Deputy Minister of Information and Communications, Cornelius Deveaux, has denied claims in an article published yesterday in the opposition Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP) Unity newspaper, headlined “For not proposing more time/third time in new constitution, APC government starves CRC of funds”.
He was speaking to newsmen at the Ministry of Information and Communications conference room at Youyi Building in Freetown.
He denied claims by the opposition newspaper that the government was starving the Constitutional Review Committee (CRC) of funds because the abridged version of their report failed to include a ‘more time or third time’ clause for the incumbent president.
The deputy minister said ‘more time’ had never been the intention of President Ernest Bai Koroma, adding that on several occasions the president had made it clear he does not intend to seek a minute beyond constitutional requirement.
He said the article was intended to undermine donor confidence not only in the CRC process but other donor funded projects.
Deveaux noted that since the CRC released the abridged version of the constitution the government was yet to make an official statement because they believe that the process of reviewing the constitution was the business of people in the country.
He stated that government expects that civil society organisations and other interest groups would make their input by way of comments regarding the abridged report.
According to him, the government has been disappointed that few concerns have been raised about the abridged version from CSOs and other interest groups, and urged the latter to send their contributions to the committee, which is headed by respected retired judge and ombudsman, Justice Edmond Cowan.
He said government was committed to give the CRC financial, technical and administrative support in ensuring a successful outcome of the review process.
The deputy information minister continued that the process of reviewing the constitution was initiated by former President of Sierra Leone, late Alhaji Ahmed Tejan Kabba, following recommendation by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) report.
He encouraged Sierra Leoneans to take a look at the abridged version of the constitution and endorse issues that are of national interest and importance to national development and comment on issues they think should not be part of the constitution.
However, editor of the Unity newspaper, Abubakarr Joe Sesay, told Concord Times in a telephone interview that their story was true and accurate and that as an opposition party they have a legitimate interest in the review of the 1991 Constitution, which he adds “must stand the test of time.”
He says they have proof that the budget to complete the review of the constitution had been significantly slashed by the government, ostensibly because some elements within the ruling party were not happy with recommendations in the abridged CRC report, including that which proscribes the president to sack his vice and a bar on anyone who has served two terms under the current constitution to run again under the new one.
We cannot independently verify the claim as we were unable to speak to officials at the CRC secretariat.
But what is beyond contention is the fact that the CRC has missed the deadline to submit their final report to government, apparently because of lack of funds to complete nationwide validation of the draft abridged report, following its publication few weeks ago, which was openly criticised by Mr. Deveaux and other ruling party apparatchiks.