Parliament’s Legislative Oversight Committee on Wednesday 10th February 2021 discussed and scrutinised the Medical Examiners Bill 2020 inorder to put in place a well structured law that will replace the 1907 Coroners Act.
This came after Members of Parliament on Tuesday 9th February 2021 debated and unanimously agreed to commit the Medical Examiners Bill to the Legislative Committee for further scrutiny.
Presenting the Bill to MPs the Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs, Lahai Lawrence Leema, maintained that the 1907 Coroners Act is more than 10 decades now since it was introduced.
He said government has decided to replace it with the 2020 Medical Examiners Act that will enhance and facilitate the Coroner officers to provide the relevant evidence in prosecuting accused of sexual and other felonious acts.
According to him, this Act will provide for a permanent office of the Chief Medical Examiners that will be able to conduct forensic examination on untimely death, accidental death which will further help prevent crime for future offenders and also build a prosperous and harmonious nation that will encourage investors.
Hon. Alusine Kanneh, Chairman of the Committee on Internal Affairs, disclosed that the 1907 Coroners Act is completely outdated, explaining that when it was introduced Governors were in charge of the governance structure, which is not applicable in modern days democracy.
He stated that with the current Bill before them for discussion, the Chief Medical Examiner will be the one to determine and ascertain to the fact that someone is dead rather than a Coroner, disclosing that the Medical Examiners Act makes provision for the establishment or regional Coroner offices to enable people gain access to the facilities rather than them coming to Freetown to do autopsy.
Hon Saa Emerson Lamina invoked Standing Order 51 subsection 1 to enable them speedily commit the Bill to the Legislative Committee, stating that the Act is older than everyone in Parliament which calls for it to be repealed.
According to him the issue of autopsy is very crucial as it determines the cause of death of victims of violence, accident and other forms of death that are untimely, calling on the Legislative Committee members to do justice to the document for them to come up with a fine Act that will address all the unanswered questions.
He called on the Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs for his office to see how they can engage with the Ministry of Higher and Tertiary Education to have post graduate courses as a way of training more professional pathologists that will succeed the current Govt Pathologist, Dr Simeon Orwizz Koroma.
Gone are the days when untimely death will be referred to as ‘witch guns’ whereas many people die without knowing the actual course of death, he said.
According to Hon Kandeh Kolleh Yumkella, it is necessary for the country to have an up to date Act dealing with Autopsy, recalling a case of his relative that was murdered and the family were asked to pay the sum of Le 450,000 to buy five liters chemical and the autopsy fee, adding that they had to pay additional fees for the ambulance and the two police personnel to escort the corpse to Freetown.
The Opposition Whip, Hon Hassan Abdoul Sesay, said the repeal is long overdue citing section 5 of the 1907 Act that makes provision for payment that is completely outdated, assuring that they have no issue with the Act before them but suggested for the establishment of a regional office with the relevant experts to help the people know the cause of death.