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War of Words…

Charles Margai, Frank Kargbo public spat continues

August 17, 2014 By Alusine Sesay & Regina Pratt

The public spat between Charles Francis Margai and Franklyn Bai Kargbo shows no sign of ending, as the two senior lawyers continue their war of words over the legality or lack of it, of the president’s decision to extend the State of Public Emergency.

First, Mr. Margai, who is leader and chairman of the Peoples Movement for Democratic Change (PMDC), wrote to Mr. Kargbo, the country’s Attorney-General and Ministry of Justice, on 7 August questioning the legal basis of President Ernest Bai Koroma’s proclamation of an extension of the State of Public Emergency on 6 August.

The legal doyen for more than four decades wrote another letter on 11 August, apparently because the Minister of Justice failed to reply him, noting that as Attorney-General, Mr. Kargbo was the ‘principal legal adviser to the Government’ and that he should have advised the president better, as the decision to extend the State of Public Emergency was “self-defeating” and “a controversial breach of the constitution”.

In his ‘reply’, the Attorney-General said he was not “adviser to private individuals or leaders of shell entities of doubtful existence and purpose,” in an apparent jibe at the PMDC leader. He further alleged Mr. Margai was on a quest for “relevance in the national political discourse”, adding that he would not dignify his letter with a reply as the issues he [Margai] raised were “serious and unfortunate misunderstanding/misinterpretation of law.”

As we predicted in our Friday, 14 August, 2015 edition, the unsavoury exchange between two of the country’s very senior lawyers continued over the weekend, with the duo sparring yet again.

Mr. Margai went first, noting that he read Mr. Kargbo’s letter of 12 August, 2015 with dismay as it was “full of invective”.

He said: “In case you are wondering why I chose to address you personally instead of officially, the reason is that the title of Attorney-General and Minister of Justice is meant for deserving holders, of which you are not one!”

He further wrote that the president’s failure in governance “can no doubt be ascribed to him being surrounded by characters like you [Kargbo], who cannot deliver (aptly described as a square peg in a round hole)”.

He continued that the current Attorney-General had “always ill-advised him [President Koroma] on matters of national importance due to incompetence.”

“I had held the view before now that the late F. M. Carew was the weakest Attorney-General this nation had produced but your performance or rather non-performance now proves that as Attorney-General, you are weaker than Carew,” said Mr. Margai, adding that although the late erstwhile Attorney-General under the Tejan Kabbah regime was “Weak…, he represented government in all court matters, the outcome notwithstanding.”

The PMDC founder also averred that the current holder of that prestigious office “should be ashamed of yourself running away from the courts and instead, electing to brief private practitioners at the tax payers expanse in disregard of section 114 of the  Constitution of Sierra Leone Act No. 6 of 1991, in the on-going constitutional cases before the Supreme Court.”

He concluded that his learned colleague was still to reply to his letter of 7 and 11 August, respectively, rather he had chosen to “expatriating rudeness at which you are adept.”

But Franklyn Bai Kargbo was in no mood to let bygones be bygones, as he wasted no time to respond in a letter dated 14 August, 2015 in which he tersely noted that: “I thank you for confirming the popular and nationally held view, and mine too that you have nothing of further value to add to the advancement of Sierra Leone or the enviable legal profession to which you claim membership.

“From the foregoing, it follows that you lack the competence and credibility to be judge of my effectiveness or otherwise as Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, as you have never been one,” said Mr. Kargbo.

Meanwhile, it remains to be seen whether the president or senior lawyers will intervene and urge the two men to cease their public spat.