the governing SLPP party, a party that he said takes pride in fighting corruption on one hand and on the other hand not debating the AG’s report even though a significant amount of time has elapsed since Hon. I. T. Conteh and himself first raised the issue but to no effect. He blasted the New Direction government for going back to old corrupt methods and also attempting to politicize the matter.
Mr. Speaker at this juncture agreed and urged MPs to be faithful to the oath that they subscribed to upon taking office, noting that, “we should be vanguards in the fight against corruption.”
Other miscellaneous issues included the House conspicuous silence on the Anti-Corruption Commissions' findings on alleged corruption in Parliament, the exclusion of the Petition motion for consideration, Hon. Silikie and Hon. Marah's unparliamentary conduct about who takes the Floor to speak, a similar issue that occurred between Hon. PCMP Kurr and Hon. Bah as to who seats when one stands to speak, the energetic presence of the security sector stakeholders (Internal Affairs Minister, IGP, ONS Chief, etc), and empty galleries kept the House in motion.
The sitting stands adjourned to 23rd March 2021 but subject to change possibly caused by the ECOWAS Parliament’s arrival in Freetown.
Story By: Melvin Tejan Mansaray