Sierra Leone’s opposition party, The All Peoples Congress (APC) has in a press conference today Tuesday 29th January 2019 at the party headquarters reiterated its position regarding the Commissions of Inquiry which was launched today by the government of President Julius Maada Bio.
A statement by the Secretary General of the APC, Amb. Osman Foday Yansaneh reads;
“The All Peoples Congress (APC) party notes with utmost dismay that the Government of H.E. Rtd Brigadier Julius Maada Bio has today, Tuesday 29th January 2019, launched the Commissions of Inquiry (COI) without taking due note of the concerns raised by the All Peoples Congress (APC) Party and other bodies including the Sierra Leone Bar Association, other Political Parties, Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), the Inter-Religious Council, All Political Parties Association (APPA), etc.
The APC Party hereby wishes to reiterate its concerns relating to the constitutionality or otherwise of the COI:
1. That the instruments establishing the COI are not consistent with the provisions of Section 150 of the 1991 Constitution of Sierra Leone which states “Subject to the provisions of this chapter, the Rules of Court Committee shall, by constitutional instrument make rules regulating the practice and procedure of all Commissions of Inquiry.” The APC Party is of the view that this committee was not constituted prior to the enactment of the Constitutional Instruments referred to.
2. What is more worrisome is that in Section 6(1) of the Constitutional Instruments 64, 65 and 67 the Commissioner has powers to modify, adapt and except himself from abiding by the practice and procedure in force in the High Court if he so feels like it. This is in sharp contrast with the provisions of Section 150 of the Sierra Leone Constitution.
3. Furthermore, in Section 6(2) of the said Instruments, it is stated that “the Commissioner shall not be bound by the Rules of Evidence in civil or criminal proceedings”. This is also against the spirit and content of Section 150 of the Constitution of the Republic of Sierra Leone.
4. We also note with concern, that Section 149, subsection 4 of the 1991 Constitution of the Republic of Sierra Leone, provides that “Where a Commission of Inquiry makes an adverse finding against any person which may result in a penalty, forfeiture or loss of status, the report of the Commission of Inquiry shall, for the purpose of this Constitution, be deemed to be a judgement of the High Court of Justice and accordingly, an appeal shall lie as of right from the Commission to the Court of Appeal”. The APC Party is concerned that this provision gives the Commission the status of a High Court which can recommend penalties that are enforceable by law. The Rules of Evidence applicable in the High Court should therefore apply.
5. That the source document for the Commissions of Inquiry, ie, the Governance Transition Team (GTT) report 2018, is replete with tribal, regional and partisan sentiments and incitement and therefore poses a serious national security threat.
6. The APC Party is even more appalled that in his statement at the launch of the Commissions of Inquiry, the Chief Justice of the Republic of Sierra Leone, who is expected to be the custodian of the Rule of Law in the country, has seemingly taken a partisan position that is firmly consistent with that already taken by the President and his Government.
Therefore, the APC Party wishes to reiterate its position on the Commissions of Inquiry, that its membership is ready and prepared to fully support and cooperate with the Commissions if the aforementioned concerns are addressed.”
He added that the Chief Justice of Sierra Leone has taken a partisan position in the commencement of the Commissions of Inquiry.
“Our position on the Commissions of Inquiry remains sacrosanct, we will not subject our members to unconstitutionality.”, Corlineus Deveaux, the National Publicity Secretary of the party said.
Recall that President Julius Maada Bio during his speech at the launching of the Commissions Of Inquiry vowed to deal with anyone who fails to to honour the court. In his words he said, “Let me end by reiterating that all those who will be invited by the Commissions of Inquiry must fully comply. Anyone, I repeat anyone, who fails to honour the invitation of the Commissions of Inquiry will face the full force of the law.”
However, reacting to that statement, Ambassador Yansaneh, the APC Secretary General said that, “We are prepared to face the full force of the law. This is better than war”.