Five Months Gone… Emergency Without Regulations

By Ragan M. Conteh

After five months, government has failed to come up with emergency regulations for parliamentary approval.

Government has been lambasted by parliamentarians for its failure to come up with the emergency regulations that guide the conduct of officers in the enforcement of the State of Emergency (SOE).

Many have continued to express their dismay over the continued use of SOE by Government of Sierra Leone without regulations as enshrined in the 1991 constitution of Sierra Leone.

Section 29 of the constitution of Sierra Leone directs government to lay before parliament Covid-19 rules and regulations for parliamentary approval.

The regulations, some parliamentarians say, were used to strengthen the state of emergency to curtail Covid-19.

Opposition parliamentarians told Nightwatch that they were not pleased with the enforcement of SOE owing to the failure by the Attorney General to table the Regulations in Parliament as agreed during parliamentary debates.

The Constitution says SOE expires after 90 days and at the end of such period, government through the Attorney-General would submit regulations for another 90-day period.

During parliamentary debate to approve SOE State in March, Opposition MP’s categorically expressed grave fear over its misuse owing to the absence of regulations.

MP’s say the “State of Emergency has no power without regulations,” and that government’s failure to submit the regulations is a constitutional breach.

The MP’s revealed that reports of misuse of the emergency have been reported in many parts of the country in recent times.

They accused government of indiscriminate arrest and detention of political opponents during the emergency period noting that many others   have been detained for flouting the unapproved regulations.

Making his submission during the approval of the SOE on 25th March, this year, MP representing Constituency 027 in Kono District, Hon. Saa Francis Bhendu said opposition parliamentarians were concerned over SOE misuse in the absence of regulations.

Hon. Bhendu submitted that it was important to help government fight Covid-19, but the absence of regulations rendered the SOE hopeless.

Deputy Leader of the main Opposition, Hon. Ibrahim Ben Kargbo in his recent statement expressed concern over misuse of SOE by security forces adding that cases of excessive use of force had reached in their desks.

Hon. Kargbo pointed out that, extortion and other unusual activities had also been reported.

The situation, he went on, could be linked to the failure of government to present the emergency regulations for parliamentary approval.

The MP also questioned the 12-month timeline of the SOE pronounced by the President noting that Parliament urged authorities earlier to prepare regulations and make them available in parliament for debate and approval.

Leader of the National Grand Coalition (NGC), Hon. Kandeh Yumkella who moved the motion recently for government to present the emergency regulations within 14 days said no MP denounced SOE, but constitutional procedure had to be strictly followed.

Relying on  section 29 (10) of the 1991 Constitution, Dr Yumkella said SOE would  expire within 90 days and that after such period, parliament will assess the emergency for extension.

Dr. Kandeh Yumkella was also concerned about the use SOE against opposition parties during SOE period noting legitimate concerns.

Opposition Leader in Parliament, Hon. Chernoh Maju Bah said declaration of a state of public emergency was not the same as passing   an ordinary law.

He warned that the SOE should not be used to oppress or witch hunt political opponents.

Deputy Minister of Justice, Umaru Napoleon Koroma, also assured MP’s that the SOE proclaimed by President Bio was the only way to prevent COVID-19 adding that the regulations would be formulated by government for Parliamentary approval.

He assured MP’s that nobody would use the emergency to score political points but to curtail COVID-19 in the country.

Recently many MPs have expressed disappointment for the intentional failure by government to come up with comprehensive emergency regulations.

The regulations currently are still in force especially wearing of face masks, curfew and social distance measures although the 90-day period as enshrined in the 1991 Constitution has expired.

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