By Ishmael Sallieu Koroma
Christian Lawyers Centre (LEGAL LINK) a human rights organisation operating in Sierra Leone has in an open letter dated 26th August and addressed to the Chief Electoral Commissioner, Mohamed Nfa Alie Conteh, urged the National Electoral Commission (NEC) to show the extant law that supports their cancellation of the entire parliamentary re-run elections held on 24th August in Constituency 110.
In the strongly worded letter, the organisation noted that they wrote to NEC out of a deep sense of cosmic responsibility and moral rectitude at a time when majority of the country’s pressure groups and civil society organizations have gone reticent over such travesty of justice.
According to the letter, LEGAL LINK felt obligated to stand tall and be the voice of conscience and mouthpiece of the nation over what he referred to as all-important subject.
“We are in receipt of your Press statement dated 25th August 2019 in which you cancelled the entire re-run Parliamentary election in Constituency 110 held on the 24th of August 2019.According to your Press Statement, this action was taken by the National Electoral Commission (NEC) because violence erupted during the course of the polls at the Sarah Modern Preparatory School polling centre which led to the destruction of ten ballot boxes and other electoral materials,’’ the letter recalls.
It continued that based on the reasons provided by NEC, they at LEGAL LINK have taken the pains to search out all the legal references cited by the commission in their Press Statement of 25th August 2019 and also other governing laws on elections at the international, regional and domestic levels.
“We make bold to say that there is no clear or expressed provision in any legal framework be it at the international, regional or domestic level that supports your action to cancel an entire Parliamentary election.Against this backdrop, LEGAL LINK feels compelled to reach out to you and afford you a second chance to make clear to the nation which legal framework or section thereof that was invoked by you in arriving at your cancellation decision. As we await your reply and clarification, let us seize this opportunity to bring to your kind attention and by extension the public some basic awareness on the electoral laws governing the conduct of elections in Sierra Leone since education seems to be vital in all of what has happened,’’ the letter reads.
Lawyer Rashid cited laws bearing and touching on elections at the international, local and regional level and therefore concluded with the ones at the National level, to showcase to the NEC boss that he acted ultra vires (beyond the powers conferred on him by law).
“At the domestic level, there are a plethora of legal, institutional and policy frameworks that have been established for the smooth and efficient conduct of public elections in Sierra Leone. These frameworks include, the 1991 Constitution of Sierra Leone,the Constitution of Sierra Leone Amendment Act of 2001,the Electoral Laws Act of 2002,the National Electoral Commission Act of 2002,the Public Elections Act of 2012,the Political Parties Act of 2002,the Local Government Act of 2004,the Election Petition Rules of 2007,the National Civil Registration Act of 2016,the Chieftaincy Act of 2007,Wards (Boundary Delimitation) Regulations, 2008.’’
The letter argued that there was no express provision stated in all the above legal and policy frameworks that gives NEC the authority, right or power to cancel an entire election.
They letter reiterated that LEGAL LINK strongly avers that such decision falls exclusively within the jurisdiction of the High Court of Sierra Leone as provided for under Ssections 146 and 147 of the Public Elections Act of 2012 respectively.
“At the very least, the farthest NEC can go in terms of cancellation of an election is limited only to a polling station where over voting has occurred. This is so stated in section 87 of the Public Elections Act 2012.”
The Human Rights group stated that it will amount to a complete waste of tax payers money if the decision of NEC is not reversed within the shortest possible time, adding that the conduct of elections, no doubt, requires not only huge amounts of money, time and energy but much more a higher degree of fairness, impartiality and integrity by the referee conducting the elections.
They urged the NEC boss to think about all of what they have stated in the open letter and do the right thing for the sake of transparency, justice, fairness and the peace of the country.
‘’Finally, and in the interest of transparency and accountability, please do not also forget to mention in your reply the actual winner of the Parliamentary re-run elections of 24th August 2019 since you already know the difference in result between the first and second contestants,” the open letter ended.