From Awareness Times Newspaper in Freetown

Sierra Leone's Judicial Behemoth behaves like a Chief Justice Extraordinary & Plenipotentiary
By Our Investigative Team
Nov 16, 2009, 17:16

Tolla Thompson: past retirement ...Now approaching 80 years age
When the female publisher of this newspaper visited the Eastern Province a few weeks back, she was vehemently attacked by quite a number of women who told her that she was using this newspaper to "undeservedly promote" the image of Sierra Leone’s first female Chief Justice Umu-Hawa Tejan Jalloh. The women strongly believe and expressed such belief to our Publisher that the Chief Justice did not deserve to be highly lauded seeing how, the women claimed, the Chief Justice had recently ignored the plight of the Eastern region’s most famous and most popular female journalist, Mrs. Manjia Balema-Samba. Our Publisher was stunned at the extent of anger. So, in a view to understand this intense ill-feeling towards Chief Justice Tejan-Jalloh, whom we at the Awareness Times have the highest possible respect for, we decided to quietly conduct multi-faceted investigations on the Judiciary. Our findings so far are startling; very dismal and startling which we are bringing to the public in order to maximise the effect rather than discussing it behind closed doors as some might have preferred. We have our reasons for taking this pathway of exposure which reasons we would ask to be respected.

We have spent the last three weeks on our investigations and our findings dictate that we should today commence our series on the man most feared in the Judiciary: Supreme Court Justice Maitland Emeric Tolla-Thompson; a man well past his retirement age but who, like an aged behemoth, is seated like stone within the corridors of the Judiciary casting a very ill pallor over the effective administration of the country’s first female Chief Justice and seriously alienating her from those who might otherwise have been very useful to her administration.

First of all, Awareness Time has learnt that when Her Lady the Honourable Chief Justice Umu Hawa Tejan-Jalloh, Sierra Leone’s first female Chief Justice assumed office, one of the first things she undertook was to create an Organogram that is freely available to members of the Bar and the general public at large. The Organogram she drafted was to ensure a smooth running of the Judiciary with various Senior Judges placed in charge of various functions at the Judiciary. The idea, according to those close to the visionary woman Chief Justice was to decentralise power from only one person (the Chief Justice) as used to be the case prior to her ascension.

For example, Justice Virginia Wright was placed in charge of the supervision of Bailiffs whilst Justice Tolla Thompson, (given the tremendous respect he indisputably enjoys from the Chief Justice who is wont to hear criticism of Tolla Thompson), was assigned by Chief Justice to be placed in charge of supervision of Magistrates. It is a fact that most of the problems in the Judiciary over the decades (as clearly illustrated by the Truth & Reconciliation Commission all led to the eruption of the civil war), emanated from injustice at the lower Magistrate Courts level. With this in mind, Chief Justice Tejan Jalloh placed a supposed veteran like Justice Tolla Thompson to help her supervise the Magistrate Courts and this was reflected in her Organogram where the name Justice Tolla Thompson is listed next to the name of Justice Virginia Wright but with clearly separate functions. In other words, Justice Tolla Thompson has little or no business supervising any Bailiff whilst Justice Virginia Wright has little or no business in the direct supervision of Magistrates.

What Chief Justice Tejan Jalloh had in mind was a brilliant initiative that would see her workload lessen, increase a sense of belonging for Senior Judges who would now feel to be a part of the administration of justice at the Law Courts of Sierra Leone and most of all, fast-track and speed up the handling of issues and complaints from members of the public who would no longer have to wait for an over-burdened Chief Justice to single-handedly look into problems and/or complaints from the general public about the Judiciary she heads. However, it is also a fact that an issue addressed by a citizen for her direct attention must, out of respect, first go to her before she would have it redirected to the appropriate Senior Judge for necessary action to be taken. So, for example, a letter addressed to the Chief Justice complaining against a Bailiff should go first to the Chief Justice’s office so she is au fait with it before it gets redirected for the attention of the supervising Senior Judge, (i.e: Hon. Virginia Wright).

Unfortunately, what Awareness Times newspaper has found out is that rather than being an asset to her efforts to restructure the Judiciary for better service delivery to innocent victims of judicial injustice, Justice Tolla Thompson has been a liability who has made himself into what could be safely termed as a ‘Chief Justice Extraordinary & Plenipotentiary’ interfering in areas out of his assigned designation.

