Using Human Rights Commission To Undermine The Electoral Process Is Risky

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Elkass Sannoh

The Executive Director of Centre for Accountability and Rule of Law (CARL), Ibrahim Tommy, has affirmed that “The Human Rights Commission of Sierra Leone has no right to interfere with the constitutional mandates of the National Electoral Commission.”

The head of Edrina Chambers, Lawyer Pa-MomoFofanah, in an exclusive telephone interview says they are being hypocritical. He affirmed that most democratic institutions are merely pretending but knows that the High Court lacks the unlimited jurisdiction to hear and sit on the matter brought against the National Electoral Commission by Lawyer Ibrahim SorieKoroma through his lawyer, LansanaDumbuya.

In his rebuttal to the Attorney General and Minister of Justice-one of Sierra Leone’s astute lawyers-Francis Ben Kaifala has dismissed the miscalculated and flawed press statement issued yesterday, 29th March 2018.

Lawyer Kaifala said it is correct that the Attorney General and Minister of Justice-Joseph F. Kamara is not the Legal Adviser to the National Electoral Commission. “His assertion that it is within his “purview” to write to NEC on the issue is, with respect, wholly incorrect and misplaced. His advice is unsolicited and misdirected.”

CONSTITUTIONAL MANDATES
The Human Rights Commission of Sierra Leone was established by an Act of Parliament No. 9 of 2004 to protect and promote human rights, monitor and document violations of human rights and to publish an annual report on the state of human rights in the country.

With such sacred mandates, the Human Rights Commission was not created to serve as a surrogate for the ruling All People’s Congress and the main opposition Sierra Leone People’s Party. Over the years, the Commission has been seriously criticised by many Sierra Leoneans for keeping sealed lips on national issues such as the many human rights violations by the Sierra Leone Police or state functionaries.

Sierra Leoneans have criticised the interference of the Commission on the recent High Court ruling/orders, instructing the National Electoral Commission (NEC) to be fully compliant with what many called an “irregular order.” In fact CARL’s Executive Director says any order that is inconsistent with the law and Principles of Natural Justice is null and void and ought to be set aside as of right.

Lawyer Tommy insisted that all orders must reflect the law of the country. According to him, “no Court can amend an Act of Parliament” but rather interpret or “do a construct” of an Act of Parliament.

COMMISSIONER RASHID DUMBUYA
One thing that has come out clearly is that the Human Rights Commission is allowing its reputation to be dragged into the mud by ruling the All People’s Congress Party (APC). In as much as those Commissioners, such as Rashid DumbuyaEsq. is reportedly a member of the APC-led Government, he should not be more Catholic than the Pope.

At Fourah Bay Colleague-University of Sierra Leone, Commissioner Rashid Dumbuya was an active member of the APC Students’ wing. As a colleague, he was a Minister serving under the Presidency of Abu Komeh. Many know that he was an active participant in the FBC body politic and by extension theNational Union of APC Students(NUAS).

Sierra Leoneans should not be surprised at his recent role/s to advocate on behalf of the ruling APC. He was given scholarship and later compensated with a job at Human Rights Commission. If Lawyer Dumbuya has denounced such membership (APC), it will be dealt with in the next edition. At the moment, he cannot be reached.

FLAWED HIGH COURT RULING
In an ex-parte application, Lawyer LansanaDumbaya,on behalf of his client (a member of the APC), prayed among other things for a forensic audit and manual recount of the elections results of March 7.At the High Court, presided over by Justice Abdul RahmanMansaray, the National Electoral Commission (NEC), through its lawyers, objected that the High Court lacks inherent and unlimited jurisdiction to hear and sit on the matter

The Judge slammed an interim injunction restraining NEC from conducting the run-off election, which he later vacated. It heralded nine more Orders which are mostly enshrined in the Public Elections Act of 2012. PMDC’s Chairman described the ruling as flawed.

JUSTICE BROWNE MARKE’S SUPREME COURT ORDER
At the Supreme Court, the empaneled Judges-Justice Browne Marke and four other Justices – it came out very unambiguously that the interim injunction that was granted by JusticeMansaray was not procedural and irregular.
Justice Browne Marke asked Lawyer Dumbuya, “Are you saying that the matter was not argued and the Judge went ahead to grant an interim injunction?” Lawyer Dumbuya admitted and apologised for such incompetence and disregard for proper Court proceedings.

In Justice Browne Marke’snote, on figure No. 4, heemphasised that, “No argument was heard in Lower Court.”

BLATANT VIOLATION OF THE LAW

The Public Elections Act of 2012 Section 52 (1) states: “After the expiration of the time fixed for polling, the votes shall be counted, polling station by polling station and each Presiding Officer shall as soon as possible after the votes have been counted, certify, through the regional offices of the Electoral Commission, to the Returning Officer, the result of the counting, stating the number of valid votes cast in favour of each presidential candidate.”

Sub Section 2 went further to state that,“As soon as possible after receipt of the result of the counting of votes under subsection (I), the Returning Officer shall tally and compute the results certified to him by the various Presiding Officers and shall after that declares the result of the election.”

In essence, Section 45 (1) of the Sierra Leone Constitution made it abundantly clear that the Chief Electoral Commissioner shall be the Returning Officer. Section 94 (4b) of the Public Elections Act, which has beenoverhyped, makesa strong and strict reference to Section 52 in so far as election for President is concerned.
The unanswered question is, why tryto gloss over section 52 and make it redundant?

RIGGING PROPABILITY
If Section 52 of the Public Elections Act is ignored and replaced with 94, there is high possibility of electoral malpractices not being detected by the Chief Returning Officer, whose remit presidential election lies. Rigging will become easier at the lower level as the NEC officials will be easily influenced without protection.The wards and constituencies are susceptible to malpractices by our politicians, especially those trumpeting Section 94.

Why undermine the sacred duties of NEC? Why tryto tamper with the constitutional mandate/s of the NEC Returning Officer? With no strings attached, allow NEC to go by the law and provide full monitoring to avoid ballot stuffing or electoral malpractices.

This is The Pen of The Voiceless Sierra Leoneans
with ElkassSannoh

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