Wednesday 23rd November 2022 was another sad chapter in the history of Sierra Leone’s Parliament, after members of Parliament went on the rampage, hurling objects and punching one another as the Speaker – Dr Abass Bundu, lost control in an ill-tempered debate over new electoral laws that could govern presidential and general elections next June.
The Public Elections (District Block Proportional Representation System) Regulations 2022 and the Public Elections (Local Councils Proportional Representation System) Regulations 2022 were about to be presented to MPs for debate by the Deputy Attorney General and Minister of Justice – Umaru Napoleon Koroma, when violence broke out.
The District Block Proportional Representation System Regulations 2022 and the Local Councils Proportional Representation Regulation 2022, could be included in the country’s electoral laws in the next seventeen days, or until otherwise annulled by two-thirds of votes cast by Members of Parliament to become law.
Section 170, sub-section 7 of the 1991 Constitution of Sierra Leone, says that: “Any orders, rules or regulations made by any person or authority pursuant to a power conferred in that behalf by this Constitution or any other law: shall be laid before Parliament; shall be published in the Gazette on or before the day they are so laid before Parliament; shall come into force at the expiration of a period of twenty-one days of being so laid unless Parliament, before the expiration of the said period of twenty-one days, annuls any such orders, rules or regulations by the votes of not less than two-thirds of the Members of Parliament”.
Fighting broke out when opposition APC members of Parliament refused to debate the changes and called on the Speaker to defer the proceedings to allow sufficient time for MPs to study the new regulation. But the Speaker refused, and violence ensued.
Police were called into Parliament as they were in 2018 to forcefully remove opposition MPs from the Wells of Parliament, as ugly scenes were played out on national television, which then allowed the Bills to be finally laid before MPs.
According to the Clerk of Parliament, the destruction caused by the rioting MPs was valued at Three Hundred and Eighty Thousand New Leones. This is what the Clerk said in a written Report published yesterday: