SLPP Govt Forces Census Bill on MPs
In desperation to pass the statutory instrument in respect of the proposed census, Members of the opposition parties in Parliament told the media and the public that the SLPP bulldozed its way and passed it, abandoning all procedures in the Parliamentary Standing Orders.
It could be recalled that on Friday 16th April 2021, the Clerk of Parliament issued a notice summoning all members of Parliament to an emergency meeting of the house. When the house convened, the Attorney General then presented the statutory instrument, and during the process, the Leader of the main opposition party in the house raised an objection, quoting Standing Order 4 (3). At that juncture, things turned messy, as MPs from the political divide traded blows and verbal invectives against each other, resulting in an abrupt stand down. This chaotic situation saw the police intervening, trying to restore order.
When order was restored and the sitting reconvened, the Leader of the opposition party, Hon Chernor Bah, reminded the Speaker that he was speaking when the meeting was abruptly ended, as a result, he should continue. Unfortunately he was denied the microphone and the Clerk of Parliament went on to read the Proclamation. This again brought the sitting to a halt.
Speaking to the media, the three leaders of the opposition parties in Parliament expressed disappointment over the failure of the Speaker to calm the situation, as he had done in other cases. Hon Chericoco stated that the tabling of the statutory instrument was not properly laid in the house, as they failed to follow the respective procedures; adding that he and other members of Parliament got to know about the sitting via social media. He stressed that according to the Standing Order, all the opposition leaders should be engaged by the Speaker on the pending document to be laid before the house, but this was not done, and all that transpired in the sitting was illegal and undemocratic.
In his own contribution, the leader of the NGC is Parliament, Hon Kandeh Yumkella, said that what transpired in Parliament is a threat to democracy, adding that the document and other statutory instruments were smuggled into Parliament, without respect for due process. He however warned that the precedent that is being set by the current government can be used by subsequent bad government against them.
On behalf of the Coalition For Change, its representative expressed shock and dismay over the way things went on in Parliament. He stressed that it is undemocratic. He furthered that in ant democratic dispensation there is always consultation and dialogue between the leadership of Parliament and the MPs, and blamed the Speaker for failing to engage the opposition leaders on the document, describing it as failing to do justice to the opposition. All the opposition leaders lamented the denial of the main opposition leader the microphone to make his point. They all made reference to the heavy police presence in the house, including their shepherding of the maze into the house. This, he noted, is an indication that something was amiss.
However in an interview with the Speaker of Parliament on the issue, he said that the President has the power to call an emergency sitting of Parliament, which is what he did, and that the objection raised by the leader of the main opposition does not apply, as it was not the normal Parliamentary sittings. He stressed that all what was done is legal and the necessary procedures followed.