November 20, 2017 By Patrick Jaiah Kamara
Chairman and Leader of the main opposition Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP), Dr. Alex Prince Harding, last Friday lambasted the justice system in the country after correctional centre officials failed to bring their spokesperson, Lahai Lawrence Leema, to court.
It meant that the firebrand opposition spokesperson remains incarcerated at the centre maximum prison for ‘minor’ offences without bail and without an opportunity to appear in court on a date that had been stipulated by the magistrate.
Leema, who has been on remand for the past one week, was supposed to appear in court last Friday, but in a dramatic twist of event the Principal Magistrate of Court No.1, Albert J. Moody, informed the crowded courtroom that the hearing would be adjourned to Monday (today) because prison officers had failed to bring remand prisoners to court, without any explanation.
In a snap presser outside the court, a furious Dr. Harding said the legal battle involving their spokesperson has been transformed into a political fight as the continuous incarceration of Leema was an affront to human rights and democracy.
“This is a sad day for this country, a sad day for democracy. A real sad day for the human rights of this country and our people but more so a complete erosion of justice, which perhaps may lead to anarchy and chaos and there would be no peace if such behaviour continues in this country,” he said.
The Chairman and Leader of the main opposition party said the action of the Prison Director was tantamount to determining when the court should sit, adding that such was a complete disrespect to the Judiciary. He said the SLPP condemns what he describes as unorthodox attitude which has the propensity to undermine the democracy they had fought to restore.
Dr. Harding called for the swift intervention of the president to secure the release their spokesperson, whose incarceration they believe was purely political.
“It is quite clear from what has happened today that Leema’s incarceration is political. Any right thinking person would surmise appropriately and accurately that what is happening now is on your table so we are appealing to the Chairman and Leader of the APC that this case is on his table and he has the authority as the fountain of honour and justice in this country. You have the authority to show magnanimity, to show compassion and we ask for mercy although I am not accepting that the man is guilty of those frivolous charges levied against him. Please release Leema, release Leema for the sake of humanity and for the sake of justice, freedom and peace,” he appealed.
He stated that what is happening in the country is unacceptable as good governance entails respect for human rights and the rule of law.
He said his party was enduring ‘transgressions’ in a court of law and in front of trained barristers, human rights activists, civil society organisations, non-governmental organisations, embassies of repute and the international community, thus calling on all actors to join them address ‘anomalies of chaotic and dictatorial governance’.
He warned that would come a time when their party would not be able to restrain their supporters, noting that he had issued a press statement urging their supporters not to come to court, which they obeyed.
“Our spokesperson is not a common criminal. I want to send a special message to the Chairman and Leader of the APC, Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma, that, we agreed to practise decent democracy and therefore we should collaborate in that sense. Not for us but for the downtrodden people who are looking to us for direction to poverty alleviation and for peace and unity,” he stated.
Meanwhile, lead defense lawyer Anthony Y. Brewah was asked whether he has lost confidence in the Judiciary, he replied philosophically: “I am one lawyer who has been coming here day after day for the last twenty-six years and I know since the APC came to power [ten years ago] things have not been working well in our judicial system.”