The Political Parties Registration Commission and the Constitutional Review Committee, with support from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) this week, organized a one-day engagement session for political parties in the country.
The venue was at the Miatta Conference Centre, with the theme “Role of Political Parties in a Democratic Society”.
Addressing representatives of the various political parties before the start of session, the chairman of the Political Parties Registration Commission,(PPRC) Justice Maitland Tolla-Thompson explained that the engagement with political parties was to identify the challenges, evaluate and carry out the necessary amendments in the 1991 Constitution, and this was the reason why Government set-up the Constitutional Review Committee(CRC) to review the process through an all-inclusive participation. He said the PPRC is a creature of the constitution and an Act of Parliament.
Justice Tolla-Thompson, observed that for political parties to propagate constitutionalism, they must know what is a Constitution, which he said, is a system of laws and basic principles that a state, country or organization is governed by.
The PPRC Chairman maintained that political parties should be in a position to know some of the ingredients in the Constitution, in order to be able to educate and sensitize their membership on it and it is the duty of the PPRC to urge them to do so.
Though Justice Tolla- Thompson urged political parties to be fully involved in the process, he was quick to warn them that during the education and sensitization, they should not go about with callousness and blind indifference to the outcome.
In conclusion, the PPRC Chairman commended the Constitutional Review Committee, the International community and the technical consultant for the support, which he hope will continue, as the Commission strives to breathe sanity among political parties for a better Democracy.
Making a statement, the United Nations Resident Coordinator in Sierra Leone, David McLachlan- Karr, was delighted and excited to be part of the country’s unfolding history and to be opportune to address all the political parties, as they deliberate on what a future Constitution of Sierra Leone should look like.
He said as the PPRC, CRC and political parties work together to forge a new Constitution, it is crucial that deliberations are formed by mutual commitment to a core set of basic democratic values that should be secured in the new constitution, which are participation and inclusivity, tolerance, transparency and accountability.
The U.N Resident Coordinator encouraged political parties to use the opportunity to arrive at an agreement that partisan political interests will not hinder them from adopting the outcome of the review process.
Chairman of the CRC, Justice Edmund Cowan explained that true Democracy is a government by the people, of the people and for the people. He said this means that the people are sovereign and they should be seen as sovereign, which does not exist in most democracies, especially in Africa.
Justice Cowan in a determined mood maintained that political parties should be institutions of repute and not arenas of dispute, which does not give hope to the people.
He said out of the 80-man membership of the review committee, 34 are representatives from political parties, which means they bear the greatest responsibility in the process, and if it fails, the people and posterity will blame them.
The CRC Chairman urged all the political parties to put sentiments aside, stressing that there is no other time than now for Sierra Leoneans to be more united and demonstrate patriotism, by making meaningful contributions to the review process.
By Ade Campbell
Thursday June 26, 2014