‘I cannot be micro-managed’ …as High Court hears Sam-Sumana petition today
June 10, 2015 By Hassan Gbassay Koroma
The Supreme Court of Sierra Leone is expected to today commence hearing the substantive matter in an originating motion filed by sacked Vice President Alhaji Samuel Sam-Sumana, as promised by the five judges when they last sat on the matter.
Alhaji Sam-Sumana’s lawyers had filed the motion at the Supreme Court on 20 March seeking an interpretation of whether the president can “relieve the Vice President of his office and duties” other than by ways prescribed by sections 50 and 51 of the 1991 Constitution of Sierra Leone, respectively, and whether the president, by way of “Supreme Executive Authority”, can unilaterally sack his Vice President.
Alhaji Sam-Sumana has challenged the decision by President Ernest Bai Koroma to sack him on 17 March, describing the latter’s action as “unconstitutional and unlawful” because they were elected by the electorate in 2007 and 2012 as President and Vice President, respectively.
However, it looks gravely unlikely that the substantive matter will finally commence at the apex court after yet another dramatic twist in the saga Monday, 8 June, as Mr. Sam-Sumana announced he had replaced his lead counsel James Blyden Jenkins-Johnston with erudite legal luminary Charles Francis Margai.
“After a careful and deep consideration of the manner in which you have treated my case, especially since you were ordered by the Supreme Court of Sierra Leone on Monday 1st June, 2015 to file and serve an Amended Statement of my case on the Court and to the two respective Solicitors of the Defendants but to no avail, your legal services rendered to me as Solicitors and Counsel in the above matter are hereby terminated with immediate effect,” said a statement from the embattled sacked vice president.
He added that it was “totally incredible, strange and inexplicable that you [Jenkins-Johnston] have failed to comply with both the court’s order and my instruction”, which according him was tantamount to “acting against my interest as your client”.
Alhaji Sam-Sumana, however, retained the services of another lawyer, Mohamed Pa-Momo Fofana, who has been working together with Mr. Jenkins-Johnston.
The sacked vice president had instructed his lawyers to amend papers filed at the registry of the Supreme Court on 20 March to challenge his sacking. The apex court had also granted similar fiat to counsels representing both the plaintiff and defendants on 1 June.
But lawyer Jenkins-Johnston, in a letter dated 8 June, insisted it had always been his view that the original motion needed no further amendment.
He charged that it had never been his style to allow another lawyer or some shadowy person to “micro-manage” or “manipulate” him through the lips of his client, which according to him, is exactly what the vice president was trying to do.
He added it was never part of his “legal strategy” to be instructed by a client on “matters of the law”. He said his was always a reliance on the law and not political considerations, as he had always sought the best interest of his clients, spanning 41 years of legal practice.
He also expressed relief to be out of arguably the biggest constitutional matter in democratic Sierra Leone, albeit after three months on the case.
Meanwhile, it could be recalled that Mr. Jenkins-Johnston was also dramatically replaced as counsel by deceased former Special Court indictee, Chief Sam Hinga Norman in May 2004, just before the start of his trial for war crimes and crimes against humanity.
It was reported there were irreconcilably differences between Chief Norman and his defence team, comprising Jenkins-Johnston, Sulaiman Banja Tejan-Sie, Quincy Whittaker and Tim Owen, the latter two from the United Kingdom.