By Abu Bakarr Bangura (Orkailkail)
I have just read the commentaries by Francis Gabidon and Adrian Fisher on the current dual citizenship issue for MPs in Sierra Leone. I have also had time to go through most of the posts on the issue. I tend to agree with Gabbidon on the issue.
The constitution is the supreme law of the land and consequently, any law that is inconsistent with provisions of the constitution will only be valid to the extent that it is consistent with the constitution. However, on the current issue, the 2006 Citizenship Act neither addressed nor contradict provisions of the constitution. Therefore, Section 76(1) of the Constitution is still valid and will remain in force until amended.
The fact that past governments have ignored this constitutional provision by nominating dual citizens as Ministers or MPs does not make it legal. It may be a political strategy by the APC against opponents but that is what politics is all about.
According to Machiavelli, politics is the struggle for power and the attempt to consolidate it when attained. Irrespective of the intention, if APC is now respecting the constitution, we should only pray that they continue doing so. Australia had a similar problem where the dual citizens cannot legally serve in the senate.
The Deputy Prime minister, Bernaby Joyce has been a senator for over a decade as was also the case for other long serving senators like Nick Xenophon. These individuals did not knowing acquire citizenship of other countries. They were only eligible for citizenship of other countries because their parents were citizens of those countries.
The fact that they have served in the senate for many years did not make it legal. Theses individuals only asked the High Court for a clarification on the issue. Once the court ruled against them, they resigned from Senate. I believe the same should be done in Sierra Leone. The Supreme Court should be engaged for a clarification on the issue. This may go either way. There is nothing wrong for the APC to take precautions now to avoid their MPs being petitioned later.
The evils of our former MPs: ‘How the mighty have fallen’
By Abu Bakarr Kargbo
How the mighty have fallen’ is a jovial or mocking way of remarking that someone is doing something that he or she used to consider very demeaning.
The biblical example of this is recorded in the Book of Daniel Chapter 4, where King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon exalted himself to be a god and that his powers are greater than those of the Most High. Little did he know that God cannot be challenged or compared with.
He was shocked when the Prophet Daniel, when interpreting his dream, said “While the word was in the king’s mouth, there fell a voice from heaven, saying, O king Nebuchadnezzar, to thee it is spoken; the kingdom is departed from thee. And they shall drive thee from men, and thy dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field: they shall make thee to eat grass as oxen, and seven times shall pass over thee, until thou know that the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will. The same hour was the thing fulfilled upon Nebuchadnezzar: and he was driven from men, and did eat grass as oxen, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven, till his hairs were grown like eagles’ feathers, and his nails like birds’ claws.” Immediately what had been said about Nebuchadnezzar was fulfilled (Daniel 4:31 – 33).
This should teach our leaders a great lesson, especially at a time they are serving the purpose for which they are appointed or elected for. Unfortunately, most of our leaders have turned themselves into demi-gods, illegally milking from public resources to the detriment of the suffering masses.
It may interest readers to know that most of our former Members of Parliament in the just dissolved Parliament are have lost their symbols to new folks. This is not only a decision coming from their political parties but rather the dubious works they were engaged in is are now paying them their rewards.
I happen to be in the company of one of them recently during the New Year celebrations. He wholeheartedly confessed that fighting for a parliamentary symbol is not an easy task. He jokingly to me ‘if I happen to die during the cause of awarding symbols and they ask about the cause of death, just say symbol’. I considered his utterance as very funny, but on the other hand, the frustration behind missing out in the awards of symbols is something most of our MPs cannot stand.
Even as I am not praying for any of them to die, but rather asking them to endure the pains of suffering as a result of God’s punishment for their evil works.
The 1991 Constitution provides the responsibilities of Members of Parliament, which shall include the following: a. All members of Parliament shall maintain the dignity and image of Parliament both during the sittings in Parliament as well as in their acts and activities outside Parliament.
b. All Members of Parliament shall regard themselves as representatives of the people of Sierra Leone and desist from any conduct by which they seek improperly to enrich themselves or alienate themselves from the people.
It went further to state clearly the role of Parliament in Sierra Leone’s democracy, as it states: “The Parliament of Sierra Leone is the legislative branch of government. As is the case with every legislature, Sierra Leone’s Parliament is one institution where the needs and interests of citizens are expressed and addressed through the debate on public policy. It provides a unique opportunity for the voices of Sierra Leoneans, particularly those most affected by government policies, to be heard in the policymaking process. The Parliament of Sierra Leone is, therefore, key to reinforcing democracy and making public policies effective.”
The Parliament is expected to fulfil three main functions: represent citizens, bringing their needs, goals, problems, and concerns to the policymaking process; make laws that govern the nation; and exercise oversight, ensuring that legislation and government policies are implemented effectively, according to the original intent, and within the parameters of the rule of law.
The question that comes to mind is, does our Members of Parliament effectively and efficiently perform the roles as enshrined in the constitution? Should this question be asked in their various constituencies, the majority of the answers will definitely be NO. Owing to the fact that most of our former Members of Parliament have Pride, which is perhaps the most destructive force in the universe. It is a serious sin that leads to fall and shame. They failed to realize that the higher the pride the bigger the fall!
Now that they have fallen, they want God’s miraculous intervention. I bet them, this will never come their way because of their evil activities perpetrated whilst serving in Parliament.
Self-service for personal gains was the order of the day. Some of them were busy filling their pockets with monies extorted from illegal sources.
