By Dr. Sylvia Olayinka Blyden OOR
✍… *Majority (over 50%) of Sierra Leone Parliamentarians voted to REJECT President Bio’s proposed Commissions of Inquiry because the terms of the proposed Commissions, contravene Sections of our Constitution including Sections 150, 147 and 135.* I was particularly impressed with some of our opposition APC MPs who brilliantly showed us the clear contraventions of the Constitution in documents from President Bio. However, the Commissions have passed into Law because the percentage who voted to cancel the Commissions was less than the legally required two-thirds (67%). It was more than 50% but less than 67% so we have a confusion which perhaps the Supreme Court may one day help us to interpret. The confusion is about whether Commissions which clearly go against the Constitution, are still valid just because less than two-thirds of MPs vote against them.
SPEAKER OF PARLIAMENT DR. ABASS BUNDU
For this piece though, there is a different constitutional contravention which bothers me. I am concerned that Section 98 of our Constitution was not upheld during the debate of yesterday October 22nd 2018. I felt very sad to watch as a young APC parliamentarian, Hon. Abdul Karim Hamid-Kamara from Kambia, got harangued and harassed by SLPP hoodlums and thugs who had jampacked the gallery from where they hurled life-threatening remarks at the MP for him saying what the SLPP thugs deemed to be defamatory of President Bio.
To make matters worse, my good friend the Speaker of Parliament, Hon. Dr. Abass Bundu, did not seem to quite understand what are contained in Sections 98 and 99 of our Constitution. He joined to harangue the elected MP and even forced Hon. AKK to instantly retract and apologise.
I agree that under Standing Orders of Parliament, it is not encouraged to make any seemingly negative reference to the President or to the Judiciary or to fellow MPs during parliamentary debates but those Standing Orders can never supersede what the Constitution says.
In my opinion, it was unconstitutional for the freedom of speech of Hon. AKK to be curtailed like that yesterday.
⚖Section 98 of the Constitution says *“There shall be freedom of speech, debate and proceedings in Parliament and that freedom shall not be impeached or questioned in any court or place out of Parliament.”*
This freedom is so sacred that, even within Parliament, it cannot just be arbitrarily questioned but there is a laid-down constitutional procedure for how to question an elected MP who has made a seemingly defamatory reference. It is listed under Section 99.
👨🏼⚖If the learned Honourable Speaker, in his wisdom, considered the statement made by Hon. AKK to be defamatory of President Bio, then Section 99(2) teaches us that the Speaker should *“refer the matter for inquiry to the Committee of Privileges which shall report its findings to Parliament not later than thirty days of the matter being so referred”.*
⚖No one person had the right to decide instantly as to what should be retracted and apologised over by an elected MP; not even Mr. Speaker should curtail the freedom of speech of an MP to extent of telling him what he can say or not say in his submissions.
The Section 98 constitutional freedom of Honourable Abdul Karim Hamid-Kamara was curtailed yesterday. He was denied his right to his freedom of speech right inside the Well of Parliament and that was most unfortunate.
I also want to appeal to the ruling Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP) to understand that we are living inside a democratic Nation governed by Laws and a Constitution. There is too much impunity going on inside our country at the moment. Too many people inside SLPP believe that they have the powers to harass and harangue those who do not believe in their ‘PAOPA’ ideology. To see our highly esteemed Speaker of Parliament threaten the young opposition parliamentarian to instantly withdraw his words or else…, was most unfortunate. These are all the issues sending a bad signal out that our democratic credentials are crumbling.
I believe the actions of Hon. Abass Bundu may have further misled the hoodlums of the SLPP to believe they have a right to openly threaten and harass an elected Parliamentarian whilst he/she is speaking inside the Well of Parliament. This is despicable. Our Parliamentarians deserve better.
So, I stand in solidarity with Honourable Abdul Karim Hamid-Kamara of the main opposition All Peoples Congress (APC) especially as this is not the first time his life is being threatened. He has had his life repeatedly threatened by hoodlums and gangsters of the ruling Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP) simply because he is doing the job that his people elected him to do; his job is to speak out inside the Legislative arm of government. The first time I recall him being threatened was during the confirmation hearings of the SLPP National Chairman who had been proposed for approval to be the Chairman of the State’s telecommunications regulator. Hon. AKK spoke against that approval and for that, he was threatened with death by SLPP supporters right up there in Parliament! Yesterday October 22nd 2018 was the latest incident where SLPP hoodlums and unruly thugs who had occupied the gallery of Parliament, openly sent nasty threats of violence at the young elected MP.
It was such a pitiable sight to watch as Hon. AKK held his hands helplessly pointing out that this was the “fourth time” his life was being threatened right there up at Parliament. Why should the young man be threatened for speaking?
*I am not supporting what Hon. AKK said about President Bio. I don’t know if what he said was true or not.* However, this cannot be Democracy when a Member of Parliament no longer feels safe to say his mind inside the Well of Parliament because SLPP lowlife hoodlums will threaten his life or because the Rt. Hon. Speaker, who belongs to the SLPP, will molest him and force him to retract and apologise instantly on the spot. No, it cannot be democracy. Sierra Leone deserves better. Thank you.
©️ *Dr. Sylvia Olayinka Blyden, OOR*
Tuesday 23rd October 2018.