In an exclusive interview Tuesday November 8, 2016, Ambassador Yansaneh added "the APC has called for another Plenary Meeting because the APC is concerned that views obtained from various stakeholders were ignored by the Secretariat and we have therefore requested the CRC Chairman and the Executive Secretary to convene another final plenary that would address these concerns and apprehensions. The review process of the 1991 Constitution of Sierra Leone is supposed to be owned by the people as President Ernest Bai Koroma has said. Disregarding some of thepeople’s views is not in the interest of the Nation." The APC National Secretary General did not go into details regarding "the grey areas" which have been disregarded but only talked about what he called "views expressed on thematic areas to make changes in the Constitution where necessary."
The Chairman of the Constitutional Review Committee (CRC) of the 1991 Republican Constitution of Sierra Leone Justice (R) Edmond Cowan is on record on Friday October 28, 2016 as saying the "CRC has completed its work, the mandate to Review the 1991 Republican Constitution and NOT to write a new Constitution, and is only waiting to hear from the Attorney General & Minister of Justice The Honourable Joseph Fitzgerald Kamara when President Ernest Bai Koroma, (who officially launched the 80-man Committee on 30th July, 2013 to REVIEW the Constitution and not to write a NEW CONSTITUTION), is prepared to receive the Final Report and recommendations."
The Constitution is the Supreme Law of Sierra Leone, the Fountain from which all other laws flow. It is a National Document and not for any group of people, be it political or otherwise and should be devoid of politics.
The review exercise is a joint venture between the Sierra Leone Government and the International Community represented by the UNDP and was estimated to cost 4.1 (four point one) million US Dollars, partly funded by the Government and the UNDP.
Latest information reaching this Writer is that the proof of the final report and recommendations have been forwarded by the printers to the CRC Secretariat for vetting and approval and was expected to be returned Tuesday November 8, 2016 to the printers before final printing.
Investigations conducted by this Writer reveal that up to Tuesday November 8, 2016, only 52 (fifty-two) out of the 80 members have so far signed the final report. Two members have died and one is out of the country. Eleven (11) members dropped out and according to a knowledgeable source close to the CRC, the Committee has been working with an average of about 60 (sixty) members regularly attending meetings, eight groups of eight members each. The membership comprised professionals, Supreme Court Judges, Political Party representatives, and others.
CRC Chairman Justice Cowan confirmed in an interview Tuesday November 8, 2016, "some members have been reluctant to sign the final report and have not given any reasons. Two representatives of the Ruling All Peoples Congress (APC) political party, who had already signed the final report, later withdrew their signatures after their political party had asked them to do so. The SLPP and PMDC representatives have signed the final document." Justice Cowan also confirmed that the CRC Secretariat had received a letter from the APC National Secretary General about the party's decision. This led this Writer to call on the APC National Secretary General Ambassador Yansaneh for the Ruling APC political party side of the story.
Justice Cowan has made it clear that "now we have a Republican Constitution" and he re-iterated "the CRC mandate was to REVIEW
the 1991 Republican Constitution and NOT TO WRITE A NEW CONSTITUTION."
On what follows after the presentation of the CRC final report to the Government, the CRC Chairman has stated "the Cabinet will discuss it and then issue a Government WHITE PAPER which will bring the Report out to the general public This is when the public will know what is in our final report, what the Government agrees with and what it disagrees with.."
The White Paper will form the basis on which the Legal Draftsmen in the Law Officers Department will prepare the Amendment Bill to the 1991 Constitution which the Attorney General and Minister of Justice will pilot through Parliament for it to go through the Parliamentary process for it to become an Act of Parliament, BUT, he emphasised, "President Koroma will not sign it into LAW until it has gone through a National Referendum, according to Section 108 of the 1991 Constitution ALTERATION OF THE CONSTITUTION:" which states, among other things, as follows:-
"(1) Subject to the provisions of this section, Parliament may alter this Constitution.
"(2) A Bill for an Act of Parliament under this section shall not be passed by Parliament unless -
(a) Before the first reading of the Bill in Parliament the text of the Bill is published in at least two issues of the GAZETTE: provided that not less than nine days shall elapse between the first publication of the Bill in the Gazette and the second publication:
(b) The Bill is supported on the second and third readings by the votes of not less than two-thirds of the Members of Parliament."
Subsection (3) states, "A Bill for an Act of Parliament enacting a new Constitution or altering any of the following provisions of this Constitution, that is to say, (as listed in the Constitution, most of which are entrenched clauses)
"shall not be submitted to the President for his assent and shall not become law unless the Bill, after it has been passed by Parliament and in the form in which it was so passed has, in accordance with the provisions of any law in that behalf, been submitted to and been approved at a referendum."
The National Electoral Commission (NEC) has already intimated that the Review of the 1991 Constitution is part of their programme for the conduct of the February 2018 General Elections - Presidential, Parliamentary and Local Government.
As regards the conduct of the February 2018 General Elections, highlights of the CRC final report include NO CHANGE to the two-five-year term of office for the Presidency. According to section 46 TENURE OF OFFICE OF PRESIDENT "No person shall hold office for more than two-terms of five years each whether or not the terms are consecutive."
The twelve (12) months period for a public officer intending to contest in the General Elections, to resign, has been reduced to six (6) months.
The office of Attorney General and Minister of Justice has been separated.
According to Section 85 (1) of the 1991 Constitution, "Parliament shall stand dissolved at the expiration of a period of five years commencing from the date of its first sitting after a general election". This means that Parliament stands dissolved in November, 2017.
Section 87 (1) states "A general election of Members of Parliament shall be held not earlier than thirty (30) and not more than ninety (90) days from the date of the dissolution of Parliament."
The Ruling All Peoples Congress (APC) then in opposition led by Ernest Bai Koroma was first elected to office in the 2007 Parliamentary election of August 11, and the Presidential run-off poll on September 8, 2007. President Koroma was re-elected for a second five-year constitutional term of office on 17th November, 2012 in the first ballot with a 58+ percent of the total votes cast. This means that President Koroma's current Government will enter its final year of office commencing next month - November 17, 2016.
Editor’s Note: CLARENCE ROY-MACAULAY OOR 2006. AP (ASSOCIATED PRESS) GRAMLING SPIRIT AWARD WINNER. RETIRED (1989) CONTROLLER (NEWS AND CURRENT AFFAIRS). FORMER MINISTRY OF INFORMATION & BROADCASTING