P’ment Extends Emergency Laws for 90 Days

Parliament yesterday extended public emergency laws for a further 90 days after heated deliberations by lawmakers representing the ruling party and opposition.

Prior to the extension, there had been calls from the opposition and some civil society groups for the rules to be relaxed at least in places which have gone for more than one hundred days without recording any new cases, and to ease economic hardship of citizens.

The latest extension means the laws have been in place since 21 August 2014, almost ten months when they were first passed as part of measures to stem the spread of the Ebola virus in the country.

During the fierce debate in Parliament, lawmakers representing the majority party, the All Peoples Congress, threw their full support for an extension, while their counterparts in the minority party, the Sierra Leone Peoples Party, called for a review of certain regulations and restrictions.

Hon. Paran Umar Tarawally from Bo District said the Public Health Emergency was declared by the President and ratified by Parliament because of the Ebola outbreak, and that some of the constitutional instruments used to enforce the regulation should be reviewed because the country was experiencing a significant decrease in new cases.

“Every Sierra Leonean will argue that the situation has changed drastically with only two districts recording minor cases,” Hon. Tarawally said, adding that the decision to stop trading at 6pm from Monday to Saturday, and the entire day on Sunday, was costing this nation a monumental loss of income. He thus called for a careful look at the constitutional instrument.

The firebrand opposition MP recalled that Kailahun and Kenema were locked down and strict measures imposed thus restricting the movement of people last year when they were epicenters of the virus.

He questioned that if such action was taken against the two districts then the government should do same in Kambia and Port Loko, although he noted that his submission was not against the Public Health Emergency but in favour of a review.

Hon. P.C. Brima Victor S. Kebbie from Pujehun District spoke in support of the motion and suggested that government should continue the 6pm ban on trading even during post-Ebola. He said the submission by Hon. Tarawally to isolate Kambia and Port Loko was “an unfair approach” and urged his colleagues to support the motion for the good of all and sundry.

Hon. Isata Kabia from Port Loko District said Public Health Emergency regulations were applied across the country and not in one region or district. She said Sierra Leoneans were tired and exhausted fighting the Ebola epidemic for over a year, but maintained that, “If these last 90 days will help us say good bye to Ebola, I want us to fully support the motion.”

Hon. Chernoh R.M. Bah, Deputy Speaker, said there was need to revisit the regulation but argued that the new extension should first be endorsed before a review would be done.

Deputy Minority Leader, Hon. Ansumana Jaiah Kaikai, told the House how police officers were taking aantage of the regulations to dispossess poor market women of their wares.

“How can police go to the extent of fighting Ebola under the bedroom of poor traders?” he queried, noting that such was a common occurrence in Pujehun District.

Source : Concord Times