Members of the Sierra Leone Parliament Tuesday 26th November 2019 registered their dissatisfaction over the absence of the Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Priscilla Schwartz, who was supposed to appear before them to table documents as outlined in item one on the order paper of the day’s business. Schwartz should have laid before the house of the Sierra Leone Parliament the following papers:
- The High Court (Appointment of Criminal Sessions) Order, 2019
- The High Court (Criminal Sessions) Rules S.I. NO. 74 of 1965
- The Criminal Procedure Act, 1965 (Act no. 32 of 1965)
- Statutory Instrument No. 2 of 2019.
When the Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Schwartz was called upon to lay the above papers as expected, she was not in the well of Parliament. The Speaker of Parliament, Honourable Abass Chernor Bundu asked if she was represented by her deputy, but the response was in the negative. This made the MP representing Constituency 051 in the Tonkolili District; Honourable Alhaji Sorieba Turay in a loud undertone suggested that the particular item on the order paper be skipped for the business of the house to continue. He noted that the disappeared Schwartz should not hold the business of the house to a halt. “Let us proceed; we don’t need to wait for her. Of course, she has to take us seriously…” Hon. Turay shouted in an apparent show of anger on the issue. It was clear that other MPs on the ruling SLPP side were uneasy with the seeming stern stance of Hon. Turay against the missing Attorney general. Some MPs even trivialized the issue and there was a bit of a commotion of words from either sides of the aisle in the well of Parliament.
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The somewhat back-and-forth situation on the issue lasted for about 20 minutes, and it was later known that the missing Attorney General didn’t even inform the Parliament of her non-attendance which had apparently caused some form of rancor amongst MPs; both the ones against her action and the ones compromising it. The Acting Leader of Government Business, Honourable Matthew Sahr Nyuma, informed the house that he had been told that the Office of the Attorney General was duly informed about the AG’s awaited presence in the well of parliament by MPs. “We have confirmed that, that is not our business, we will skip that one and continue,” Hon. Nyuma strongly retorted. Meanwhile, the Deputy Minister of Finance, Patricia Laverley who was supposed to table in the well of Parliament three bilateral agreements between the government of Sierra Leone and some international organizations was apparently not in sight. It happened though, that both items one and two on the order paper were not dealt with because of the absence of the two female ministers; Schwartz and Laverley. However, the case of the Deputy Minister of Finance, Laverley was different, as the Acting Leader of Government, Hon. Nyuma informed MPs that she had asked to be excused because she would go to parliament a bit later than the stipulated time. It was clear that the case of Laverley was treated with exemption, unlike that of Schwartz, whose absence was according to MPs “without procedure” and almost cost the house its peaceful co-existence at some point when MPs were at each other’s throats.
By Abdulai Gbla
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