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COMMENTS & OPINIONS  

Justice Tolla Thompson vs. Paul Kamara: Section 26 vs. Section 27 of Public Order Laws
By Sylvia Olayinka Blyden
Dec 15, 2010, 17:36
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I have steered totally clear of opposing the appointment of Mr. Paul Kamara as Minister of Youth Employment and Sports because despite what I might personally feel about Paul Kamara’s undue hateful antagonism towards my person, his proposed elevation by President Koroma, simply cannot be said to be inimical to the interest of our country. If Paul is approved and manages to stay focussed on the job as a Cabinet Minister, Paul Kamara can definitely perform wonders for Sierra Leone youths. It can never be forgotten the yeoman and herculean efforts he put into local football that helped ensure the likes of Mohamed Kallon and other footballers are what they are today. History will be very kind to him in that respect.

However, as has been extensively raised in the local media yesterday, the issue is whether Paul Kamara can be approved given he was once convicted of the offence of Defamatory Libel against Supreme Court Justice Tolla Thompson. In the interest of imparting knowledge to my valuable readers, it behoves me to give my little interpretation to this matter.

Section 76(1)(d) of the Constitution of Sierra Leone says: No person shall be qualified for election as a Member of Parliament if he has been convicted and sentenced for an offence which involves fraud or dishonesty.

Section 56(2)(a) says: A person shall not be appointed a Minister or Deputy Minister unless he is qualified to be elected as a Member of Parliament.

What the foregoing means is that anyone who has been convicted for an offence involving fraud or dishonesty cannot be appointed a Minister but a criminal conviction that does NOT involve fraud or dishonesty is not an obstacle to anyone being made a Minister in Sierra Leone.

Now, to the specific case at hand; Mr. Paul Kamara of For Di People Newspaper was convicted under PART V of the Public Order Laws of 1965 which covers DEFAMATORY LIBEL. For the benefit of my readers who might not have been privy to it, I will reproduce Sections 26 and 27 of the said Laws.

SECTION 26: Knowingly publishing a false defamatory libel.

26. Any person who maliciously publishes any defamatory matter knowing the same to be false shall be guilty of an offence called libel and liable on conviction to imprisonment for any term not exceeding three years or to a fine not exceeding one thousand leones or both.

SECTION 27: Defamatory libel.

27. Any person who maliciously publishes any defamatory matter shall be guilty of an offence called libel and liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding seven hundred leones or to imprisonment for a period not exceeding two years or to both such fine and imprisonment.

Now, these two sections might appear similar but if one carefully reads them, you realise they are distinct offences with the former (Section 26) carrying a heavier penalty than the latter (Section 27). This is because the former clearly deals with DISHONESTY and the latter does not necessarily do so.

Section 26 and Section 27 were deliberately separated by the crafters of the Law to ensure the offences were well defined as either a clearly dishonest act or one that does not necessarily fall into the category of a dishonest act but is just plain defamatory.

Section 26 covers the act of DISHONESTLY misleading the public. In other words, you know that what you are publishing is false but you go ahead and dishonestly publish the false material in order to steer up hate against the subject of your criminal act.

As seen above, there are two kinds of defamatory libel in Sierra Leone. The first one describes KNOWINGLY publishing a false material whilst the other covers publishing a false material even though you might not have known it was false at the time you published it.

In the former scenario, it is definitely a dishonest act for you to know something is false and yet you go on and publish it to mislead the world. In the latter scenario, if you did not know it was false, you cannot be said to have committed a dishonest crime even though you, out of malice, unwittingly committed a defamatory crime.

Therefore, if any individual is nominated for ministerial appointment and he has a prior conviction for Criminal Defamatory Libel, the issue that Parliamentarians will have to grapple with is whether he was convicted under Section 26 for KNOWINGLY PUBLISHING A FALSE MATERIAL or whether he was convicted under Section 27 for simply publishing a false material but with no dishonest motive of knowingly misleading the public.

Honestly, I have no idea under which Section Paul Kamara was convicted when he was dragged to Court by Hon. Justice Tolla Thompson but I am sure our Parliamentarians will be trying to find out. Did Paul Kamara dishonestly try to mislead the public against Justice Tolla Thompson or did he unwittingly publish a defamatory material against Justice Tolla Thompson? Which Section was he charged and convicted under? Was it Section 26 or was it Section 27?

To end, let me once again state that whilst I might have my personal reservations against this particular appointment, when it comes to the national interest, I do consider that Paul Kamara might be a good Minister of Youth Employment and Sports if he goes through parliamentary approval. In which case, he will get the fullest support of this newspaper as he goes about his work as Hon. Paul Kamara the Cabinet Minister responsible for Youth Employment & Sports in Sierra Leone.


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