Friday, April 27, 2007

Democracy Sierra Leone holds Talks on Constitutional Review

In consonant with its objectives, Democracy Sierra Leone, a coalition of civil society organizations working towards promoting democracy and human rights in Sierra Leone last Friday, 20th April 2007 held a conference of stakeholders to review progress made so far by the Law Reform Commission regarding its mandate to review the National Constitution.

The conference provided the opportunity for a cross section of the citizenry, represented by a number of civil society groups to get first hand information into what has been added, reformed, deleted in the new constitution.

The Chairman of Democracy Sierra Leone, Sirajin Rolling Kamara, submitted that it is his organization’s objective to ensure "optimum input" of Sierra Leoneans into the ongoing decision making process.

Mr. Aiah Khibanje, Chairman of Sierra Leone Association of NGOs (SLANGO), informed the conference that the amendments in the current Constitution, which spans from the issue of naturalization to the protection of freedom of expression and the press, are fundamental ingredients for the maintenance of a democratic state, and expressed hope that the Reform Commission has adequately addressed. Mr. Khibanje emphasized that if only there could be a draft of the reviewed constitution that entertains inputs from the public, he expressed belief that it would bolster information in the constitution since it would have reflected the interest of the citizenry. "Once that is entertained, then we would be assured that our rights as citizens would be protected by the Constitution," Mr. Khibanje stated.

During plenary, participants raised a number of questions relating to the review exercise and what could possibly be entailed in the final document to be presented to the public. The issue of whether to hold a referendum along side the July 28th Presidential and Parliamentary Elections was also raised.

Clarifications were made on the respective issues raised by the participants, which were recorded by the Reform Commission’s representatives.

In his closing courtesies, DSL Chairman, Sirajin Rolling Kamara expressed his organization’s interest in the welfare of the majority of Sierra Leoneans, and pointed out that DSL will soon engage in the sensitization of communities on the Law Reform Commission’s activity of reviewing the National Constitution and what are at stake foe reform in the eyes of the people. He disclosed that DSL will be coming with suggestions from the people, which he said he hoped would have space in the reviewed draft. He said DSL will take the Constitutional Review campaign to all the 149 Chiefdoms in the country because according to him, "most of the people out there do not know anything about what is going on concerning their National Constitution," he said.

On the issue of referendum, the conference opposed the idea of holding a referendum now and submitted that it would not be in the interest of the generality of the citizenry since they would not be adequately informed on what they would be voting on.

Link to Democracy Sierra Leone holds Talks on Constitutional Review: Sierra Leone News