…but Supreme Court urges speedy trial
May 6, 2015 By Abu-Bakarr Sheriff & Hassan G. Koroma
The Supreme Court of Sierra Leone yesterday rejected to grant an interim injunction restraining Ambassador Victor Bockarie Foh from performing the duties of Vice President while the court hears and determines the substantive issue of whether the President acted within the law to sack Alhaji Samuel Sam-Sumana and replace him with the current office holder.
All five judges read their ruling in open court, a departure from the usual practice when a single judge would read a sole statement prepared by and read on behalf of the quintet of the apex court judges.
Alhaji Sam-Sumana’s lawyers had filed an originating 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. They also asked that the court interpret whether the President, by way of his “Supreme Executive Authority”, can unilaterally sack his Vice President.
The Sam-Sumana legal team had also prayed for the relief of an injunction to restrain Ambassador Foh from performing the functions of the office of Vice President “pending the hearing and determination of the matter”.
But lawyers representing Foh and the government had argued on 9 April that it would not be in the interest of justice for an interim injunction to be granted because, according to them, the office of Vice President was a key one, with the holder being “principal assistant” to the President, while a vacancy would “create chaos in the country”.
All five Supreme Court Justices – acting Chief Justice Valisius Thomas, Justices Nicholas Brown-Marke, Eku Roberts, Vivian Solomon and Patrick Hamilton – gave a unanimous ruling that the injunction should be rejected, although they were in agreement that the substantive issue of whether the President acted beyond his powers to sack and replace his Vice President should be “fast tracked”.
In the words of the acting Chief Justice, the court should rather conduct “an early trial than grant an interim injunction” which could have “grave consequences for the nation if granted”.
Also, Justice Brown-Marke opined that the case was indeed a serious matter, although it would be improper for the court to grant an interim injunction in respect of the substantive case as it would undermine the defence’s case.
Re-echoing his learned colleagues, Justice Robert posited that the remedy of an interim injunction was both temporary and discretional.
He said it would be a “grave danger and most undesirable” if the vice presidency became vacant, thus “it would be prudent and just to refuse the injunction but the case should be fast tracked”.
On her part, Justice Solomon opined that to grant the injunction would bring “uncertainty and a lacuna” because the Vice President is head of the Police Council and performs other key duties for and on behalf of the President.
Justice Hamilton reasoned along the same line as his learned colleagues, adding that the case was serious and needed to be speedily tried.
Meanwhile, the judges announced they would commence hearing on the substantive issue Tuesday, 12 May.
Alhaji Sam-Sumana has challenged the decision of President Ernest Bai Koroma to sack him, describing the latter’s action as “unconstitutional and unlawful” as both were elected by the electorate in 2007 and 2012, respectively, as President and Vice President.
However, the President contends that he has “Supreme Executive Authority” to sack his vice after the latter was expelled by the ruling All Peoples Party for “deceit, fraud and violence” and for allegedly abandoning his office following a reported failed asylum bid with the United States Embassy in Freetown.
Sam-Sumana though has denied the charges levied against him by the party as “fabrications and lies”, but his appeal has been rejected by national delegates of the party who met on 30 April in Freetown.