APC BEATS SLPP AT CRC
– Justice Cowan Finally Agrees To Do The Right Thing
The Chairman of the Constitutional Review Committee, Justice Edmond Cowan, has reluctantly but rightfully succumbed to the demands of a coalition of representatives of various interest groups led by the ruling APC’s delegation to the committee to first submit the full contents of the draft report to members before they could authenticate it with their signatures for onward forwarding to the Attorney General’s office.
Cowan was very adamant about concealing the full details of the report and had insisted that the 7-page summary was enough for members instead of the 700-page report. But the APC delegates (led by Secretary General Ambassador Osman Yansaneh, Publicity Secretary Hon. Alpha Kanu and NAC member Hon. Ibrahim Ben Kargbo) stood their ground and asserted that making the full report available was the right and decent thing to do.
At a re-convened plenary meeting yesterday Tuesday 29 November, tempers flared over the issue, and the main opposition SLPP delegation, which had been backing Cowan in keeping the full report from the delegates, walked out of the meeting in fury. However, the APC delegates and other representatives kept calm and asked Cowan to do the right thing. According to in-house information, Cowan threatened to resign if they insisted; and they told him to go ahead. He however had second thoughts and acknowledged that it was appropriate to release the full report to committee members.
The APC subsequently called a press conference at 3pm yesterday to explain what transpired.
After tensions had risen over the release of the full report of the reviewed Constitution to members of political parties including the APC, the Constitutional Review Committee (CRC) has finally agreed, through a vote, to make available the full report. A couple of other parties supported the motion but the opposition SLPP abandoned the hall, the APC has told newsmen at a briefing held in its offices on Old Railway Line, Freetown.
The Publicity Secretary of the APC, Alhaji Alpha Khan, told journalists that the APC is a transparent party which was why they called a ‘putting-the-records-straight’ briefing.
He said, in taking part in a process whose final stage required signatures, the accompanying document should be presented to be read to ensure that what was talked about and agreed upon was there “and that’s the position of the APC.” He referred to APC as the ‘Constitution builder’ as it had enacted constitutional instruments since 1971, including the 1991 Constitution under review. He said President Koroma on his own volition re-initiated the review process considering the duration from 1991 to 2016 and decided to establish the ‘Constitutional Review Commission and Constitutional Consultative Commission’ comprising of eighty members.
In his statement, the Secretary General of the APC pointed out that the APC has no desire whatsoever to stall a process it commenced in 2013 through a proclamation by President Koroma with vivid terms of reference to the CRC. He added that they did not limit their activities in Freetown alone but said they went to the provinces and in fact some of them went out of the country- Ghana and Kenya.
He enjoined that on 3rd October, the secretariat presented what they called a final draft report of the CRC in three folds: an Executive Summary of about seven pages, part of the Draft Report which should be a seven hundred page document but were only given about three hundred pages, and a Draft Bill, which he said was not within the purview or remit of the CRC. He said he participated fully in the process before travelling abroad, only to return and be told that his signature was being awaited to be appended.
“But I needed to get everything including the raw data. Therefore, we specifically wanted the chairman and the secretariat of the CRC to reconvene a plenary session so that some of the problems raised could be addressed. And for us and the Government, there’s a very thin line; but throughout the process at the CRC, we assumed a neutral independent posture. We told the CRC that it would be unreasonable to sign without getting the entire report. The CRC was unprepared to give us the raw data including the audio/video recording. But the chairman was unprepared and as far as he was concerned, that was the final document and end of the process and no going back”, the Secretary General narrated.
He said the Party eventually wrote a letter to the chairman asking for provision of all the documents. Eventually, the chairman agreed to convene an extraordinary plenary meeting on 29th November but which the chairman refused and was chaired by the Executive Secretary.
They arrived at a conclusion that the primordial importance was the full report and, after a vote, the majority were in support of making the report available to all members. Chairman Cowan accepted, the APC scribe told curious journalists.
He said the APC will peruse the full report and sign it, to be possibly accompanied with a supplement to highlight any issues they might have concerns about.
© The Torchlight Newspaper