Sierra Leone: Palo Conteh treason verdict – I salute the Jury – Op ed

Mamos Media

Cornelius Deveaux: Sierra Leone Telegraph

Certainly, right thinking Sierra Leoneans – and by extension the wider citizenry, will be appalled by a post on the official Facebook page of the SLPP government Ministry of Information and Communications, intending to purport that Sierra Leone’s Judiciary is going through a born-again styled reincarnation under the Julius Maada Bio SLPP government. (Photo above – Attorney General Schwartz).

The article, with the headline: ‘Judicial Independence On Display Under President Bio’, exposes, on the one hand, a failed and cynical attempt by the ruling SLPP to lure a jury to allow themselves to be used in the same way as the government continues to use the judiciary to intimidate and victimize opposition members and, on the other hand, it exposes a desperation for revenge by the ruling SLPP and also pinpoints the government’s ultimate aim to incarcerate opposition members on trumped-up political charges so as to slam a prohibition on their active participation in politics ahead of the 2022 and 2023 elections.

In the exercise of free speech and unfettered opinions, some judicial review have been critical of the judiciary in the past. Highlights from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) pinpoints the perversion of justice by the judiciary as one of the many reasons for the decade long RUF war.

Following late President Alhaji Ahmed Tejan Kabbah’s pronouncement in 2002 that ‘the war is over’, the successive government of President Ernest Bai Koroma followed up on reforms in the judiciary.

Notwithstanding the shortfalls that may have been evident in these efforts and without intent to question the opinion of compatriots with regards these efforts, the judiciary demonstrated impartiality and respect for constitutional provisions by first of all listing for hearing, and within the constitutional time-frame the petition case filed by Julius Maada Bio against the election of Ernest Bai Koroma as President of Sierra Leone in the 2012 presidential election. Also, the judiciary adjudicated an intra SLPP party dispute and was applauded by the opposing factions.

There has never been a time in the history of Sierra Leone that the Judiciary of Sierra Leone is ‘openly playing ball with the Executive and failing to dispense justice impartially than now’.

The petition cases against the election of Julius Maada Bio as President of Sierra Leone in the 2018 presidential election is yet to be listed for hearing way outside the constitutional time-frame. Also, in blatant contravention of constitutional provisions, the judiciary was again used by the SLPP government to unconstitutionally remove ten elected APC MPs from Parliament.

The judiciary has also been woefully negligent in adjudicating matters bordering on the interpretation of the Constitution. In the Paolo Conteh matter we see a judiciary desperate to do the government’s bidding.

“Since the ascendancy of President Julius Maada Bio to the throne in April 2018”, it is no secret that the judiciary, in recent times, has come under the sledgehammer of critics and advocates, including the Sierra Leone Bar Association, more than ever before for not displaying independence but rather always feeding from the Executive.

Consequently, one need not comment on statements made by judges who were remote controlled to preside over commissions of inquiry that will not stand the test of times.

And by coincidence or design, reference to the Francis Minah debacle is most disingenuous and speaks of a government playing with the sensitivities of regional and tribal sentiments and not one working to heal wounds of the past and promote national cohesion.

And, it is cheap politics, very cheap politics, for the writer to say “Alfred Palo Conteh and others should thank their lucky stars that we have a God-fearing president who is not vindictive and believes in the rule of law”, when, even at the onset there was no evidence of treason and that the state prosecution, led by the Attorney General and Minister of Justice, disgracefully failed to prove a case of treason beyond all reasonable doubt.

And why would the government’s partner in crime, the Sierra Leone Police, detain the Under Sheriff?

It is the jury, and neither the government nor the judiciary,  that was upright in their ways.  I salute those true sons and daughters of Sierra Leone.

About the author

Cornelius Oguntola Melvin Deveaux is the former Deputy Minister of Information and Communications in the  previous government of Sierra Leone  , and ; National Publicity Secretary – APC.

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