A release from Movement for Social Change has stated its position with regard the Constitutional Review Committee.
In the press release (MSC) stated: “We welcome the long overdue review of the 1991 Constitution and we wish to contribute to this debate by putting forward this position paper as part of the national debate on the report of the Constitutional Review Committee set up to come up with a new draft constitution.”
1 – We are of the opinion that the review of the Sierra Leone constitution suffers lack of effective and serious national engagement.
The Ebola epidemic and poor resources have hindered the work of the CRC. We believe that there has not been enough public participation in the constitutional review process.
2- The lack of serious opposition in the country has also hindered the process for serious mass popular participation, a clear proof that the opposition parties are not interested in any serious constitutional and political change in Sierra Leone.
It is rather telling that members were appointed by the president; political parties etc without popular participation.
For us this is also a clear indication that the interests of the political elites and not that of ordinary people will be the primary focus.
3- The constitutional review process is limited in its scope and significantly undermines possibility of a constitution that is transformational and stands the test of time.
The draft report of the CRC and proposed changes, only seeks to make minimal changes by adding a few chapters and building on the recommendation of the Peter Tucker report.
There has been only minimal popular participation, raising doubts that the proposed new constitution will not substantially contribute towards further democratizing and empowerment of.
4 – The powers of the president remain largely untouched. The CRC report proposes that the appointment of Judges should not be done by the President anymore but a Judicial Commission.
We therefore propose to the CRC that the powers of president should be cut drastically and all major appointments be done by election – Appointment of Head of the Sierra Leone Police, head of the Armed forces, Head of the National Electoral Commission, Head of the Civil Service, Chief Justice and Head of NRA be an elected one.
At least three candidates should be proposed to a joint session of all elected officials including the Sierra Leone Parliament, all city and district councils for an election.
The President and any member of parliament can nominate candidates who meet the requirements for the positions in question.
5- We believe that the institution of chieftaincy need serious overhaul and progressively democratized.
We oppose the proposed House of Paramount Chiefs. Paramount Chieftaincy is a period in our historical development which must now be replaced with more modern and effective local governance structures.
We might recall that at least 60% of the current Paramount Chiefdoms and ruling houses were creations of British colonialism.
For now though, elections for Paramount Chieftaincy should be open to all residents in a particular area, and any citizen of Sierra Leone can vie to become a PC.
The role of PC should remain a largely customary one with no political powers.
We also call for the abolishment of tribal or village heads and tribal chiefs in the country including the cities.
6 – The local and city councils are not decentralized enough. We believe that the new constitution should further reconstitute large councils especially Freetown into a Metropolitan Assembly – Greater Freetown Assembly, incorporating Western Rural districts.
Separate and smaller local councils should be created in Freetown for example Waterloo Town Council, Lumley Aberdeen Council, and Wellington – Calaba Town Councils etc.
The role of the sub-local councils will be to provide services like sanitation and supervise primary schools to be deliberated further by citizens.
7 – Labour and rights of workers are not adequately catered for in the 1991 Constitution to guarantee workers’ rights and the need for the protection of workers and democratization of trade unions.
8 – Right of Recall – To further strengthen our democracy and accountability of elected officials, we call for the adoption Right of Recall.
This means that citizens at any time during the period of term of office of an elected official, he or she can be recalled by citizens. Details on the processes can be opened up for further national debate.
9 -We believe that current national institutions are not independent and strong. The judiciary and the police for example are still under the control of the executive especially the president.
We note how other countries like South Africa and Brazil have progressed in terms of the independence of national institutions and seek as a country to aspire to similar levels.
In light of this, we support the inclusion of independent resource allocation and management of their policies of recruitment through the Judicial Commission and further deliberations by citizens on how these institutions can be strengthened further.
10- We believe that the proposal to merely change the name of the Political Party Registration Commission to Political Parties Registration and Regulation Commission (PPRRC) is inadequate. We see no need to separate the role of Political Party Registration and National Electoral Commission.
This Commission should now become the National Electoral and Political Parties Registration Commission.
Furthermore, the National Commission for Human Right and the National Commission for Democracy should be merged to become the National Commission for Human Rights and Democracy.
11 – Land policy. The new chapter on land should enshrine equal access to land and fair distribution of land to those who need land either as farmers or for domestic or commercial purposes.
The policy should prevent the unprecedented attempt by few people especially politicians and their families from acquiring very large tracts of land at the expense of the rest of the citizenry.
No one person should be allowed to own more than an acre of land and every citizen should be allocated land if they need it. Rural farmers should be protected under the law.
The current dual land tenure system should be abolished and every citizen should have the rights to own land and reside wherever they wish in Sierra Leone.
To call a citizen “stranger” in other parts of the country a mockery of our collective sense of nationhood and unity.
We are Africans and Sierra Leoneans period!
12 – Citizenship should be by birth and anyone from another African country who resides in Sierra Leone for more than 5 years should have voting rights and options for full citizenship after 10 years.
Others who are not of African descent should be allocated full citizenship if any one of their parents is born in Sierra Leone.
13- Chancellor of the University or any university in Sierra Leone to be elected by the university itself by the University Senate, University Court and the Student Representative Council. The proposed candidates should meet set criteria and the President should cease to become Chancellor of our universities.
14 – Propose a Constitutional Court comprising all members of retired judges and academics in the legal field.
The Movement for Social Progress (MSP) is a newly established peoples’ movement open to all Sierra Leoneans which seeks to promote social, political and economic justice and ensure that the country’s natural resources benefit the majority of the population.