State of Emergency Or Not… Parliament On Fire Today

Heated debate is expected to continue in the House of Parliament today when lawmakers meet to continue inspection of the State of Public Emergency that His Excellency President Dr. Julius Maada Bio as the country’s Supreme Head of State under powers granted him by Section 29 of the 1991 Constitution of Sierra Leone, Act No. 6 declared on Tuesday 24th March, 2020.

The presidential declaration was made in response to the grave looming threat of the coronavirus disease that has attacked 173 countries worldwide, including 43 African countries that include the other Member States of the Mano River Union (MRU), Guinea, Liberia and Ivory Coast.

Debate on the President’s proclamation by the House of Parliament on Tuesday afternoon ended in deadlock, with MPs divided on the appropriateness of the President’s declaration that the State of Emergency would last for 12 months.

Several opposition MPs maintained that whilst they support imposition of the Emergency, which the Deputy Minister of Information and Communications, Mamadi Gobeh-Kamara explained on radio  Wednesday morning, was in response to the coronavirus threat, the constitution states that such emergency periods should not exceed 90 days, after which, if it is to be maintained, would need additional parliamentary approval.

After a break of over one hour in proceeding for consultation with the leaders of the political parties in Parliament, adjourning the House to today Thursday 26th March, 2020 with the expectation that the House would have been able to arrive at a definitive position on how the process should go, Honourable Speaker, Dr. Abass Chernor Bundu stated that, “to all intent and purposes, the President has fulfilled his duty to the nation by declaring a state of public emergency, it is now left with Parliament to decide what next to do” because, according to him, the House was still in the process of consulting as to what its response should be.

Meanwhile, some members of the public have raised concern over the length of the Emergency which they opined would send the wrong signal to businesses, investors and the citizenry who believe that already, unscrupulous traders and others have taken advantage of the threat to indiscriminately raise prices of essential commodities on the market.