Need for an inclusive cabinet – rejoinder
Do we really understand the circumstances under which such is formed?
Rejoinder from: Anthony Kamara (Sr), Canada
After a General Election, people always offer this suggestion for an inclusive cabinet. The idea itself is sane and receptive to many minds. But I want to offer a free lecture on political administration commonly referred to as ‘Government’. Basically there are today two forms of government, Cabinet or Parliamentary or Responsible, and Presidential or Non-Responsible or Congressional administration. In both systems, we find the party system, meaning the party that wins an election, forms the government by convention. In such a system, there can be no power sharing. The loser remains the opposition party while the winner forms the government.
In a country where the citizens thirst for unity, Inclusive government will look like the best kind of administration. However, an Inclusive government always weakens the opposition and ultimately kills it or dies a natural death, thus preparing the way for a one party system. Also, let us not forget that the APC and SLPP are two protagonists as a matter of policy and can never imagine an Inclusive government. Above all, for President Ernest Koroma to contemplate an Inclusive one, can be seen as indirect acceptance that the Vote was rigged and figures cooked in his favour as alleged by the losing SLPP and so must try to please the loser. Mr Lebbie this is wrong viewed from all perspective.
On the SLPP side, to accept any position on their part after such a bitter and acrimonious campaign involving battles, will portray themselves as ‘over-thirsty for power’. Mind you, an inclusive government is not required by law, it is at the discretion of the President, and can sack them at any time without any blame. It is a government by discretion and convenience. It is not a ‘power-sharing’ cabinet. Our national Constitution makes no provision for the sort of government this writer is suggesting. Mr Lebbie, let’s assume that President Koroma appoints some SLPP members in his government, how can they continue to be an opposition when their mouths have been “stitched”. The opposition must not be so hungry for power that they can no longer function as opposition. They serve as the watch dog of the people and capitalize on the lapses and pitfalls of the government. So they cannot serve under an APC administration without first cross-carpeting and the nation and his constituents know their MP has quit the SLPP.
However today, we are a ’Neo-Presidential government’, meaning the President may, if he so desires, choose his cabinet from outside Parliament, making all ministers not responsible to parliament for all their actions; they are responsible only to the Head of State who appointed them to those offices, though their appointments got to be ratified by the sitting parliament. The President may also appoint some members from the Legislature to serve in his cabinet: but when a Member of Parliament is so appointed, he resigns his seat, and a bye-election takes place. This is because he cannot be both an MP at the same time a member of the President’s political Executive. He can only belong to one of the organs of Government, not both.
At Independence, former British West African Colonies followed the Cabinet system, but by the end of the first decade of independence, everyone abandoned it in favour of the Presidential and now Neo-Presidential system under a Republican system. The Presidential system has the advantage of empowering by law the President to appoint a Cabinet of ‘Experts’ from his own party only to head the various departments of government. But these experts cannot be from the National Legislature. No Member of Parliament qualifies for an executive position. The Neo-Presidential on the other hand allows the President to appoint experts both from outside as well as from elected Representatives. But where the latter takes place, the appointee from Parliament must first resign his membership of Parliament before he can take up position. He cannot be a member of the President’s Executive at the same time a Member of the Legislature or Parliament. This is because of the principle of the Separation of Powers – the Legislature, the Executive and the Judiciary. No one can be a member of more than one Branch.
Governments of National unity also known as ‘Inclusive Governments ‘ only emerges from a crisis situation, and Sierra Leone has had two National Unity or All inclusive administrations since Independence, 1969 to 1972 after the disputed 1967 Election following the overthrow of the Juxon Smith’s National Reformation Council (NRC) when the presumed winner of the 1967 election (see the Dove-Edwin Commission of Inquiry report 1968) Mr Siaka Stevens was appointed Prime Minister and asked to form a government of National Unity from the APC and the SLPP to last for three years 1969 to 1972, and then hold Elections for a Party Government. In 1972, following the Bye-election, the APC emerged as the Majority Party in Parliament.
The second time a National Unity Government was formed was the post ten year Civil war in this country under the Presidency of the Alhaji Tejan Kabba which saw the SLPP won that 2002 election. These are the only two ways such a cabinet can come into being. It has been a necessity to return the country to peace after ten years of a brutal war.
Let us not forget that after such acrimonious and brutal political campaigns on party lines, involving fatal clashes, we cannot talk of Inclusive cabinet. Why Inclusive now? This President has so many in the party from all regions of the country that his cabinet, I have no doubt will have a national character. What he did in his last government was the right thing he could do if he is not to antagonize his supporters and risk losing future election. Both the SLPP and APC fought hard for an exclusive party government. The people voted for that, and to do otherwise is to antagonize them, and there is a price for deviating from what is expected. Not even the defeated SLPP would imagine this kind of government if they were the winners. No the SLPP never had that idea of including some APC members in a Maada Bio government. Once a party loses, it has lost, there is no way to compensate a loser. But there are very many positions outside cabinet like Corporate Organizations where some SLPP members may be appointed to serve, but not in government. Never trust your known political enemy. A losing party remains bitter until the next election. In fact the campaign for 2017 is already underway. Of course, cross-carpeting is the answer if some member on the other side wants to be in an APC cabinet. Cross-carpeting does not require a resignation and bye-election. It’s normal in our nation’s politics.
I hope I have tried to clarify things for Mr Joseph Milton Lebbie. The issue of peace has to come from the heart, not by offers of positions. Let’s not kill our opposition because of positions, otherwise the APC will rule forever and there will be no more SLPP, because the APC will have absorbed the only viable opposition we have in this country.
Anthony Kamara (Sr), Canada
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