APC, SLPP, NGC and others, please fix our next parliament
In the late 1950s and early 1960s, African leaders were seeking for independence in order to lead themselves, but sweeping powers were abrogated using constitutional provisions to maintain themselves in power after independence using their House of Representatives (Parliament). That ignited rebel war and ethnic tensions in different part of Africa. Sierra Leone was no exception.
In the early 1990s, when war break out within the sub region, Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) met in Accra to chart the way forward for peace to prevail in the sub region. One of the recommendation proffered by ECOWAS member states was that for any ascension to power should be through free, fare and itch free (credible) elections.
This meeting was referred to as the second wave of democratization in independence Africa that brought about the end to Military rule, a direct response to that was, for all nations in the sub-region to start practicing multi party Democracy, hence a change of constitution. Sierra Leone had the 1991 Constitution, Ghana had the 1994 constitution and Nigeria had their 1999 constitution. Sierra Leone has stand tall amongst these countries to showcase it democratic credentials in organizing four (4) consecutive general and Presidential Elections.
Section 73 of the 1991 Constitution establishes Parliament as an institution to make laws, perform oversight functions over Ministries Department and Agencies and represent its people i.e. to take the concerns, needs and issues from its constituents to the House of Parliament, Section 75 makes provision for the qualifications to become a Member of Parliament and they are as follows: A) You should be 21years of age and above, B) You should be a tax payer, C) Your name should be on the voter register and D) You should be able to speak, read and write the queen’s English with a degree of proficiency to enable you to efficiently participate in public policy debate in the House of Parliament.
In the last four (4) elections, we have sat aside and allow political parties to send their own candidates to represent us and we have also witnessed were Members of Parliaments will be in the well of Parliament for five (5) years without contributing to debates, it’s absurd, can’t say anything, they have in the past been using financial influence and political connections to woo constituency executives and the electoral college system used in 2012.
I am kindly asking the APC, SLPP, NGC and all other political parties, sending in candidates for Members of Parliament in the March 2018 Multi-tier Elections to organize a public forum as a medium to select or elect their candidates. I also advice that you ask them questions that has to do with public policy debates, like Health, Education, Energy, Infrastructure, Agriculture, SMEs, Sports and other cross cutting issues.
I want to further advice that you appoint panel of judges to cross check their English, and how well are they able to articulate on issues. Please heads of political parties let them know that the word Parliament emanates from the French word ‘Parle’ which means to talk. There is nothing you do in the well of Parliament without talking the queen’s English.
I will also want to recommend that Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma, Dr. Prince Harding and Dr. Dennis Bright and their various National Secretary Generals to think critically before giving out Parliamentary symbols to people.
Finally before giving out your symbols for Parliamentary seats, please check the following. 1) Their backgrounds, 2) Their characters, i.e. if they are emotionally balanced 3) Their popularity and 4) How they are able to showcase their prowess in terms of public speaking and debating.
If all of these procedures are followed, we will be able to have a Parliament that Sierra Leoneans will be proud of like the Ghanaian Parliament and the Kenyan Parliament and if possible to a large extent like the Westminster Parliament in the UK or Senate in the United States.
The reason why I mentioned these four characteristics is because Parliamentarians are seen as the small President who constituent wine and dine with on a monthly basis. Because it is impossible to meet His Excellency the President, so MPs are seen as the small President and should be very close to their constituents.
Whilst we continue to advocate for Honorable Members of Parliament for better conditions of service, we are also encouraging them to be doing research like their peers in the sub region. Unfortunately Sierra Leone’s Parliament is the most under resourced in West Africa. Read subsequent edition for more details of other Parliaments in West Africa, their salaries, allowances and other opportunities accorded to them and how they should embrace/interface with their constituent who voted them into office.
Thomas Pa Alie Babadie, Executive Director, Forum of Sierra Leonean Youth Network (FoSLYN)
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