Charles F. Margai Writes Attorney-General & Minister of Justice,
11th August, 2015
Attorney-General& Minister of Justice,
Lamina Sankoh Street,
Dear Mr. Attorney,
RE: PRESIDENTIAL BROADCAST
I refer to the question posed by me in a short letter addressed to you dated 7th instant.
Considering the importance of its contents, I must confess that I am not amused at your failure to respond promptly or at all.
The language employed by Mr. President in the said broadcast to wit, in paragraph (8) eight (5) five “…I hereby proclaim another State of Public Emergency as provided by Law,” is to say the least, self defeating!
One may ask which Law is he referring to? Could it be subsection (14) of section 29 of Act No.6 of 1991?
I appreciate the fact that Mr. President is not a Lawyer and therefore depends on you as “the principal Legal adviser to the Government”, as provided for by section 64(1) of the Constitution of Sierra Leone, Act No.6 of 1991, to profer honest and meaningful advice to Mr. President and the Government and not to think that every Sierra Leonean is a fool and could be hoodwinked into swallowing whatever is presented, lock, stock and barrel. The President not being a Lawyer does not exonerate him from responsibility in ensuring that the Nation is not deceived into believing that he was doing them a favour by lifting the restrictions outlined in his broadcast, when he knew or ought to have known, that there were no restrictions to be lifted, as the State of Emergency lapsed since Thursday 6thinstant and that only Parliament has by Law, the authority to extend same (See Section 29(13) of the Constitution of Sierra Leone Act No.6 of 1991).
Assuming Mr. President’s second proclamation referred to in paragraph (8) eight (5) five of his broadcast was made pursuant to subsection (14) of section 29 of Act No.6 of 1991, I submit that such should be limited/restricted to the affected areas, namely, Kambia and Port-Loko Districts and not nationwide.
Subsection 14 of section 29 of Act No.6 of 1991 states:- “any provision of this section that a declaration made under Subsection (1) shall lapse or cease to be in force at any particular time is without prejudice to the making of a further such declaration whether before or after that time”.
Analysing subsection (1) of Section 29 referred to supra, the operative words are:
… a state of public emergency is imminent …
… a state of public emergency has commenced …
It will be observed that the subsection makes no provision for a continuous public state of emergency, which is what Mr. President is trying to address, because of the persistent presence of EBOLA in Kambia and Port-Loko Districts.
I do not know why Mr. President did not invoke S .29(13) of Act No.6 of 1991 for an extension: which provides thus:
“A resolution of Parliament passed for the purpose of this section shall remain in force for a period of twelve months or such shorter period as may be specified therein:
Provided that any such resolution may be extended from time to time by a further such resolution, supported by the votes of two-thirds of Members of Parliament, each extension not exceeding twelve months from the date of the resolution effecting the extension; and any such resolution may be revoked at any time by a resolution supported by the votes of a simple majority of all the Members of Parliament”.
Be that as it may, I find subsection (14) of section 29 ibid, not only infelicitously worded but also convoluted, admitting of diverse interpretations.
In the circumstance, Mr. President should have sought interpretation of subsection (14) of section 29 supra, (as to whether the extension of the State of Emergency by him and not by Parliament is legitimate) from the Supreme Court, using section 122 (the proviso thereof) of Act No.6 of 1991, notwithstanding that he was not confronted with a petition in which he had to give a final decision, so as to avoid the controversy he has engendered.
The position as I see it, is that, Sierra Leoneans will be left in the ridiculous situation of Mr. President issuing proclamation after proclamation to address the continuous presence of Ebola in specific areas, even in circumstances not envisaged by subsection (1) of section 29 aforesaid, as a spurious way of circumventing going to Parliament for an extension.
This is a very unsatisfactory state of affairs, as the people of Sierra Leone deserve much more than appears to be the case!
I sincerely hope the Judges are taking note of yet another breach of the constitution with impunity, coupled with an audacious threat to close business, in the event of non-compliance with what I would call a controversial move.
God Bless Sierra Leone!!
C.F. Margai Esq.
Leader – PMDC
Cc: Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP)