24th September 2017
Society for Democratic Initiative Boss Unhappy with Parliament and Police
By the Ranger (09/06/17)
The Chief Executive Director of Society for Democratic Initiative has blasted parliament and the police for not praising NGOs and CSOs.
This performance report dated Thursday 25th May 2017 looks at the role played by the various organisations in national development and the impact of state interference into their operations. (Pictured: Speaker of Parliament Honourable Dumbuya, centre).
Speaking at the ceremony, Chief Executive Director of SDI, lawyer Emmanuel Saffa Abdulai, commended the work done so far by NGOs and CSOs. He explained that the aim of the SDI is to produce this report yearly but that due to some constraints they have not been able to do so since the first publication and that this is the second report.
“The SDI,” he said, “will endeavour to produce it as planned.” Giving an overview of the report the SDI boss said that government interference over the years has threatened the space of CSOs.
In this regard, he mentioned the NGO Act of 2016 in which government seeks an inclusion in the operations of CSOs and NGOs. The government puts an unnecessary burden on CSOs as to what to do and how they should operate. He maintained that it is the duty of CSOs to hold governments to account and not the other way round.
Thus for Parliament to call NGOs and CSOs to account for the funds received from their partners and donors, is an act to silence them by intimidation. Parliament, he went, on has their role whilst CSOs have theirs and any attempt to curb the power of the CSOs is unacceptable and is a threat to the space of the organisations to operate freely. Mention was made of certain members of CSOs who were summoned before the house because of their work, which is to hold government accountable to the people.
On the issue of Freedom of Assembly, Emmanuel Saffa Abdulai said that the attitude of the police is out dated, draconian and not necessary in a Democracy. Citizens have the right to process and what is deemed by the police as asking permission for the holding of any procession is a misunderstanding of the law.
What citizens do when they go to the police on any matter of procession is that they are only asking the police to provide them with security for the procession and not asking for a permit. The constitution of Sierra Leone gives citizens the right to process without seeking permission from the police to do so. This right is being flouted always by the police, he added. Mention was made of the denial by the police of the right of the Renaissance Movement to process on the basis of security.
The CEO further disclosed that every citizen has a right to belong to any political party as well as not to belong to any. They also have the right to disagree with government on any issue. Therefore the heavy handed method used against citizens by politicians with the help of the police infringes on the rights of citizens and not good for any Democracy.
He called on the judiciary to step up on how they deny bail in politically sensitive matters. People he said, have the right to disagree with what government is doing as in the cases of Multi-National companies operating in the provinces where the land of the indigenes are used without the full consent of the people. Several examples of such companies was given where fracas has erupted between the owners of the land and the companies; ADDAX in Bombali and OCTEA in Kono.
He concluded by saying that the SDI and others have advocated for the review of the NGO Act in order to provide the enabling environment for CSOs and NGOs to operate freely according to the law and the International treaties signed by government.