Kudos to SLPP MPs for Walking Out on Petroleum Exploration Bill

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If not for the staged walkout of Parliamentarians of the Sierra Leone’s People Party (SLPP) on the Executive’s Proposed Petroleum Exploration and Production (PPEP) Bill the public would be totally unaware of the Government’s intention to pass such an important piece of legislation. The PPEP Bill was tabled by Minister of Trade Richard Konteh under a ‘ certificate of emergency’ and the bill was passed in Parliament to much grumbling from the SLPP. The Minority Leader, Hon. Pujeh said that “the bill needed serious scrutiny and public sensitization.

Because of the All People’s Congress (APC) majority in the Parliament they were able to pass the Bill sans opposition. However, the President has as of yesterday sent the Bill back to parliament to amend an article in the Act that reserves 5% of the Petroleum Revenues for the Parliamentary Slush Fund, claiming that the article goes against the consitution.

I find it incredibly problematic that such a Bill has been rushed through parliament when many MPs have not had the time to read the Bill, and even more problematic is the fact that experts in the field of petroleum, civil society and the general public have no clue as to its contents.

Clearly if you were to pass an IT Bill, or a Healthcare Bill, in parliament you would not do so without consulting with the public? The issue of Petroluem exploration or production has been the source of war and conflict from the Middle East to as close as Nigeria. Why? Because government legislators are quick to act and all to often make decisions that too heavily favor the investors and national government. Local communities who have direct claim to the area being drilled in this case the people of Pujehun are excluded from the process. In the long run speedy decisions such as this new PPEP Act will leave consequences and problems that will resound long after this government is gone and both the people and investors will suffer.

How democratic is our parliamentary system if Laws can be passed without any participation from the Minority party? If the government has the interests of the people at heart, why cloak the Bill in secrecy? Why not open it up for scrutiny to the public?