SLPP accuse judiciary of undermining democracy
By Patrick J. Kamara
In what party supporters described as a deliberate delay tactic, the Judiciary has failed to repair the official vehicle of High Court judge, Justice Abdulai Charm, who has been absent for several court sittings recently, including the interlocutory injunction matter between the Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) and Minority Leader in Parliament.
Dozens of party supporters and other litigants on Monday (7 April) stormed the High Court in high expectancy that the judge will be present, only to learn later that he will again be unavailable as a result of a faulty official vehicle.
High Court Registrar, Mr. Kandeh, told our reporter that they would have heard at least ten other matters besides the SLPP’s.
National Publicity Secretary of the opposition party, Hon. Musa Tamba Sam, said on Radio Democracy FM 98.1 ‘Good Morning Salone’ programme yesterday that the incessant no show of the trial judge was a part of plans to keep the party in disarray.
He said that since the matter was last adjourned the judge had been absent twice. He noted that each time the matter comes up most opposition lawmakers skip parliamentary sittings to witness the hearing, including the constitutional law expert-cum-lawmaker, Hon. Dr. Bu-Buakei Jabbie.
“It is a plan to make the party remain in disarray and not take part in parliamentary proceedings as the constitutional review process is in progress. We want our parliamentarians to take active part in the debates. We plead to whosoever authority to provide vehicle for the judge and to expedite the matter,” Hon. Sam said.
Since the matter between the SLPP and their embattled Minority Leader, Dr. Bernadette Lahai commenced on 10 March this year, the judge has only made two successive sittings on the matter, blaming the delay on a faulty official vehicle.
During the last sitting on 31 March during which he adjourned the matter to 3 April, the trial judge told the crowded court that he would only come to court if and when his official vehicle was fixed.
“Let me make this clear to you that my vehicle has broken down, that is why I was not here on the last adjourned date. Till now it has not been fixed up. I will not be seen in public transport or on okada. Let me assure you that if my vehicle is not maintenance before the next adjourned date, I will not come,” Justice Cham said on March 31.
Also in court that day was the plaintiff applicant, Hon. Dr. Bernadette Lahai, who cautioned her supporters to remain calm and wait for the court’s decision. She said they were in the same party and there was no need to fight one another, noting that everything has an end.
It could be recalled that twenty-six out of sixteen opposition lawmakers had petitioned the Minority Leader on grounds that she was not working in the interest of the party, which prompted the National Executive Committee to replace the latter with another female lawmaker, Hon. Emma Kowa. The decision was communicated to the Speaker of Parliament, but before it took effect, Dr. Lahai ran to court and was granted an interlocutory injunction. The party has however mounted a stout defence, repudiating the legality of the injunction, and accordingly calling on the judge to overturn the decision.
Meanwhile, the matter has been adjourned to 14 April, subject to the availability of the judge.