Commission Of Inquiry! -21 Days Timeline Expires Today

 

In spite of strong opposition from leaders of the main opposition All People’s Congress (APC) party in Parliament, the Clerk of Parliament will after today stamp his seal on the bill establishing the Commission of Inquiry, thereby becoming law.

Leader of the APC in Parliament, Hon. Chernoh Ban and other senior parliamentarians of the party, Hon. Ibrahim Ben Kargbo and Hon. Daniel Koroma had vehemently opposed the passing of the bill into law.

It could be recalled that the Governance Transition Team’s (GTT) Report recommended to His Excellency President Rtd. Brig. Julius Maada Bio that a Commission of Inquiry be set up by the government to investigate the financial conduct of certain officials of the past APC government, including former President Ernest Bai Koroma, former APC presidential candidate, Dr. Samura Mathew Wilson Kamara and forty-nine others.

On 2nd August, 2018, the Deputy Attorney General and Minister of Justice laid Constitutional Instruments 64 and 65 that requested Parliament’s assent to the bill setting up the Commission of Inquiry.

APC’s Hon. Daniel Koroma in the well of Parliament requested that the Speaker allowed the two instruments to be debated by the House, citing Standing Order 18.

The Speaker, Hon. Dr. Abass Chernor Bundu responded that the APC lawmaker made the request under the wrong Standing Order, noting that provision for debating such an instrument falls under Standing Order 25. The Speaker ruled that Hon. Koroma’s request did not fall within the four corners of SO 25 and was out of time. His request, therefore, was not granted by the Speaker.

For the records, Hon. Chernoh Bah in his contribution appealed to the Speaker that for debating such instruments, SO 18 is what was applicable instead of SO 25, and should therefore allow the instruments to be debated. The APC Leader in Parliament stressed that request by Hon. Koroma to do so fell within the proper constitutional provision. The Speaker countered that his own interpretation of SO 18 and SO 25 deferred from that of Hon. Bah and therefore repeated that the request to debate the instruments had not been properly filed.

Commenting on the request, an enraged Hon. I. B. Kargbo said the Speaker must understand that as Members of Parliament, the opposition APC too are part of the country’s governance structure and therefore, their request for the Commission of Inquiry instrument to be debated must be allowed.

The veteran politician furthered that their opposition to the passing of the commission’s instruments without debate is unacceptable on grounds of principles that APC lawmakers would not want to be disrespected by their constituents for failing to perform their duty of holding the party in power accountable at a time when they form the majority in Parliament. “We are not going to accept it until everything is proper,” Hon. I. B. Kargbo vowed.

Asked about his position on the matter, the Clerk of Parliament, Hon. Paran Tarawally ruled that the Speaker has the ultimate say in all parliamentary matters. He added that he had, as ordered by the Speaker to reply to Hon. Koroma’s letter to him requesting the debate, written to him that as long as the Speaker had ruled on the matter, it was closed. Thus, as soon as the bill which was tabled on 2nd August, 2018 matures after the 21 days that it should be in Parliament, he would stamp his seal on it, thereby making it law.

Meanwhile, a civil society activist of Citizens Civil Advocacy Network, Thomas Moore Conteh has opined that the ruling party is playing political gimmick by trying to pass the commission bill into law without debate by tabling it with the period that Parliament is in recess. “We condemn that act,” he said, adding that the bill should be debated given that it has security and human rights implications. “We will not permit injustice to go on unchallenged,” Mr. Conteh charged.