“There will be no further Plenary Meeting of the Constitutional Review Committee (CRC) and the Final Draft Report remains as it is. There has been no change to the CRC Document. The Ruling All Peoples Congress (APC) Representatives and others were given the Document which they requested to go and read and if they have any concerns, they will put it in writing and send to the CRC Secretariat which will put it in the form of an Addendum and attach to the CRC Final Report. There has been NO CHANGE to the Final Report,” Chairman of the CRC Honourable Justice (R) Edmond Cowan said in an interview with this Writer Wednesday afternoon November 30, 2016.
The CRC Chairman made it abundantly clear, “I did not Chair any Plenary Meeting of the CRC on Tuesday November 29, 2016 and did not ask anyone to chair the meeting on my behalf . I asked the members present to nominate someone from among themselves to chair the meeting and such nomination was not made.”
The Learned Attorney General and Minister of Justice the Honourable Joseph Fitzgerald Kamara, who is the Principal Legal Adviser to the Government, is on record as saying “we (the Government) are all on course for the February 2018 General Elections. If you (a Public Official) know you have to resign to contest in the elections, why not resign now? If the Amended Constitution is not ready, the elections will be conducted under the 1991 Republican Constitution.”
National Election Watch (NEW), which has been closely monitoring preparatory activities for the February 2018 Presidential, Parliamentary and the postponed Local Government Elections, in a press statement issued on Monday November 28, 2016, is calling “on the National Electoral Commission (NEC) to declare by proclamation the specific date the elections will be conducted in February 2018 . This call underscores the fact that the date for the elections has implications for would be aspirants in public office. By law for anyone to contest the election as Member of Parliament such a person if paid from the consolidated fund must resign his/her employment twelve (12) months before Election day. NEW is equally concerned that the undue delay in pronouncing the actual election date does not create a level playing field in the electoral arena, since the date is set by the Chief Electoral Commissioner in consultation with the President. NEW urges that this important phase is completed and the date declared without further delay.”
The Draft CRC Report has reduced the period of twelve (12) months to six (6) months. President Ernest Bai Koroma is on record as saying during his Presidential Address to Parliament on Friday 14th December, 2012, “Today, before the esteemed Representatives of the People, I once again, with faith in God, loyalty to the Constitution, and firm commitment to the achievement of our national aspirations, accept the honour bestowed upon me by the People of this country to serve them as President for the second and last term.”
The Ruling All Peoples Congress (APC), then in opposition led by Ernest Bai Koroma, was first elected to office in the 2007 Parliamentary election of August 11, and the Presidential run-off poll on September 8, 2007. President Koroma was re-elected for a second five-year constitutional term of office on 17th November, 2012 in the first ballot with a 58+ percent of the total votes cast. This means that President Koroma’s current Government entered its final year in office on November, 17, 2016.
In a snap interview after the CRC Plenary Meeting on Tuesday November 15, 2016, with APC National Secretary General Ambassador Osman Foday Yansaneh, who is one of the six (6) APC representatives on the 80-man CRC Committee, Chairman of the Research Subcommittee of the CRC, and who was instructed by his Political Party not to sign the Final Report and Recommendations, told this Writer “we made a conciliatory presentation as we do not want to stall the Review Process and we do not want to go to the elections without a Constitution (as amended)).” At the rate at which the Review of the 1991 Republican Constitution is going, it seems as if the country will have to go to the February 2018 General Elections without the amended Constitution.
The two significant points in the 15-page document which the APC submitted to the CRC on Friday 18th November 2016, according to a knowledgeable source close to the Constitutional Review Committee (CRC), have to do with deleting “Supreme Executive Authority” and replacing it with “Chief Executive Authority” and “Loss of Party Membership shall not nullify from office a sitting President or Vice President. The rationale for this is upon taking up office, the said individuals are Public Servants of the entire Nation and not solely for their political parties on whose tickets they were elected. Intra party politics should not be encouraged to determine the fate of public elected officials.”
According to the CRC Draft Report, removal from office of the President or Vice President must be by due process, impeachment, and MUST GO THROUGH PARLIAMENT, in accordance with sections 50 and 51 of the 1991 Republican Constitution.
The Ruling APC political party wants “Supreme Executive Authority” to remain. It will be recalled that it was under this same “Supreme Executive Authority” that the ELECTED former Vice President Sam Sumana was “relieved from his duties as Vice President of Sierra Leone” by President Ernest Bai Koroma on March 17, 2015, eleven (11) days after Sam Sumana was dismissed from the APC political Party on 6th March, 2015, by reason of the fact that he was no longer a member of a political party in Sierra Leone,” and therefore did not have the continuous requirement to hold office as Vice President of the Republic of Sierra Leone.
