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The 1991 Constitutional Review Report & the JJ Saffa’s concerns

The 1991 Constitutional Review Report & the JJ Saffa’s concerns

I was going to look at an issue that has to do with the seeming eruption of a socialist party in Sierra Leone had it not been the fact that I am moved to write on another serious issue-the 1991 constitutional review report that has not come to the public domain . This is not a partisan issue and I think J.J Saffa is not looking at it from a partisan perspective, but from a point of view that should represent the interest of all and sundry. And it has to do with the Law Reform report that has not being made public regarding the review of the 1991 constitution.

I have always made the point that the governance of the state should not only be seen as an affair of a particular party, or just a given set of people. It needs the involvement of every other person. In a democracy, the role of an opposition party is as important as that of the ruling party. When the opposition party fails to points out the wrongs of the ruling party, it becomes disastrous for a nation. This is why it is necessary for the ruling party to always provide the enabling political environment for the operation of all parties; irrespective of how critical those parties are, to the policies of the ruling party. As a matter of fact, an opposition party is a governing party in waiting. 

JJBlood-Sec.GenSLPP(APCVsSLPP)JJ Saffa believes government may use report against SLPP

In Sierra Leone, the opposition parties have always tried their best to put the ruling party at its rightful position. Prior to the 2007 Presidential and Parliamentary elections, the All Peoples Congress Party, now in power was very vocal when in position. It was very sensitive in using the media to propagate its policies and programmes. And that was how they were able to uproot a ruling party from power. But that occurred simply because the then ruling party, the SLPP provided the enabling political environment. This is at least my view!! There was a party radio station for the APC which the APC used to its vantage.

The APC, no doubt knows how to play politics, especially politics from the common man’s perspective, but in this day and age of science and technology, it just won’t be possible for us to get back to those crude days. In fact, even President Koroma knows that the chances of his reelection are tied to a number of factors including his ability to meet his own share of the social contract theory.

Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia defines constitutional reform as a change to the constitution of a nation or a state. In a jurisdiction with “rigid” or “entrenched” constitutions, amendments require a special procedure different from that used for enacting ordinary laws.

JJ Saffa is the Secretary-General for the main opposition SLPP and he is challenging the ruling party and government to make the report public. And I think there is every need for that. I have often and again argued that the concept of governance entails the need for a collaborative effort of all, including the opposition party. It also entails the need for the ruling elites to be open, transparent and accountable to those who elected them, and this is where I think the ruling party wants to fail.

Now, granted that JJ Saffa is a politician and a politician from the opposition party for that matter, but it is relevant to note however that issues surrounding constitutional review entail the need for openness when dealing with such. JJ Saffa has now accused the government of wanting to delay the process so as to ‘change aspects relating to elections of presidential candidates in their favor close to the end of  their term hoping that it could be rushed before elections…’ This is a serious indictment which should force the government to now make the report public and thus prove JJ Saffa wrong.

There are salient points in the 1991 multiparty constitution that should be reviewed, but as is often the case, a given political setup may want to make some political gains out of an issue. When the review was setup by the past government; it had eminent people in society as members then including Francis Gabbidon. I remember a panel discussion held at the Mary Kingsley Auditorium on 6th June 2007.

It was a consultative meeting with staff and students of Fourah Bay College and I recall that presentations were made on the judiciary which was done by Eke Halloway. Another presentation was done on the Executive, Legislature and the Parliamentary Service Commission which was handled by one Josef Carpenter. And so it would be unacceptable for the report not to be made public when taxpayers’ money had been used to even set up the committee that was to review the constitution.

In this vein, even our law makers should be seen playing a crucial role in ensuring that the findings of the committee are made public. One can understand the point that the Office of the President is most often busy and has a lot of other matters to address, but in this day of an effective decentralization, it is but prudent that the Minister of Justice works in partnership with the President by giving advice and constant reminders on the issue.  

In trying to get a reaction from  the ruling party, I tried to get IB Kargbo who is the government spokesperson, Alpha Kanu or even Victor Foe  all members of the ruling APC, but  they could not be reached. So I called up one Bai Mamud who was my college mate at FBC, but is now the National Youth Secretary-General for the APC. I put the concerns of JJ Saffa to him, and his response was this ‘It is a process; we know the report shall be made public but it has to go through a process…’   Mamud says 2012 is far off and that the opposition should not be making reference to 2012 when there are other issues to look at, at the moment.

Well, inasmuch as I would agree that it is a process, but I also would want to state that, it has taken a long time since the report was presented to the President and there is therefore every need for the government to have come out by making the report public.

This government stands the chance of being reelected in 2012 for a second term, but it depends on how it treats the people. Until some issues are made clear and open, people would become suspicious of the governance style of the ruling party. So make the report public and prove the opposing party wrong. But as it stands at the moment, it would appear SLPP are making headways as far as the issue of the law reform report could be discussed. 

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