Commissions Of Inquiry Start Tomorrow

 

The official launch of the three Commissions of Inquiry whose constitutional instruments were approved by Parliament following their recommendation by the Governance Transition Team’s (GTT) and endorsement by President Julius Maada Bio’s Cabinet would commence tomorrow, Tuesday 29th January, 2019  at the Sierra Leone Peace Museum site at the former Special Court  compound on Jomo Kenyatta Road, Brookfields in Freetown.

According to report, President Julius Maada Bio would be the distinguished guest speaker at the historic ceremony that would commence at 11:00a.m where he is expected to give the keynote address. Muslim prayers would be led by Sheik Dr. Salieu Kamara while Christian prayers by Bishop Archibald Cole.

Statements, the report continue, would also be made by a representative of the Sierra Leone Ebola Survivors Organization that has recently filed a case against the Government of Sierra Leone (GoSL) at the ECOWAS Court of Justice in Abuja, Nigeria seeking payment of damages for alleged negligent conduct by the GoSL during the Ebola outbreak.

The opening remarks would be made by the newly appointed Chief Justice of the Republic of Sierra Leone, Hon.  Justice Desmond Babatunde Edwards, while the Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Dr. Priscilla Schwarz would also make a statement. A representative of the National Youth Commission (NAYCOM) would give the vote of thanks, while the ceremony would be climaxed with a familiarization tour of the Commissions’ facilities.

It could be recalled that the Commissions of Inquiry were borne out of one of the recommendations made by the Professor David Francis led Governance Transition Team’s (GTT) Report from its findings into the financial conduct of the former All People’s Congress (APC) Government led by erstwhile President Ernest Bai Koroma.

The GTT’s Report named 52 officials of the former APC Government, including the former President, the Vice President, Ministers and their Deputies, Heads of Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) of Government and some siblings of former senior government officials as having allegedly involved in corruption and racketeering between November 2007 and April 2018.

The idea of setting up the aforesaid Commissions of Inquiry was greeted with suspicion and resistance by the main opposition party that is in the majority in Parliament, the All People’s Congress (APC) that was defeated in the March, 2018 presidential run-off election and accused the government of cherry picking the subjects for the inquiry. The main opposition also accused the government of tribalism, regionalism and hatching of a witch-hunt against it.

Passage of the instruments in parliament that will authorize them to become law saw a marathon debate session that lasted well into the evening with APC MPs arguing vehemently that whilst as a party they too stand for transparency and accountability in Parliament, they will not support passage of the instruments into law with the instruments clearly stating the rules of engagement under which the commissions will operate. Although APC with the majority in Parliament voted wholesale against passage of the instrument into law, it failed to secure the 2/3 majority of MPs needed to annual the instruments.

Thereafter, a lot of wrangling took place between APC and SLPP over the issue of the commissions’ rules of evidence. APC threatened to take the matter to the Supreme Court for clarification; citing that Section 150 of the constitution has been violated. Some members of the Sierra Leone Bar Association (SLBA), a prominent APC barrister, Dr. Kalokoh, popular Constitutional Lawyer and political leader, Charles Francis Margai and some civil society organizations sided with APC to declare that is it unfair and unconstitutional for the SLPP government not to have included Rules of Evidence in the instruments. APC declared that as such they would not subject themselves to what the APC Secretary General and their National Publicity Secretary called a “kangaroo court”.

But one of their senior members and former Vice President, Dr. Victor Bockarie Foh stepped in to say, the APC Chairman and Leader who was the former President and all APC former government officials should subject themselves to the inquiry; that if they have nothing to hide, they should not fear to face the commissions; that if he is invited he will arrive at the venue one hour before time.

Latest about the inquiry from the APC side was, according to the National Publicity Secretary, they are not afraid of the commissions; that they will appear before it as long as it includes Rules of Evidence and is not selective but inclusive of all who served in commanding administrative and managerial positions in their government.

On the government side, President Bio and his Minister of Information and Communication have repeatedly told the nation that the inquiry is not based on tribe, region, or specifically targeted at APC but a process to ensure democratic accountability that they too when they eventually leave power would be subjected to.