Being an MP, you should be seen playing a critical role in strengthening the country’s democracy and making inputs to enhance national development. But our former MPs were bent on using their parliamentary caps to collect bribes, make bad laws, deliberately absenting themselves from Parliamentary sittings and overusing their powers in public.
What I have learned as a Parliamentary Correspondent is that, competing demands can make an MP’s life and work a perpetual balancing act trying to reconcile demands from one’s political party, from executive branch agencies, from constituents, and family.
But when it comes to making laws that benefit the whole nation, the opposition MPs will definitely flex their muscles against ruling MPs to showcase their so-called good works in the Well of Parliament; they will end up mortgaging their integrity after some parcels or envelops must have entered their pockets.
This is why they are now reaping what the sowed.
Parliamentary Committees were used for making money instead of performing thorough oversight functions, such as monitoring projects and bringing vote controllers to account for their stewardship for the benefit of the nation.
This was why some Government Ministries, Departments, Agencies and Local Councils were ineffective in project implementation. Let say you give and MDA or Local Council Le100 million to implement a particular project, various Parliamentary Committees would want to carry out their so-called monitoring exercise. Each of their visits required a special package for Committee Members whose head would normally threaten disciplinary action or halting project activities for noncompliance.
Evil laws such as ‘the Abortion Bill’ championed by a nongovernmental organization IPAS, was passed in Parliament as against the will of the people. But thank God it never received a Presidential approval. It clearly exposed the incompetence of some of our former Members of Parliament. The controversies behind the increase in passport fee were another sad episode in Parliament. The opposition tried to present a genuine case, but what led to betrayal is something Sierra Leoneans are trying to comprehend.
These are not the kind of MPs Sierra Leoneans want to represent them. We are rather looking for MPs that are never off duty as they are either visiting their constituencies, participating in committee meetings or plenary debates in the parliamentary building, or traveling abroad to represent the parliament and the country. The Constitution of Sierra Leone states that “all Members of Parliament shall regard themselves as representatives of the people of
Sierra Leone and desist from any conduct which they seek improperly to enrich themselves or alienate themselves from the people,” Article 97(b).
Regular contact with constituents enables the MP to easily identify their needs and elicit their input on policy debates. Frequent interactions between MPs and citizens also facilitate information sharing that could make government more accountable to the people.
MPs can also help achieve this outcome by informing citizens about legislative actions, ensuring that citizen voices are reflected in budgets and public policy, and assisting constituents to gain access to governmental services. MPs help improve constituency relations by making regular visits to constituencies, particularly while Parliament is on recess and, in some cases, establishing offices in their constituencies.
Our former MPs perhaps failed to realize that parliament lies at the heart of our democracy. The standards it keeps or does not keep, are crucial to the wellbeing of the whole nation. Parliament should therefore not have to be dragooned into setting high standards in public life. It should willingly seek maximum openness about what public representatives do and receive.
Some of them made unfulfilled promises beyond their mandates, failing to let their constituents know that it is not the role of MPs to implement development programs as that responsibility has long been seeded to the local councils through the councilors that communicate the needs of their people to the council for prompt action.
Since MP’s are part of parliamentary democracy hence they entertain the duties and responsibility of legislature in whole. As an individual, they are accountable to their constituency.
God’s decision is that most of the former MPs will be cut down to size as a punishment for their sins in this nation. They were too big for his boots. But once they learn their lessons, and once they acknowledge that God appointed them through the people, then God will RESTORE them if only they confess their sins and ask for forgiveness. To be continued.
I believe that Party Symbols to Run May be Awarded to Diaspora Sierra Leoneans
Mohamed Gibril Sesay
I do know that the Constitution has some place where it states that those who have sworn allegiance to another country are not eligible to be members of parliament. And that it is not mainly about dual citizenship, for there are categories of dual citizens, for instance Sierra Leonean children who are citizens by birth of other countries but are not barred from running for parliament. So there’s this funny situation where your child born in another country can be eligible for parliament, and you born in Sierra Leone but also a citizen by naturalization of another country cannot. I don’t think that was the intent of the drafters of the various citizenship statutes – it looks convoluted, irrational and illogical.
But that is just one part of it. My view is that legislations since the return of democratic civilian rule in 1996 has expanded rights rather than curtail them. These expansion of rights could be seen from legislation and policies as varied as the two citizenship acts since that time, the gender acts, the transformation of the prison service into the correctional service, the legal aid board, and many more. The new reading of the ineligibility of Sierra Leonean with dual citizenship for parliament, pushed unto the public domain by Lawyer Francis Gabbidon, flies in the face of this decade plus expansion of rights; that reading is a claw-back interpretation; it flies in the face of the emerging jurisprudence of rights. I like Adrian Fischer’s take on the matter. His is a jurisprudence of rights that encapsulates modes of interpretation that purposively expand rights and reduce harm. And hey, the fact that Sierra Leoneans of all political persuasion never brought this ineligibility of the Diaspora for parliamentary and such other positions into the fore, the fact that all of society do know that so many diaspora Sierra Leoneans representing various parties did and do serve in so called ‘ineligibility’ positions; these facts of tacit approval point to an overwhelming society-wide disposition that support this expansion of rights as the intent and purpose of so many laws enacted since 1996. Let no one therefore bar our diaspora brothers and sisters from benefiting from this expansion of rights. They are eligible to run for parliament.