Our Speaker Does Not Need to Be A Lawyer

19 July 2006 at 23:22 | 712 views

By Alpha Saidu Bangura, Atlanta, Georgia

Having gone over the constitution of Sierra Leone(Act no. 6 of 1991), I believe that parliament should revisit section 79 of our constitution because I know that it does not make any sense. By my interpretation, section 79 says that the speaker must be a very experienced lawyer of a very long standing.

Taking into deep consideration the fact that the job of the speaker is to preside over the proceedings of parliament , and that such proceedings are governed by standing orders, I don’t think we need a lawyer for that job.

We need somebody who has the ability to read and properly interpret the standing orders. Let us remember that the Hon. William Conteh was a speaker of our parliament and he was not a lawyer, but he discharged his duties well. Hon. William Conteh presided over the debate that brought in the present constitution.

This is not only unique to Sierra Leone. Here in the United States Of America, congress has elected very distinguished speakers who were not lawyers. To me, it makes no sense for us to take one of the few judges we have from our superior courts to become speaker of parliament,when we have competent members of parliament who can do that job well.

Section 80 of the constitution states that the deputy speaker of parliament does not need to be a lawyer. The present deputy speaker Hon. Elizabeth Lavalie is an accountant, but she sometimes takes the place of the speaker, whenever the speaker is absent.

All reasonable minds will agree with me that both the speaker and his principal assistant must have the same qualifications.

Some Sierra Leoneans believe that we need a lawyer as speaker because parliament is the highest court of our land. That thinking is wrong, the highest court in Sierra Leone is our supreme court not parliament. The job of parliament is to make laws.

I hope that our members of parliament will look into this matter and make the much needed correction.