REPORT OF THE COMMISSION TO REVIEW THE CONSTITUTION OF SIERRA LEONE, 1991
I N T R O D U C T I O N
Government Notice No.6, Vol. CXXXVIII of the Sierra Leone Gazette No. 2 of Thursday, 11th January 2007, published the establishment and membership of a Commission for the review of the 1991 Constitution with the following Terms of Reference:
“To review the Sierra Leone Constitution of 1991 with a view to recommending amendments that might bring it up-to-date with the economic, social and political developments that have taken place nationally and internationally since 1991”.
- The Commission was also asked to take into consideration the following among others: “The experience gained since 1996 in the implementation of the 1991 Constitution; Omissions and lacuna in the 1991 Constitution which affect its operation as a democratic Constitution; Improvement on certain provisions of the Constitution that may enhance democratic governance; and Whether the fundamental principles of State Policy should be justifiable.”
- The under-mentioned persons were appointed to represent the following organizations and institutions:
Dr. Peter L. Tucker CHAIRMAN and a host of other persons.
- The Secretariat was assisted by two Research Assistants of the Law Reform Commission, i.e. Mr. Drucil Taylor and Ms. Viola Johnson and a Legal Counsel of the National Public Procurement Authority, Mr. Farid Alghali. The Administrative Staff of the Commission included an Accountant, Mr. Sahr M.K. James, two Computer Typists, Mrs. Cecilia Paton-Cole and Mrs. Georgiana Johnson. The support staff included three messengers, Messrs Foray Swarray, Olick Parker and Alfred Banugra and two drivers. Messrs Abu Koroma and Foday Bangura. The Commission was housed at the Law Reform Commission’s Office, 3A Wellington Street, by the kind permission of the Law Reform Commission.
- The Commission was formally launched on the 27th of January 2007. Meetings were held on Tuesdays and Thursday 2 p.m. – 5 p.m. and on Saturdays, 10 a.m. – 1 p.m. The meetings were held in private in order to encourage Commissioners to express their views freely. The quorum for the meetings was fixed at twelve, which allowed the Commission to commence its work without any delay. However, actual attendance at meetings was always far above that number. Every member of the Commission was encouraged to speak on any topic and was given as much time as was necessary to do so. Decisions were taken by consensus.
- The Commission started by having radio discussions, a Press Conference and Press Release of its terms of reference and inviting the public to submit to its secretariat their views and comments. The following were among those who responded immediately: 7. Dr. Abdulai O. Conteh, Chief Justice of Belize.
- Mr. O.B. Walker
- The Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ) also submitted a paper entitled “A Position Statement on Media Law Reform.”
- Mr. Benedict Sannoh, Chief, Human Rights and Rule of Law Section, United Nations Integrated office in Sierra Leone (UNIOSIL) delivered a Paper entitled “The human Rights provisions of the 1991 Constitution and the Way Forward”.
- The Commission thoroughly discussed the Constitution, section by section, taking the above submissions into account, and made references to several Constitutions in Africa and the developed world. Frequent references were made to the Constitutions of the United Kingdom and the United States of America, as well as the Constitutions of Ghana, South Africa and Nigeria. However, the proposed amendments were based mainly on practical experiences gained during the last seventeen (17) years and the need to fill any lacuna to improve upon some of the provisions so as to make them functional.
- The Commission also discussed and agreed to recommend the inclusion of the following provisions which are not in the 1991 Constitution: a Second Chamber of Parliament, the Prisons Service Council; Independent Forces Complaints Commission; Parliamentary Service Commission; Extractive industries transparency Commission, Citizenship and the Non-Governmental Organizations Regulatory Board.
- A Preliminary Report which formed the basis of a nation-wide consultation was produced in March, 2007.
- The Preliminary Report was introduced to the public at a Press Conference held at the British Council on April 15, 2007. The Press Conference was attended by members of both the electronic and print media as well as members of the diplomatic corps, the United Nations integrated Office in Sierra Leone (UNIOSIL), the Sierra Leone Court Monitoring Programme and interested individuals. The Chairman and Commissioners briefed the Press on the proposed amendments and clarified issues of concern.
- Thereafter, the Commission held consultative meetings in the provincial headquarters of Bo, Kenema and Makeni as well as in Freetown in April 2007, to get the views of people in the Southern, Eastern and Northern regions and the Western Area on the Report. The meetings were organized by the Secretariat of the Commission with the assistance of personnel from the Law Reform Commission and the provincial administration of each of the provinces.
- The Secretariat ensured that each regional meeting was attended by representative from all the districts that make up the region, including Paramount Chiefs, Mayors, Principals of Secondary Schools, Councillors, representatives of political parties, religious bodies and civil society organizations. The meetings were free and frank and anyone who wished to speak on any issue was given the chance to do so. Discussions sometimes lasted well into the evening, beyond the scheduled time. At each regional capital the Commission organized radio discussions on the evening before the meeting.
- The Commission also held consultative meetings with representatives of all the registered political parties, including the Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP), the All People Congress (APC), the Peoples Movement for Democratic Change (PMDC), the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Peoples Liberation Party (PLP), United National Peoples Party (UNDP) and the Revolutionary United Front Party (RUFP), at State House on Thursday, May 17, 2007. The discussions were interesting and fruitful.
- On June 5, 2007, the Commission met with staff and students of Fourah Bay College (FBC), at which lecturers and students were briefed on the proposed amendments and issues of concern were clarified. The Commission wanted to meet with students and lecturers of other institutions of higher learning, including Njala University, Institute of Public Administration and Management (IPAM), College of Medicine and Allied Health Sciences (COMAHS), Milton Margai College of Education and Technology (MMCET) and the other constituent colleges of the University of Sierra Leone in June, 2007, but unfortunately, they were on examinations.
- The Report is produced in two parts. Part 1 contains the introduction, a summary of the comments and recommendations of the consultative meetings and Part 2, the final amendments recommended to the Government by the Commission.