There is the misconception that the CRC is trying to overturn the judgment of the Supreme Court in the Sam Sumana’s case, which is NOT the case. The !991 Constitution is not clear on the point of where a political party disowns the President or Vice President, and the intention of the new provision is to take cognizance of this while reviewing the 1991 Constitution and the CRC is thinking of the future. When such a situation should arise again and the CRC wants to remedy the situation.
The Supreme Court of Sierra Leone on Wednesday September 9, 2015 confirmed President Ernest Bai Koroma sacking of the ELECTED Vice President of the Republic of Sierra Leone Alhaji Samuel Sam Sumana on 17th March, 2015.
Sam Sumana challenged his sacking as “unconstitutional” and took the matter to the Supreme Court on the grounds that President Koroma has no such power to sack him as both the President and Vice President were both ELECTED in the 2012 Presidential election on the same Presidential ticket.
Sam Sumana also called on the Supreme Court, which is the highest Constitutional Court in Sierra Leone, to declare that President Koroma had no such “Supreme Executive Authority”, as the President claims under the 1991 Constitution of Sierra Leone , to sack the Vice President.
On March 6, 2015, the Ruling All Peoples Congress (APC) political party expelled the Vice President from the Ruling APC for various allegations of acts of sabotage against the Ruling Party.
On 15th March, 2015, the APC Government accused Sam Sumana of abandoning his office as Vice President and seeking political asylum in a foreign embassy (the American Embassy) which is very close to his private residence, on the grounds that his life was threatened. There was no evidence that the American Embassy granted Sam Sumana political asylum.
On 17th March, 2015, a press release from State House announced that President Koroma had relieved Sam Sumana from the office of Vice President.
The CRC has included a provision in their Final Draft Report on how to remove the President and Vice President from office, namely that it should be done through the process of impeachment, PARLIAMENT should set up a Committee which should look into the issues involved and then decide.
In their unanimous ruling on 9th September, 2015, the Bench of five Judges headed by the then Acting Chief Justice Valisius Thomas, said , among things that “since Sam Sumana ceases to be a member of a political party, he lost one of the qualifications (requirements) in the 1991 Constitution for continuing to hold the office of Vice President.”
Acting Chief Justice Valesius Thomas added “It is impracticable, unworkable and absurd, to continue to hold the office of Vice President, since he ceases to be a member of the Ruling political party. Having been expelled from the APC political party, he does not belong to a political party. As long as he remains as Vice President he must be a member of a political party. It is a continuous requirement (qualification). There is no provision in the 1991 Constitution that curtails the powers of the President to remove the Vice President from office.”
On the other hand, the main thrust of the argument of Lawyers for Sam Sumana in his favour was that “membership of a political party was for electioneering purposes and that it was not continuous after election and that the vacancy in the office of Vice President was CREATED by the APC themselves by expelling Sam Sumana from the APC party in accordance with the APC constitution.” Eleven (11) days after Sam Sumana was expelled from the APC party, he was removed from the office of Vice President. Sam Sumana’s Lawyers even cited the case of the former Vice President of Nigeria, Alhaji Atiku Abubakarr,
Sam Sumana has filed a petition to the West African Regional ECOWAS Court in Abuja, Nigeria, against his removal from office as Vice President and the ECOWAS Court is empowered to hear cases in which domestic courts have given judgements. It should be noted that Sam Sumana filed his petition after the CRC had completed its work, the mandate to REVIEW the 1991 Republican Constitution.
In other words Honourable Sam Sumana was VICE PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF SIERRA LEONE and NOT OF THE APC political party just like His Excellency Ernest Bai Koroma is PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF SIERRA LEONE and NOT OF THE APC political party.
It was the late Alhaji Ahmed Tejan Kabbah, a LAWYER by profession, who emphasised and made it clear to the membership of the SLPP that he was PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF SIERRA LEONE and NOT OF THE SIERRA LEONE PEOPLES PARTY.
The Constitution of Sierra Leone is the Supreme Law of Sierra Leone and the Fountain from which all other laws flow. There cannot be two Supreme Authorities in the Country.. The Presidency is created by the Constitution and the people who elected the President have the Sovereignty. Supreme Authority is vested in the people. When the political party disowns the Vice President, he can resign from that party. The CRC is now saying the person can remain as Vice President as was the case of the former Vice President of Nigeria Alhaji Atiku Abubakarr. The Constitution of Sierra Leone is a NATIONAL DOCUMENT and not for any group of people, be it political or otherwise.
CLARENCE ROY-MACAULAY OOR
2006 AP (ASSOCIATED PRESS) GRAMLING SPIRIT AWARD WINNER
RETIRED (1989) CONTROLLER (NEWS AND CURRENT AFFAIRS)
FORMER MINISTRY OF INFORMATION & BROADCASTING