A ceremony to swear in a total of 146 Members of Parliament could not hold in the well of parliament on Tuesday April 24 following the conspicuous absence of the Speaker. Whether his absence was unprecedented or not but on the eve of swearing in ceremony, the Speaker authored a press release citing section 79 subsection 2, Act No. 6 of the 1991 constitution of Sierra Leone, and Standing Orders 8 of the Standing Orders of Parliament, stating reasons why the ceremony is put on hold indefinitely. Abu Bakarr Sulaiman Tarawally was in the well of Parliament, witnessing the unfolding drift.
It is not unconnected with the flurry of petitions that have been filed in court a fortnight ago against some 21 MPs of the opposition APC, on allegations of not meeting eligibility criteria for which they were elected to serve. The relevant sections state:
“The Speaker of Parliament shall be elected by the Members of Parliament from amongst persons who are members of parliament or are qualified to be elected as such and who are qualified to be appointed judges of the Supreme Court of the judicature or have held such office:
Provided that a person shall be eligible for election as a Speaker of Parliament notwithstanding that such person is a Public Officer or a Judge of the High Court, a Justice of the Court of Appeal or a Justice of the Supreme Court, and such person if elected, shall retire from the public service on the day of his election with full benefits.”
Subsection (2) –“The speaker shall be elected by a resolution in favour of which there are cast the votes of not less than two-thirds of the members of parliament:
Provided that if three successive resolutions proposing the election of a Speaker fail to receive the votes of two-thirds of the Members of Parliament, the Speaker shall be elected by a resolution passed by a simple majority.”
The current Speaker’s party is now the main opposition. The position is an extension of the presidency which means that the Speaker of the House of Parliament is eligible to serve as acting president of the Republic of Sierra Leone in the absence of the president and his vice.
There has been a precedence regarding eligibility criteria for a Member of Parliament in the past. Some members of the SLPP had been stripped of their parliamentary tickets with no bye-elections schedule for the vacant seat, which many thought should be the case. The criteria amongst other thing precludes the aspirant of the position for a Member of Parliament to resign from any employment in the civil service or in any form of engagement involving payment from the Consolidated Revenue Fund (CRF)one year period before the general elections.
The press release authored by the Right Honourable Sheku Badara Bashiru Dumbuya, reveals authoritatively that the ceremony is not holding based on the merit of number advantage for the purpose of electing the Speaker.
The Fifth Parliament of the Second Republic is housing a total of 146 members with six compositions, which include the APC 68, SLPP 49, NGC 4, C4C 8, Independent 3, and Paramount Chief Member of Parliament 14.
Over the time, the positions of majority and minority leaders are decided by the number advantage of a political party. The Majority Leader is always from ruling party with majority MPs and the Minority Leader is from the main opposition with minimum numbers in the house.