Fourteen days notice to appeal must expire or appeal abandoned…. Parliamentary seat must remain vacant within this notice period.
“The High Court Usurps the Power of the People
In Sierra Leone, per Section 31 of the 1991 Constitution, “Every citizen of Sierra Leone being eighteen years of age and above …” is entitled to register to vote for Members of Parliament (MPs), among others. The judicial power, the power of interpretation, is vested in the Judiciary which “shall be subject to only this Constitution or any other law, and shall not be subject to the control or direction of any other person or authority” (Section 120 (1-3)).
Today, the High Court in Freetown Sierra Leone rendered judgments that (a) stripped citizens of their constitutional right to vote for MPs and (b) raised questions about whether the court is being controlled or directed by the ruling Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP).
First, the ruling party filed petitions against sixteen opposition All People’s Congress (APC) party MPs following the March 2018 general elections. The High Court rendered judgments against the APC MPs/candidates today, May 31, 2019. In what Umaru Fofana described as “dramatic and unprecedented rulings by two High Court judges,” the judges awarded nine parliamentary seats to the ruling SLPP party, and ordered a rerun on the tenth.
Section 78(1-2) of the Constitution vests jurisdiction in the High Court to hear and determine questions as to the validity, or lack thereof, of elections of MPs, and to “give judgment thereon within four months after the commencement of the proceedings before that Court.” Here, the Court rendered judgment way out of time.
Second, Sections 138 and 141 of the Public Elections Act (PEA) of 2012 empower the High Court to try election petition cases in public, with a right of Appeal to the court of Appeal only (Section 78(5) of the Constitution). A notice of appeal must be “given within fourteen days of the determination in question” (Section 145 of the PEA). Section 146(1) of the PEA states that: “If the High Court determines that a candidate returned as elected was not duly elected and that the election was void, then the candidate’s seat shall become vacant from the time of the notice of decision of the High Court and if notice of appeal from that decision has been given within fourteen days, the seat shall remain vacant for the period until the determination of the Court of Appeal is given on the appeal or the appeal is abandoned.” It goes without saying that the respondents have not yet filed a notice of appeal to the Court of Appeal; the fourteen-day window of appeal is still open.
So, it’s very clear from the plain language of the law that the ten seats declared void “shall” (which is mandatory) remain vacant until the Court of Appeal has given its determination, also within four months after an appeal has been filed. Subsection (4) of Section 146 states that: “If the election is declared void, another election shall be held.” In spite of this command by the PEA, officials in Parliament went ahead and swore the SLPP candidates as MPs hours after the High Court rendered what are clearly erroneous judgments.
Therefore, what the High Court did today, May 31, 2019, by awarding nine parliamentary seats to the SLPP amounts to a usurpation of the constitutional powers granted to the people of Sierra Leone to elect their own representatives to Parliament. It also raises serious questions about whether the court is being controlled or directed by “any other person or authority.”
David Michael Kamara UN WORLD DEMOCRACY COORDINATOR (UNWDC) GODERICH PENINSULA
IN GOD I PUT MY TRUST
The sad reality is some educated illiterates are instigating the whole situation by sharing and propagating what APC did in 2009! If you demonizing the act of the past regime and you are yet to do worse then what’s the NEW DIRECTION all about? Stop this pettiness! Stop the “AN EYE FOR AN EYE” Mentality in our land or else everybody will be blind oneday becos nobody stays in power forever. Let’s copy from leaders like Paul Kagame in Rwanda, even though his tribe was brutally slaughtered and dealt with during the genocide he came into power by practicing and preaching forgiveness and unity. Today Rwanda is one of the best in the whole of Africa. STOP THE KILLINGS! STOP TRIBALISM! STOP COMMITTING CRIMES AGAINST HUMANITY! PRESIDENT BIO COME OUT AND SAY SOMETHING!