Sierra Leone Parliament: Holds first virtual state opening globally

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Sierra Leone Parliament: Holds first virtual state opening globally

June 12th, 2020

Since COVID-19 first arrived in Sierra Leone, the Government has taken key measures to counter the pandemic including declaring a state of public emergency, issuing a ban on public gatherings, and travelling, and suspending all religious activities.

In Parliament, the Speaker asked political party leaders to only have half of their members in the chambers, to avoid congestion and to mitigate the risk of spreading the disease. However, this was met with some criticism from members, who all wanted to be in the chamber.

On 28th May 2020, WFD and the Ministry of Information and Communication in Sierra Leone supported the Parliament in holding its first virtual State opening. This marked the formal start of a new parliamentary year, which is the Fifth Parliament of the Second Republic of Sierra Leone.

The decision to move to an online state opening was to ensure that the Parliament fulfils an essential constitutional element that maintains the sessions of Parliament as described by the Constitution of Sierra Leone (1991).

During the virtual state opening, the President delivered his speech on the Government’s agenda for the coming session, outlining proposed policies and legislation actions.

According to the Constitution, if there is no State Opening, Parliament will cease to exist because there is no prorogation and if that happens, the Government of Sierra Leone will cease to operate indefinitely. If that happened, the country would be put into political turmoil.

Within a week, the civil society organisations and the national media were discussing the President’s speech, which encourages citizen’s view in the process.

“Collaborating with WFD in supporting Parliament is a very good stride as this is a significant progress scored in Parliamentary democracy. We will love to take this partnership forward, let us engage further”

          Says the Minister of Information and Communications in Sierra Leone.

Not only has WFD’s support for the virtual state opening of Parliament prevented a governmental collapse, but it has also enabled civil society organisations and citizens to hold Parliament and the government accountable, thus preventing the temporary loss of democratic space in Sierra Leone during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

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