Tense Battle Over Commissions Of Inquiry… APC Vs SLPP

 

Over the Commissions of Inquiry that the current Bio administration is setting up into the financial activities of senior officials of the former Koroma administration, there is tense battle between the main opposition All People’s Congress (APC) and the governing Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP).

The concern of the main opposition party, according to its National Publicity Secretary, Cornelius Deveaux, is that APC views the Commissions of Inquiry as a sinister plot by the governing party to paint the party and its functionaries in bad light ahead of the 2023 national elections with the intention to take undue advantage of APC. This, he believes, is because the ruling SLPP can never win free and fair elections.

On his surmising that SLPP has sinister motives in setting up the Commissions of Inquiry, Mr. Deveaux further pointed out that President Julius Maada Bio has publicly called APC thieves. He therefore questioned the need for setting up of the Commissions after the President had already reached a conclusion without evidence.

It could be recalled that addressing his party supporters during his recent thank-you tour of the South-East, President Bio stated that APC Members of Parliament took a lot of money to bribe other parliamentarians not to vote for the passage of the three constitutional instruments that set up the Commissions of Inquiry.

Mr. Deveaux said these are strong words by the President against APC which they believe hold the potential to divide the people at a time when the Head of State as Fountain of Honour should be doing what he can to bring the people together, recalling that when he took over power in April, President Bio praised his predecessor for a job well done and promised that he would not engage in a witch-hunt.

The APC National Publicity Secretary disclosed that the party leadership would call a meeting with their MPs to get them to summon the President to Parliament to throw light on his statement that APC are “Ayampis” (thieves).

When the people’s broadcaster – SLBC asked the opinion of veteran APC politician, Hon. Ibrahim Bundu, who was Majority Leader and Head of Government Business in the last Parliament until he resigned during the eleventh hour to vie for the APC 2018 flag-bearer aspirant, on whether the APC lawmakers can summon the President Bio to Parliament, he responded in the negative. According to him, this is because the three Arms of Government – the Legislature, Executive and Judiciary are unique and independent. Thus Parliament, Hon. Bundu said, cannot summon either the Chief Justice or the President. What the MPs can do, he said, is to request for audience with the President. The APC National Publicity Secretary however believes that there is constitutional provision for such summon.

Commenting on the APC’s concerns, the Deputy Minister of Information and Communications, Solomon Jamiru Esq. said APC should not be jittery about the President’s statement because, according to him, what he said was only his opinion which, like MPs and every citizen, he has a right to hold and express freely. He explained that the President’s utterances would in no way influence the conduct of the Commissions of Inquiry.

The Deputy Minister furthered that when President Bio spoke with former President Ernest Bai Koroma, he never told him his government would not set up Commissions of Inquiry, given what President Bio had told the nation about his determination to fight corruption.

Mr. Deveaux had also expressed his party’s concern about SLPP violating constitutional order by bringing armed security personnel into the Well of Parliament, grey areas in the constitutional instruments such as it not making provision for the Commissions to be bound by High Court rules of evidence, the judge being appointed by the President which, he said, would make it possible for the judge to get his own way. “Our democracy cannot progress this way,” Mr. Deveaux warned.

To this concern, the learned lawyer responded that like all administrative tribunals, the Commissions of Inquiry would be independent.

In this tense political atmosphere, political commentators have said both APC and SLPP when in power have the same attitude towards each other. They recalled that in 2007, when APC came to power, they stated that the previous SLPP government did nothing. What they thus advised is that for the country’s democracy to grow, politicians should say and do the things that bring the people together; not what divides them.