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Wednesday, June 29, 2022
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SHORT-CIRCUITING JUSTICE CAN BE INJURIOUS!!

By: Winstanley. R. Bankole. Johnson

I find I. A. Kamara’s piece on the conundrum of the setting up of a Tribunal on Audit Services Sierra Leone a brilliant exposition. It cleared whatever doubts existed in my mind that H.E President Bio was misled into dispatching the Auditor General (AG) Mrs. Lara Taylor-Pearce and one of her deputies Mr. Tamba Mommoh on suspension from office prematurely – that is before application of Sec. 119. (6) and (9) and Sec. 137 of the Constitution. My greatest worry now is to what extent the integrity of the entire Judiciary and other Justice Delivery sectorial arms that are supposed to be “independent” of the Executive under the principles of “Separation of Powers” envisaged buy our Constitution might emerge impugned from the outcomes of the ongoing Tribunal. But that wouldn’t be an isolated case of administrative and governance travesty when one considers several other such travesties that has opened this government to suspicions that it has very little or no regard for procedural regularity. For examples we already have precedents like the un-procedural:

  • Replacements of ten (10) APC Parliamentarians without conducting the requisite by-elections
  • Appointment of a Speaker for the Legislature
  • Setting up of three Commissions of Inquiries and a Declaration of a State of Emergency without tabling the requisite accompanying Rules of Evidence and Regulations respectively in Parliament.

Petitions

What beggars belief in the case of Mrs. Lara Taylor-Pearce is that petitions by her legal Counsels to the Supreme Court seeking various reliefs and interpretations on the “regularity or lack thereof” of the very Tribunal set up to investigate their client’s alleged “misconduct”, and also for an injunction for the Tribunal not to even commence sittings until those reliefs sought are clarified, have neither been assigned nor even countenanced by the Hon. Chief Justice.

Providing the requisite answers to those petitions raised by Counsels for Mrs. Lara Taylor-Pearce before commencement of the Hon. Nyawo Matturi-Jones (JSC) Tribunal would have resonated well with society that the integrity and independence of our judiciary were unassailable, or that the Judiciary was not under “State capture” as was evident in a case before a Federal Court in the United States as reported in the Friday 10th August 2018 edition of the British Evening Standard:

A Federal Judge ordered that a mother and daughter who had been deported to Central America mid their appeals for asylum be flown back to the United States until conclusion of their cases.  District Judge Emmer G Sullivan fumed: “This is pretty outrageous, that someone seeking justice in US Courts could be spirited away while her Attorneys are arguing for justice for them” and she even threatened to hold former Attorney General Jeff Sessions in contempt if the pair were not immediately returned. And indeed even though the plane had landed in El Salvador with the deported pair, the Department of Homeland Security made proper arrangements for their return to the United States to hear conclusion of their appeals.  The fact that they were “deportees” or that the United States government (and President) had an interest in the matter was irrelevant. Justice was seen to have been done through due process – Not short-circuited to please “those in authority”. This is the kind of “integrity and Independence” Sierra Leoneans are yearning for in our Judiciary. And it is possible, but only through “works” – not by “Prayer and Fasting”.

So by the Supreme Court first addressing the petitions of Counsels for Mrs. Lara Taylor-Pearce would have at least put the mind of their client (and their relations) at rest that some semblance of justice was at work, and that the process could be trusted, especially as by not having followed due processes for her removal from office, it is the Executive that has indirectly emerged as the main complainant. But that was not so and worse still for four months since the Tribunal was first announced we are still hearing objections from their Counsels that there are no Rules to regulate its practices and procedures (Ref. Sec. 150 of the Constitution), nor have any specific charges been preferred against those to be investigated for “misconduct” as alleged.

Justice

As in the cases of those ten (10) APC Parliamentarians whose petitions have to date neither been countenanced nor assigned for hearing, ours would seem to be the only Judiciary  where matters requiring “SUPREME COURT” or any Superior Court adjudications, interpretations and clarifications and upon which deliberations of an inferior Bench or Commission of Inquiry or Tribunal might depend are not given “SUPREME” or “PRIORITY CONSIDERATION”. In my lay man’s mind (and certainly in all fairness to the litigants), the Tribunal into the Auditor General and Deputy ought not to have commenced  sittings – whether or not it was set up on orders of the Executive, unless and until the petitions of the AG  had first been assigned, and conclusively deliberated upon or dismissed.  Any citizen caught up in such a quagmire could be forgiven for feeling eerily suspicious that the outcomes of any Inquiry or tribunal into any matter that is subjunctive to the said Inquiry and bearing any connection to it might or might not have with the Executive could be pre-meditated. Or is it implicit that in Sierra Leone pleasing the Executive takes precedence over dispensation of “Justice”?

Dichotomy

Now let us imagine that based on a presumption of innocence the outcomes of the Hon. Lady Matturi-Jones (JSC) Tribunal goes eerily wrong against the government and that both the AG and her Deputy are exculpated, how would this government look in the eyes of the world? Would they be courageous enough to reinstate them into their jobs with the requisite restitutions for damages to their hard-earned reputation? Or would the government that directed their un-procedural and irregular exit outside the Constitution also proceed to influence and direct delays to their reinstatement? Further still what if the AG and Deputy choose to adhere to sound family advices not to ever return to their posts but to pursue independent and appropriate legal redresses against this government through International arbitrations so as to teach them a lesson or two? 

Inarguably our justice delivery patterns stand challenged for various reasons and this has come out often from observations of our major donor partners. So possibly the more successive governments are challenged (and disgraced) in the international arena and at their huge financial detriment, the more quickly “those in authority” will get to understand the clear dichotomy existing between modern democratic governance values and practices for tolerance, and their traditionally imperious, willy-nilly (“Pa-O-Pa”) Court Barry governance mentality, which by any standard is reprehensible.

Purged

Opinions from a vox-populi are that the government has no iota of evidence to ultimately make the AG and Deputy culpable, hence the caveat suffixed to their indictments: “or lack thereof”, to pave a way for their exculpation. The people were united in their conviction however that the AG and her Deputy – guilty or not – had to be purged out of the system and by whatever means because they had been causing them much too much embarrassments via the annual Audit Reports. To have followed regular constitutional procedures to achieve same would have been elaborate, time-consuming and probably very chaotic, especially if they were ultimately going to use the Parliamentary two-thirds majority votes by so close to the next elections.  So probably to achieve the “bottom line” (getting rid of the Auditor General), solace was taken under Sec.48.(4) of the Constitution and the process short-circuited by the single stroke of President’s pen through whom, by whom and in whom nothing done whilst in office – civil or criminal – can be held against him.

Short-circuiting justice can be injurious to peace and national cohesion. Equally so a country without respect for the Rule of Law is a country heading for anarchy. The biggest losers in any short-circuiting of judicial procedures to achieve short term political gains by any government are we the people, whose votes are bringing them into power. Once that becomes the norm Accountability and Respect for the Rule of Law is slowly subsumed, and we begin the steady decline into chaos and anarchy. 

But God forbid!!

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