President Koroma’s much anticipated National Drug Control Act was finally tabled in Parliament yesterday, but was never read or debated.
The Bill was sent under the certificate of urgency, signed by President Koroma, which reads: “I hereby certify, in terms of standing order 62 of the standing orders of the Sierra Leone Parliament that the Bill entitled: The National Drug Control Act 2008 requires urgent passage by the Honourable House.”
There was initially confusion amongst parliamentarians when the proposed Bill was laid on the table by Attorney General and Minister of Justice Abdul Serry Kamal, as some members of Parliament asked for procedures to be followed because they did not know what was before them.
It was the deputy majority leader and acting Leader of the House and Government Business, Hon Sheku Badara Bashiru Dumbuya, who rose to state that whenever a paper was laid in parliament, its contents have to be explained to MPs.
Considering that the President sent the Bill to Parliament with a certificate of urgency, the Bill needed no further delay as it should be debated. Yet after Parliament failed to even have a seating last Thursday, the reading of the Bill was again delayed Tuesday.
Standing order 62 of Parliament stipulates that: Bills covered by certificate of urgency notwithstanding anything in any standing order, when a certificate of urgency signed by the President in respect of a proposed bill has been laid upon the table by a minister, the bill to which the certificate relates may be introduced forthwith and provided that copies are available to members, may be proceeded with all its stages and parliament shall not be counted out or adjourned (except upon a motion made by a minister or the majority party leader of the House) until such a bill has been read the third time.
However, a first or second reading did not happen yesterday with the Bill (much less a third reading) – despite the certificate of urgency sent by the President. The Bill was just laid and was later announced by Hon Sheku Badara Dumbuya that the Bill was expected to be discussed at the pre-legislative meeting, which he said was subject to confirmation.
The much discussed drug law then has to be discussed first at the pre-legislative committee where it will be properly re-adjusted if possible before it is tabled before the House.
But following the shaky procedures in parliament, one may pose the question: Was this the proper parliamentary way to treat the National Drug Control Act?
By Ishmael Bayoh & Yu Nakayama