…judge refuses to grant injunction
January 19, 2017 By Patrick Jaiah Kamara&Ragina Pratt
The High Court of Sierra Leone, presided over by Justice Desmond Babatunde Edwards, has refused to grant an interlocutory injunction prayed for by a faction within the Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP), canvassed by their lawyer, Sulaiman Bajan Tejan-Sie,to put a hold on national delegates conventionslated for this February.
Justice Edwards instead ordered a speedy trial of the matter.
Late last year, a trio of disgruntled party members filed a suit in the High Court seeking to prevent regional primaries from going ahead as planned, alleging gross irregularities in 39 constituencies where lower level elections had been held. They prayed that the court declare the said elections null and void and order fresh elections.
On the last adjourned date, the immediate erstwhile Secretary General of the opposition party, lawyer Tejan-Siefiled a fresh application for an interlocutory injunction that would restrain the other faction from going ahead with national delegates’ conference and any other regional elections.
However, Justice Edwards stated in his ruling that the plaintiffs ought to have deposed that there was sufficient justifiable evidence for the interlocutory injunction to be granted, including possible injury they would sufferif not granted, adding that in the absence of that the application should not be granted.
“I have considered the application for an interlocutory injunction requested by the plaintiffs and the objections thereto. However, the application is hereby refused pending the hearing and determination of the substantive suit. I thereby order a speedy one day trial on Wednesday 25, January 2017,” he ruled.
While reviewing arguments and counter-arguments of opposing counsel, Justice Edwards told the court that the plaintiffs had late last year instituted an action, seeking to render constituency elections held as part of primaries a nullity. The trial judge refused to grant that on the basis that there was no adequate undertaking suggested by the plaintiffs.
Justice Edwards noted that the plaintiffs’ counsel must have stated clearly the balance of convenience in his quest for an interlocutory injunction. He thus ordered the plaintiffs to file an undertaking on the merit of their case and as to any damages they could incur should they go on to win the case, as demanded by law.
The judge noted that for him to agree with the plaintiffs that the party’s primary elections that elect delegates violate the 1995 SLPP Constitution and threaten internal democracy there must be sufficient evidence to corroborate their claims.
He stated that the plaintiffs’ counselalso failed to provide sufficient evidence to support the allegations that their clients were disenfranchised in the primary elections in the 39 constituencies.
“It is clear that there has been a claim as to the plaintiffs’ constitutional rights being denied but the defendants are saying that they did not violate their rights and the plaintiffs’ counsel have not furnish the court supporting evidence,” he said.
According to the judge, the defendants dismissed allegations of disenfranchising the plaintiffs, stating that it was the plaintiffs that refused to participate in the said elections.
He agreed with the plaintiffs that there were serious questions to be tried regarding allegations of violations of their constitutional rights in the conduct of the primary elections.
Justice Edwards underscored that when granting an interlocutory injunction the court has to thoroughly look into the matter before determining whether it was necessary and sufficient remedy, adding that without that consideration it ought to be refused.
“It is also necessary to know whether the granting of an interlocutory injunction was relevant and convenient for parties to an action based on the undertakings filed,” he said.
Addressing journalists outside the courtafter the judgment, lead counsel for the defendants, lawyer Umaru Napoleon Koroma expressed confidence that they would win the substantive case.
“The plaintiffs came to court and asked for an injunction. We argued over our submissions in which Justice Edwards has delivered his ruling that he will not grant the injunction, but rather ordered a speedy trial to determine all the issues that they are in court [for]. We are confident of winning the case,” he said.
The plaintiffs in the matter are Alusine Bangura, Alex Kargbo and Victor Sheriff. They had filed their joint suit against the party’s National Chairman and Leader, Secretary General and four Vice Regional Chairpersons who supervised conduct of the 10th December lower level elections.
The defendants are being represented by lawyer Umaru Napoleon Koroma, Musa Mewa, JusuKallon, Joseph E. Kapuwa and three others, while Sulaiman Banja Tenjan-Sie and team represent the plaintiff.
Meanwhile, the atmosphere in the court yesterday was calm as only few party supporters were seen in court. Some of them might have been stopped from entering the court premises by the tight security presence around the Law Courts Building, in an apparent response to violence as rival factions clashed on January 9, leading to Western Area Chairlady,AlfredaYeamaKassay, allegedly sustaining a gunshot wound.