Sierra Leone: APC GOVERNMENT DESPERATE TO VIOLATE THE FUNDAMENTAL HUMAN RIGHTS OF THE PEOPLE OF SIERRA LEONE
By: Lt. Rtd. Lahai Lawrence Leema, SLPP National Publicity Secretary
Toll fees on the only supply route to the provincial areas with out an alternative road is a serious violation of the fundamental human right of citizens. Even if it is 1 cent a citizen or any person is asked to pay he/she is entitled to an alternative route by so doing the constitutional right of the individual to free movement from one place to another would been guaranteed. This is what serious governments do the world over.
Those toll fees if implemented without an alternative route will lead to infraction of section 18 (1) and (3) (a) of the Constitution of Sierra Leone Act №6 of 1991.
Section 18 (1) stipulates “No PERSON SHALL BE DEPRIVED OF HIS FREEDOM OF MOVEMENT, and for the purpose of this section the said freedom means THE RIGHT TO MOVE FREELY THROUGHOUT SIERRA LEONE, THE RIGHT TO RESIDE IN ANY PART OF SIERRA LEONE, THE RIGHT TO ENTER OR LEAVE SIERRA LEONE, AND IMMUNITY FROM EXPULSION FROM SIERRA LEONE”.
While subsection (3 a) provides that “Nothing contained in or done under authority of any law shall be held to be inconsistent with or in contravention of this section to the extent that the law in question makes provision —
(a) which is reasonably required in the interests of defence, public order, … Exception in so far as the provision or, as the case may be, the thing done under the authority thereof is shown not to be REASONABLY JUSTIFIABLE IN A DEMOCRATIC SOCIETY…”
The constitutional provision in subsection 1 emphasizes the point that No PERSON SHALL BE DEPRIVED OF HIS FREEDOM OF MOVEMENT… which points to the fact that no Act of Parliament shall be repugnant with the aforesaid provision.
While the government may want to hide under subsection 3 of section 18 of the 1991 constitution in line with the enactment of Parliament the law relating to the toll road as a cloak to deprive the country’s population of their freedom of movement, nonetheless, the framers were reasonable enough to include exceptional clause to the provision of subsection 3 of section 18 and the said exception is found in the last sentence of paragraph (a) of subsection 3 of section 18 of the Constitution. The said sentence reads thus “… EXPECT IN SO FAR AS THAT PROVISION OR, AS THE CASE MAY BE THE THINGS DONE UNDER THE AUTHORITY THEREOF IS SHOWN NOT TO BE REASONABLY JUSTIFIABLE IN A DEMOCRATIC SOCIETY”.
There is a presumption that the law to every general legal principle lies in the exceptional provision. The exceptional clause therefore in the aforementioned paragraph, guaranteed the rights of the country’s population to their freedom of movement. The rights of citizens in any decent democratic society is protected at all times. Sierra Leone being a democratic state should not be an exception to such sense of decency and international best practices to protect the fundamental Human Rights of it citizens and the general populace.
At a period like this, when 70% of the country’s population is grappling with survival, poverty boldly written on the faces of the average Sierra Leoneans, a period which the APC government itself declared austerity, imposing toll fees on the use of the main supply route to the provincial areas without alternative road, which is a must, especially so that the people have been using this road freely for centuries without any tax imposition, save for the excise duty, is a blatant violation of the people’s fundamental human right of freedom of movement.
Besides the fact that people are deprived of their right to alternative road, not even a quarter of the said road has been constructed and yet the government together with a handpicked civil society group(s) has agreed with the Chinese to start collecting the toll fees months/years before completion of the road itself! This is a blatant conspiracy to defraud the poor people of this country! If this is not broad daylight thieving then nothing else is!
Why should our government connive with the Chinese to further exploit the poor as if the Ebola money wasn’t enough to have quenched the gluttony of government officials!
Apart from the negative effect of depriving citizens of their fundamental human right to freedom of movement, imposing toll fees without alternative road also has serious social and economic implications for the country’s deprived population, especially for those in the provincial areas. This in itself further contradicts the spirit and intendment of paragraph (a) of subsection 3 of section 18 of the Sierra Leone 1991 Constitution, especially the highlighted considerations in the said paragraph such as “…defence, public safety, public order…”
In light of the foregoing and considering my role under section 35 (1) and my duties as a citizen under section 13 paragraph (f and i) of the 1991 Constitution of Sierra Leone, I am on behalf of my party, the Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) and the people of Sierra Leone calling on the APC government to strongly consider providing the people of Sierra Leone a motorable alternative route to the provinces before venturing into implementing the toll fees on the only supply route to the provincial areas otherwise I sense implementation will lead to positive disobedience and chaos on the side of the masses!
I therefore call on the Sierra Leone Bar Association, relevant Civil Society Organizations and the international Community to join the SLPP in appealing to the conscience of the Sierra Leone Government to provide motorable alternative road to the people of Sierra Leone before implementing the toll fees on the only supply route to the provincial areas.