February 12, 2018 By Ishmael Sallieu Koroma
Hundreds of mourners last Friday gathered at the State Hall of the Sierra Leone House of Parliament to pay tribute to the late Honourable Justice Edmond Kadoni Cowan, former Speaker of Parliament and Chairman of the Constitutional Review Committee.
A state laying-out ceremony took place at House of Parliament where a book of condolence was also signed by state officials, including the President, Vice President, Speaker of the last Parliament and the Chief Justice.
Justice Cowan died on Wednesday, 24th January 2018. His death came as a surprise to many Sierra Leoneans as the eminent statesman was not reported ill.
The state funeral was attended by hundreds of dignitaries including members of the diplomatic and consular corps, lawyers and mourners from all walks of life.
In his short but succinct tribute, Speaker of the last Parliament, Sheku Badara B. Dumbuya, said the late Justice Cowan was a fine gentleman who assiduously worked for the country throughout his life time.
“He was an easy going man and had elegant manners. His successes are immeasurable in the annals of the history of the country,” he said.
Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Joseph Fitzgerald Kamara, said that during his life time, the retired Justice of the Appeal Court of Sierra Leone provided shelter to everyone and the country as whole. He said eminent jurist fiercely protected human rights in his days as adjudicator of the Republic of Sierra Leone.
Edmond Cowan Junior, himself a Magistrate, told dignitaries and mourners that “the baobab tree has fallen; we will miss him forever. He was not only a father to us but to every Sierra Leonean.”
Magistrate Cowan, who is eldest son of the late Ombudsman, said his late father was a distinguished and respected public servant, selfless, forthright and resilient in search of development of this country.
“He treated all with respect and dignity, and remains an inspiration to all he had met in his life time. He loved his family,” he said.
During the State Vigil at Miatta Conference Centre Thursday night, daughter, Rosaline Cowan, said her father was a very simple person, a special friend, listener and banker.
“You’re leaving the world better than you met it. He loved us and we will miss him.”
Also, at Miatta Conference Centre, former Minority Leader of Parliament, Hon. Dr. Bernadette Lahai said: “I first met him as a parliamentarian in 2002. He was our speaker for five years and I came to love and respect him. As an MP from Lower Bambara, I found out that his mother – late Doris Baindu Quee – hailed from Panguma, my constituency.”
Dr. Lahai said the late Speaker was fair in his deliberation and gave everyone their chances.
“He was a principled man. He was prompt with his annual report as ombudsmen; transformed the institution and formulated the first strategic plan for the Office of the Ombudsman. The current holder should be grateful that Justice Cowan was his predecessor,” she maintained.
Dr. Bernadette Lahai described the late Justice Cowan as an “encyclopedia for the constitution and Standing Orders in Parliament”, adding that the former immortalised himself in the golden annals of history by living with us a good draft of the reviewed 1991 Constitution. His contribution to the country and mankind was immense”.
Hon. Justice Nicholas Browne-Marken said the former lawyer and Judge of the Superior Court of Judicature, was a very good judge.
“He was very good in criminal cases and civil cases as well. He acquitted himself in many big cases, including the treason trial matters. He left the country during the AFRC era and returned to preside over the treason trial cases after President Kabbah was reinstated. He was an excellent Speaker, even-minded and non-judgmental. No doubt he was made Ombudsman and Chairman of the Constitutional Review Committee. He lived life to the fullest and we are sad that he died, but such is life,” said the Supreme Court Judge.
Charles Francis Margai, is a long-time friend of the departed judge. The presidential candidate for the Peoples Movement for Democratic Change (PMDC) said: “I first met him in England in 1970 at a send-off party. We met again in Freetown in court. He was not only a friend and colleague but a bigger brother.”
Mr. Margai opined that Justice Cowan was a very sound and fair judge, adding that many people didn’t know how sound the late man was during his days as a judge.
“He chose to serve the people instead of bowing to the whims and caprices of the powers that be. He was a prominent judge and a distinguished lawyer,” Margai said, apparently referring to Justice Cowan’s highpoint in public life, when as chair of the CRC he refused to be cowered into submission to change the constitutional term limit, among many contentious issues.
Following the auspicious ceremony at Parliament, his casket, draped with the green, white and blue flag of Sierra Leone, was driven by a gunboat aloft a catafalque to Samaria Church for the requiem mass. With the military and police marching ahead, the coffin was driven to Ascension Town Cemetery, where he was buried beside his wife, Mrs. Marian Taraba Cowan.