After heated debates during a one-day workshop over the issue of the ‘death penalty’ in the constitution, civil organizations in the country have called on the Constitutional Review Committee (CRC) to provide alternative to restorative justice.
As a matter of fact, it was suggested that alternatives such as the creation of state farms might be a viable substitute to the death penalty instead of the option of “review every five years” as is enshrined in the draft constitution now.
Speaking during a recent consultative conference on the progress made so far by the CRC, members of SLANGO maintained that Sierra Leone could not afford to be different from the international communities where this law had been dropped, adding that alternatives like making “death penalty” prisoners serve the state in secured farms producing food for themselves and the country could be considered.
Most of the NGOs represented in the workshop agreed that the issue of the press should be dropped from the “freedom of expression” clause so that it would portray a much more broad perspective “freedom of expression and information” instead.
On whether that would affect the military, the meeting observed that the military act against “treason or mutiny” had been reviewed such that soldiers affected by the full wrath of the law might not be executed immediately because they now have the right to appeal to the court of appeal or Supreme Court for justice.
The session, which was chaired by Sirajin Rollings-Kamara of Democracy Sierra Leone, unanimously threw out the thoughts of CRC member and the president of SLANGO that the word “fundamental” should be removed from section 4 of the draft constitution
According to one of the speakers, “we do not accept the removal of the clause fundamental because it could be a tricky trap to deprive the masses of some rights at the end of the day. There seems to be a hidden agenda in that removal and we want it returned to its position.”
The workshop called for the reinstatement of a justifiable state policy where government and her servants could be sued for not providing vital services like water and light to the people.
“We would love to see a situation in which a member of the public instituting a suite against water board management for incompetence and a court of law granting the prayers of such a person for the removal of the management if the president or the vice president fail in their duty of relieving them for their lingering failures,” said one of them to Awoko.
On the appointment of a secretary to the cabinet of the president, the workshop suggested that such a person should be a seasoned civil servant “who is highly experienced and should be ratified by parliament”.
The immunity of ministers brought about a lot of controversy but at the end of the day it became obvious that the NGOs did not want their ministers to possess any further immunity than the one due to them.
On a non partisan parliament, it was resolved that the government must clarify further what it meant by that.
“There were so many augments for and against a second chamber for senators who do not derive their power from the ballot box but would be hand picked by the president to sit beside a few organizations like SLAJ that would be asked to send in their representatives to serve as an advisory body in the country.
It was also suggested that if there must be a senate, then the senators (possibly fifteen of them) should earn their credibility by coming through the ballot box.
“There would be one from each district while the CRC may use their discretion on where to fix the three others that may represent Western Area and the islands. I do not believe the paramount chiefs should be given any responsibility in parliament. They have no business in parliament under a federal system. They should be restricted to the local government areas where they would be taken care of as traditional fathers accessible to all instead of their present partisan position in parliament,” submitted another participant who did not wish to be named.
Meanwhile, April 30 has been slated for a final scrutiny of the draft constitutional review by the members of the public before the final draft is written.