The Office of President Ernest Bai Koroma last week replied to a letter written to him by the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists in July this year calling for his intervention in the matter between the association and the Supreme Court and the violation by the Inspector General of Police of the right of the association to hold a peaceful protest.
In what constitutes a cringing flagrant violation of the country’s constitution by the highest court in the land, the Supreme Court is yet to give a ruling in a matter in which final arguments were made on 9 March this year thereby blatantly tearing into pieces the country’s constitution which they should force others to uphold.
What’s more and in what seems like blatant arrogance the court has not even apologised in this shameful act which many other courts in the country are engaged in – indefinitely leaving cases without a verdict on them as if saying to the people to go to hell even though it is a violation of the constitution. Shame! Who does not know about a case that has taken over a decade awaiting a ruling in court? What is sad is that even though it affects and even frustrates lawyers, as many of them have told me, the Bar Association has never spoken out on this.
Anyway…In the reply, the Office of the President informs SLAJ that the Supreme Court will deliver a ruling when it resumes in mid-September this year. Brilliant intervention by a president who clearly is showing concern over the delivery of justice or may be the deliverance of justice in the country! I disagree though with the president’s apparent endorsement of the action of the Inspector General of Police when he denied journalists their right to hold a peaceful protest action.
Contrary to what the letter says that the action of the Inspector General was necessitated by his consideration for the public good, the police boss did not give any reason in his letter denying journalists that their constitutional right. Even what he did in a radio interview I listened to, he only said the march would have pressured the Supreme Court into simply performing a constitutional obligation. That certainly did not constitute a public good over a private one. On the contrary it constituted a parochial consideration by the head of the police against an issue of public interest and right – justice delayed is justice denied. Or so we learned in elementary school. Or has that now changed? But thapt is another debate for another day.
But back to the president’s intervention that should lead to the Supreme Court performing a constitutional obligation which may have come about after some pep talk in which the head of state could have told the judiciary that he was concerned about their flagrant violation of our right. That the Supreme Court would allow the presidency to announce it for them, leaves a lot to be desired. I would rather they had done so with some heart talk engendered by a guilty conscience in a righteous body. In what I feel was a way of covering up their unhidden back in this matter, probably dug-in to save their sweaty face, the court has never come out to explain let alone apologise for this clear breach of constitutionality by them. And when the citadel of justice behaves like this, one can only imagine what will happen to the body politic.
But in case you are wondering which way I think the ruling will go, well you will wonder over just anything. But what I think the president’s move symbolises is a leader who wants to make real his campaign promise. The other day I heard that he told the Independent Media Commissioners who had gone to him to present their annual report, that the Criminal Libel Law needed review. In a country where the highest court can violate the constitution with morbid disdain and lack of compunction, I wonder how far the president’s goodwill will go if some radical move is not taken to address the chronic problem in the judiciary and bring redress to the people.
My suggestion to the judiciary in the area of delay in delivering judgement, if it is justly done because the judiciary lacks vapour in workability in the circumstance, is for a possible amendment to that 3-month deadline provision in the constitution. If the reality is that it cannot be met due to the numerous challenges the third organ of government is faced with, it had better be amended rather than violated without compunction, by those who should know better.
Back to the president’s intervention, when once the court delivers a ruling “in mid-September”, obviously on the intervention of the president, and if he makes real his pledge for a review of this obnoxious law that no longer has a place in democracies, he would have written a favourable epitaph for himself. That, coupled with him refusing to sign into law the Sierra Leone Broadcasting Corporation Bill until it is given a human face, he would have been the president to do the best for the media probably in the history of our country.
As for the Supreme Court’s inaction, posterity will not be kind to them and it will take a long time for repairs to do to that battered image. Their sheer arrogance in this whole matter in which some of them expected SLAJ to have gone to them crawling to beg them to give a date for the ruling, is as galling today as it has always been. Imagine there was not a president that would have gone to this length….
We would have been left with a court in a continued ego-massaging at the expense of justice and righteousness. The Supreme Court is not above the law and it must obey the constitution or let loose a string of violations they will have no moral fibre to scold others for. This is the problem when a parent smokes cigarette and expects the kids to listen to their sermons on the dangers a cigarette poses. Let the Supreme Court be supreme and throw in a towel and then to inferior courts will save the people of this country who all too familiarly know the dangers injustice landed us into in the past. By Umaru Fofana