• April 17, 2023

CITIZENS WANT NEW HEADS FOR ECSL, PPRC

CITIZENS WANT NEW HEADS FOR ECSL, PPRC
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Losing trust and confidence in the dubious work of the leadership of the Electoral Commission for Sierra Leone (ECSL) and the Political Parties’ Regulation Commission (PPRC), Sierra Leoneans from across the globe have continued to call for the replacement of the chairmen of the ECSL and PPRC.

Demands for change registered so far are urgent in that if the necessary steps are not taken moving forward into the electioneering process and restore public trust and confidence in the system, the outcome of the election on June 24 will be disastrously affected.

In view of such doubts about the credibility of particularly Mohamed Kenewui Konneh of the ECSL, in the handling of pre-election programmes and activities, the people have however raised eyebrows thus calling for immediate leadership reforms at the PPRC and the ECSL.

The pro-ruling class leaderships of the ECSL and the PPRC have come under fierce criticisms by the public, Civil Society Organizations and opposition parties since their appointment unilateral by President Julius Maada Bio, and approval by the House of Parliament of the Republic of Sierra Leone.

Criticisms backed by fears about the independence, neutrality and imposition of the two SLPP members continue to hit the news stand. Yet, these persons remain the overseers of the critical offices of the election commission and the Political Parties Regulation Commission. The ruling party’s excessive control over such critical state institutions has led to a situation where in, for instance, the PPRC initiated and influenced the recent ban on political rallies in the country, pointing out all manners of crooked reasons to justify the ban, which brings to mind the Biblical saying that even the devil cite the scriptures to fit its purpose.

No doubt, the commission’s decision is being widely described as violations of the fundamental human and constitutional rights of citizens. Also, a decision for which, through media platforms, citizens have been calling on development partners to help them with credible interim managers for the conduct of the electoral process as they no longer trust Mohamed Konneh of the ECSL, as well as lawyer Abdulai Masianday Bangurah of the PPRC.

Formed significant part of electioneering campaign culture, political rallies have traditionally been platforms where political parties, local and international media interact with the electorate since the reintroduction of multi-party democracy in Sierra Leone in 1996. The PPRC’s ban of political rallies is unconstitutional.  And Bangurah’s decision has brought the PPRC unwarranted criticisms that even questions his neutrality, integrity, fairness, and credibility as a chairman of the commission with its bad law. For the PPRC to also halt the Unity Party from holding their National Delegates’ Conference is undemocratic and totally unacceptable.

These glaring unethical and conflict of interest situation constantly unfolding has potential to adversely affect the outcome of a credible June polls. The highly critical minded Sierra Leonean people and, of course, the populace are therefore calling for the respectful resignations of lawyer Abdulai Masianday Bangurah of the PPRC, from his position and save the sinking image of the State House-controlled commission.

Similarly, the Chairman and National Residing Officer of the ECSL, Mohamed Kenewui Konneh, is no exemption to these trending doubts about public trust, confidence and the question of his credibility, as the principal manager of the June 24 election. His biased conduct in relating only with and to the directives of the incumbent has also left citizens with no option but to call for his resignation to allow the conduct of a credible election. Konneh from the onset of the process has always managed a faulty system and processes to the detriment of the electorate and opposition political parties.

The specifics of biasness range from ECSL’s selective media engagements, to his deliberate refusals to enhance public education on the processes such as the controversial voters’ registration, verifications of data, and the collections of the faulty voter identity cards. Inconsistencies with the prescribed card ordered for the June 24 polls, caused by compromised of procurement procedures, led to the production of substandard black and white voter ID cards.

Prior to preparations for the June election, ECSL has always dipped itself into suspicions of alleged manipulations of by-election results in places such as Bafodia, Koinadugu district, Tonko Limba in Kambia district, Samaia Bendugu in Tonkolili district and in Constituency 110 in the Western Rural district in favour of the ruling SLPP. The commission got exposed on several occasions but never stopped its old tricks.

Barely less than a year to the presidential election, Konneh deliberately pushed the Proportional Representation and District Block Electoral Law on opposition parties, in favour of the incumbent.

The above pitfalls and other failings of both men have heightened calls for the urgent replacements of them at the ECSL and the PPRC. Concerns intensified after the undemocratic conducts of both institutions exposed, coupled with the PPRC’s recent ban on political rallies.

In an announcement made Wednesday 5 April 2023, the PPRC claimed that “political rallies have been marred by violence, abusive languages, and threats to political opponents and that all 17 political parties have consented to complying with the ban. But the main opposition All People’s Congress (APC), who are on their way to the Supreme Court of Sierra Leone for legal interpretations of the ban, frowns at the PPRC’s decision. APC National Secretary-General, lawyer Lansana Dumbuya Esq describes the ban as a violation of the rights of their members and supporters. He said there is no way the movements of their supporters from one point to the other can be illegally restricted.

A Human Right lawyer, Sorie Sengbeh Marrah Esq. has also challenged the PPRC for the unlawful decision, describing it as a flagrant abrogation of the fundamental rights of the people. He says the decision is illegal, unlawful, unconstitutional, disrespectful to human rights and unacceptable. Lawyer Marrah opines that ban on political rallies is not the best approach to address the problems of lawlessness.

Nevertheless, the ruling Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) wants it done. For the ruling party it forms part of their clampdown strategies in further silencing critical voices in the already narrowed democratic space. And the PPRC has gone ahead and done the needful by illegally imposing and enforcing the ban on political rallies to satisfy former President Bio.

Political analysts say the lack of integrity in lawyer Bangurah’s personality, especially in carrying out his duties at the PPRC, has dented his credibility and would consequently cause him step aside to allow a credible election.

The resignations of these two election managers are legitimate public concerns based on the drop of standards in both democratic institutions to the lowest ebb under their respective leaderships as Chairmen of the ECSL and that of the PPRC.

With suspicions abound that Mohamed K. Konneh and Bangurah are not neutral, then something needs to be urgently done to restore the lost public trust and confidence of both the ECSL and the PPRC, to enable them to serve as neutral, independent, democratic, and credible institutions that cover all shades of the political divides, not just the ruling SLPP.

By so doing it will come a long way in consolidating Sierra Leone’s democracy.

Besides, observers have opined that until the unfairness of the PPRC and the ECSL Chairmen are highly rusted by the public, there remain huge potentials for undermining the outcome of the June 24 polls, if not urgently addressed.

 

They are both SLPP card carrying members and are always demonstrating their loyalties to their leader and presidential candidate Julius Maada Bio, for whom they are doing all they could to get the upper hand to win the presidential election in the first ballot.

But such double standard by public office holders of especially democratic institutions charged with the legitimate duty of managing periodic elections in Sierra Leone is not good for the growing democracy in the country, and can hardly let democracy be consolidated in this part of planet earth.

FORUM therefore loudly joins the popular call for the resignations of the ECSL Chairman Mohamed Kenewui Konneh and the PPRC Chairman Abdulai Masianday Bangurah from their respective positions to allow true democracy to prevail as required by the laws of Sierra Leone, not by the dictates of Bio and his cohorts.

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