SLPP, APC At Loggerheads

 

The issue of the President’s declaration of a State of Emergency with regards his pledge to fight against rape and sexual violence against girls and women has once more sharply divided the ruling Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) and its chief antagonist in the House of Parliament, the main opposition All People’s Congress (APC).

Whilst SLPP maintain that the proclamation has become law, APC denies, saying that they do not accept that a State of Emergency has become effective.

In an official parliamentary press statement, the APC Deputy Opposition Leader, Hon. Ibrahim Ben Kargbo stated that APC wants the nation and the international community to know that Parliament has not approved His Excellency’s proclamation of a State of Emergency – Citing that Section 29(3) of the 1991 Constitution provides that such a proclamation must be approved by a vote of two/thirds of the members of parliament present.

It could be recalled that following up on the ‘Hands Off Our Girls’ campaign launched by First Lady, Fatima Bio in January in reaction to the alarming increase in the occurrence of sex offenses against minors, President Bio provided supportive action to protect all girls and women from sexual offenses by invoking the constitutional power granted him in Section 29 of the 1991 Constitution to declare a State of Public Emergency targeted at rape and sexual violence.

But before the proclamation could become law, it had to have the approval of two/thirds majority of Members of Parliament present in the House. When it came before the House for debate, APC MPs argued vehemently that it was not necessary for the President to proclaim an emergency to fight rape and sexual violence. All what the government, APC said, should have done was to strengthen the existing Sexual Offenses Act of 2012.

SLPP MPs supporting the passage of the presidential proclamation counter argued that the situation of rape and sexual violence has become grave, citing data from various sources to support their assertion in support of why an emergency should be declared.

The matter reached a climax when the Speaker called for a voice count and on the strength of his determination of the outcome declared that the “Ayes” had it. That threw the House into pandemonium as APC MPs rose up to damn the Speaker for not dividing the House and doing a head count to determine if the two/thirds needed for the proclamation to become effective was attained.

The APC Parliamentary press release stated that parliamentary sitting was abruptly adjoined on Tuesday, 26th February, 2019 without votes been taken as prescribed by the Constitution and Standing Order.

As such, whilst the APC statement maintains that they share President Bio’s quest to fight sexual offenses, they do not share his proclamation of a state of public emergency, and frowned at the heavy handedness of the Speaker in attempting to carry the motion for the approval of the emergency by mere collection of voices contrary to the mandatory provision of Section 29(3) and Standing Order 44(4). As such, APC reiterate that the debate for the approval was inconclusive; hence a state of public emergency does not exist.

In the interim period, President Bio was presented with the certificate of declaration of the emergency at State House this week by the Leader of Government Business, Hon. Sidi Tunis – meaning that by all purpose and intent, the state of emergency has become effective; notwithstanding APC’s opposition to it.