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‘Dismiss SLPP, PMDC petition’

- Defence asks Supreme Court …says plaintiffs lack locus

July 20, 2015 By Hassan Gbassay Koroma

Lawyer Berthan Macauley Jr. has asked the Supreme Court of Sierra Leone to dismiss a petition filed by two opposition parties for an interpretation of whether the president has any constitutional right to unilaterally sack his vice president, plus a host of other issues they claim violate the 1991 Constitution of Sierra Leone.

The Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP) and Peoples Movement for Democratic Change (PMDC) filed a motion at the Supreme Court on 24 April, 2014 against Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Frank Kargbo; de facto Vice President Victor Bockarie Foh; Speaker of the House, Sheku B. Dumbuya; Deputy Speaker, Chernoh Maju Bah; Electoral Commissioner North, Macksood Gibril Sesay; Electoral Commissioner South, Augusta Bockarie; and Deputy Minister of Justice, Arrow John Bockarie, on various grounds hinging on alleged constitutional breaches.

Lead counsel for the plaintiffs, Charles Francis Margai, prelude with an objection that lawyers for the defendants should not be granted audience in the court because they were yet to file defendants statements of case, relying on Rule 98 of the Supreme Court Rules, adding that the court lacks competency and jurisdiction to entertain an application from the 1st defendant – the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice.

In his reply, Macauley Jr. stated that Rule 104 of the High Court Rules addresses the issue of non-compliance and that it was indisputable that discretion is given to the Bench to deal with such issues.

The court stood down for thirty minutes before the three judges ruled against Charles Francis Margai and told counsel for the first defendant to continue.

In his submission before Justices Nicholas Browne-Marke, Eku Roberts and Patrick Hamilton, counsel Macauley Jr. said the plaintiffs in their capacity as registered political parties lack locus to bring the suit in their respective names. He said section 35 of the Political Parties Act 2002 does not enable a political party to sue or to be sued in their name as the fact that they are registered under statute does not automatically grant them corporate legal status.

“My lords, I submit that section 11(2b) is a common ground, the plaintiffs are registered under a Political Parties Act and as political parties they are to carry their functions and operate as stated in the 2002 Act,” he said, adding that the Act expressly provides the means by which parties can file an action – by persons authorised by them.

He submitted that the petition should be dismissed, as he urged the three judges to take judicial notice of the laws of Sierra Leone. He said the plaintiffs’ application failed to follow statutory requirements, as the latter are not natural or juristic personalities, thus cannot mention the action in their respective names.

Counsel for the second defendant, Ajibola Manley Spaine, adopted the submission of Macauley Jr.

At this juncture, Margai asked for a date for him to reply to the submission of his learned colleague.

The matter was adjourned until Monday, 20 July.