By Melvin Tejan Mansaray
Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Frank Kargbo has reacted positively to the Sierra Leone Parliament ratification of the proclamation of the Public State of Emergency made by President Ernest Bai Koroma to control the Ebola outbreak.
Speaking in an interview with journalists; he said that his impression on the Parliamentary debate exercise of approval is a ‘victory for common sense and nationalism.’
He said the opposition found it difficult to have a sensible counter argument and had to avoid party politics for a national interest to prevail.
Frank Kargbo said that proposition by some MPs to use existing laws of the 1960 Public Health Ordinances does not subsist for the fact that the law was not meant to tackle issues like the Ebola epidemic.
“This law was not made to control over thousands of people, a whole area or an entire country. Health Ordinance is not applicable and can’t be used instead of a public emergency. Public emergency is the best way to tackle the issue particularly when most of the restrictions have been lifted. The key issue is that we need a legal framework for people who might misbehave in the Ebola process, without emergency regulations we will not be able to prosecute those persons violating. Without emergency we can’t be able to take firm action against violators. Definitely, it good that the regulations have been approved,” the AG reemphasized the government’s position.
The Attorney General said that the President has no hidden agenda to extend state of emergency and cited that the international community and partners have commended the government and President Koroma’s astute leadership exemplified in the responses and stride against Ebola. He said: “he has no reason whatsoever to be false to himself or the people; President Koroma is not that kind of person. I think we very much need the public emergency.”
On his concerns or honest opinion on the relevance of the extension of the state of emergency, Frank Kargbo said he does not have a personal opinion. “If I express any opinion it is the government’s position,” he said and added that physical issues of the government preparation for any future outbreak is not a strong case.
The AG said: “better clinics, more ambulances, more trained personnel, are physical; but the legal framework in containing people with possibility of spreading Ebola, the question here is how you will deal with people who willfully infect another person with Ebola. You need punishment and that can only be made possible through the law.”
However, Frank Kargbo said it is his role to argue and put government case across in any situation necessary but noted that democracy makes room for different opinions at different platforms including social media.
AG Kargbo said: “I think the approach taken by Parliament is the right way, a national approach. To the extent that government has attained it objective, I feel fulfill.” He appealed to the public to wish not for another extension and stated; “if Ebola ends we don’t need state of emergency. After 42 days end we will look into the issue and come back to the nation on that. It might be a threshold that will trigger the end of state of emergency. If there is no Ebola we will reconsider the position of lifting the emergency.”