We will propound on his interference into areas out of his designated supervision as the series continues but for today, let us proceed to the matter of the plight of female journalist Mrs. Manjia Balema-Samba on whose behalf, so much ill-will is being generated against Chief Justice Tejan-Jalloh in the Eastern Province particularly in Kenema. As a result of this Tolla Thompson’s - Chief Justice Extraordinary & Plenipotentiary’s -intervention and interception of a serious matter involving alleged Bailiffs in the Eastern Province; a matter that he should have rightfully gotten to be forwarded to Justice Virginia Wright, there is now a significant amount of brewing resentment against the country’s first female Chief Justice, who is suffering from a widely held perception in Kenema that she is guilty of promoting political persecution of probably the region’s finest female journalist, Manjia Balema Samba. All of this is simply because the CJ has not taken action on a letter addressed directly to her by female journalist Manjia Balema Samba. But has the Chief Justice even seen this letter?

This letter, placed by Manjia in a medium sized, brown envelope was addressed not to Justice Tolla Thompson but to the Honourable Chief Justice. However, with gross disrespect for the authority of his boss the Chief Justice, the letter was intercepted by Justice Tolla Thompson from Manjia’s hands right inside his office behind closed doors, opened up by him right in front of Manjia’s eyes as she sat respectfully in front of him inside his office and timidly watched as he voraciously devoured the contents of Manjia’s complaints as listed in her complaint letter. With little regard or respect for the fact that Manjia’s letter was not addressed to him but to the Chief Justice, this ‘Chief Justice Extraordinary & Plenipotentiary’ Tolla Thompson, proceeded to promise Manjia that he would take action even in areas that were out of his direction or supervision such as Bailiffs in the Eastern Province attacking the female journalist Manjia at 6am in the morning inside her bedroom and beating her up as they looted her property on the alleged orders of a Magistrate.

After collecting the letter meant for Chief Justice Umu Hawa Tejan Jalloh, Hon. Tolla Thompson with the full knowledge of the extremely serious nature of the allegations meant for the attention of the Chief Justice, has been playing gimmicks with poor Manjia and giving her the impression, rightly or wrongly, that he has been trying to get justice for her but the Chief Justice was the problem.

Manjia has travelled all the way from Kenema to Freetown, at least three times now, to see if the Chief Justice was now prepared to handle the complaints and each time, she is invited into Tolla Thompson’s office, the door is closed and she is fed gibberish about how the Chief Justice is not yet ready to take action on Manjia’s letter despite the efforts of Justice Tolla Thompson. At one time, she is actually told that although the Chief Justice was not ready to take action, yet Tolla Thompson would take it upon himself to bypass the Chief Justice and work to get justice for Manjia Balema Samba by striking a compromise for her with her antagonists in the Kenema judiciary.

Naturally, the Chief Justice Umu Hawa Tejan-Jalloh, well known as a very conscientious person, would not endorse with silent acquiescence such treatment of a Sierra Leone citizen let alone a woman like herself but because the letter addressed to her has not been acknowledged nor action taken, the impression that the poor female journalist Manjia Balema-Samba has been left with, is that Justice Tolla Thompson is a very kind man who spoke to her nicely in his office and promised to deliver the letter to the hands of Chief Justice and so the letter must have been delivered but the Chief Justice is not taking action and is ignoring the concerns of a Sierra Leonean woman in distress.

Awareness Times can categorically confirm that although the Chief Justice will seem to be in blissful ignorance of this, there is a widespread perception all over Kenema that Chief Justice Tejan-Jalloh has been given the letter by Justice Tolla Thompson but she is refusing to take action because of political reasons. The question though is whether this is really the case? And if this is not the case, has the Chief Justice Umu Hawa Tejan Jalloh not placed her confidence into the hands of the wrong person who cares not for the reputation of his boss, the first female Chief Justice but for his own subterranean reasons, might prefer for Manjia Balema Samba and women in Kenema to develop scorn for the country’s first female Chief Justice?

STAY TUNED... Part 2 out in a few days time

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