From Awareness Times Newspaper in Freetown

COMMENTS & OPINIONS
Journalist Paul Kamara & Justice Tolla-Thompson: Our National Constitution Must be Obeyed!
By Jia Kangbai (former senior journalist at For Di People Newspaper)
Dec 17, 2010, 17:10

Kindly publish my views on this current topical issue. As a former journalist who worked with Mr. Paul Kamara at For Di People newspaper for a long period of time spanning several years including the time he was charged to court to face High Court Judge Umu-Hawa Tejan-Jalloh, I want to make my input after reading the beautiful Awareness Times internet article by Dr. Sylvia Blyden whilst browsing the Internet from my desk up here in Bo City where I now lecture at the Njala University.

 

First of all, let me say that the article by Sylvia Blyden was well researched and very interesting and educative. Sylvia Blyden is like a sister to many patriotic journalists. She has been a helpful sister to Paul Kamara in the past but I hope that will not blind her to the very harsh reality that even though Paul is a fine journalistic fighter, but the truth there is laid bare for us all to see in relation to our National Constitution, our Laws, being appointed a Minister and being convicted for a crime.Nothing can change the fact that Paul was found guilty for a crime he committed against Justice Tolla Thompson and he never filed an appeal against the conviction. I agree that committing a crime can indeed not necessarily involve being dishonest so let us look at this particular crime.

 

Sylvia, let me inform you that as a colleague journalist of Paul, I was by his side in the courtroom during that criminal trial which was well handled with fairness and maturity by the current Chief Justice Tejan-Jalloh who was by then an ordinary High Court Judge. She was a good Judge which is why God elevated her. I watched how she conducted the trial even when Paul Kamara and other journalists used to write nasty things against her, she handled the trial very fairly.


I have never been introduced to the Chief Justice; I do not know her and she does not know me and so I have no special reason to defend her except to say the truth for this particular occasion. It is time for a journalist to stand up and say the truth about what happened in Justice Tejan-Jallohís court-room.

 

Hon. Justice Tejan-Jalloh gave many opportunities to Paul Kamara during that trial and it was clear that contrary to what people likes to write against her, she dealt with that particular case very fairly. I will give one instance to highlight this. During his examination, Paul was asked by prosecution lawyers whether he can substantiate his allegations against Justice Tolla Thompson and he said yes he could prove all what he wrote against Tolla Thompson. Paul told the court that what he wrote was correct and that he has evidence readily available to prove in court.


Although she could have adjourned to a short date, in my presence Justice Tejan-Jalloh adjourned the matter for several weeks as she said she wanted to give Paul Kamara enough time to prepare all his proofs to tender to the Court. This was fairness and maturity on display.

 

Sylvia, to make a long story shorter, Paul could not prove in court his allegations against Tolla. Even though the good judge (current Chief Justice) gave him several weeks, he came back totally empty-handed to the Court and could not even produce a single scrap of paper to justify what he had written against Tolla Thompson.

 

Now tell me Sylvia, was Paul not acting dishonestly by telling the court he has evidence against Tolla? Was Paul not being dishonest by writing those things against Tolla Thompson for public consumption when he did not have the evidence at hand at the time to justify what he wrote? Can Sierra Leone afford to place into high office a man who dishonestly writes things he cannot prove? Well, if he is made a Cabinet Minister, will he not sign documents in a dishonest manner?


As a journalist (and a seasoned journalist like Paul) he should have ensured that he has all the necessary data in his possession before going to the press otherwise he runs the risk of being labelled (at the time) as a dishonest journalist and that is what is happening now. Presenting half truth or no truth is dishonesty Sylvia. The English call it misrepresentation. No journalist in this world is under the gun-nose to rush to go to press on a particular story. This is why they should take all their time to cross-check and re-check before going to press because publishing half truth is a crime of dishonesty in court and out of court.


I love Paul Kamara and he is more than a co-worker to me but our National Constitution is very sacrosanct about convicts and ministerial appointments. I wish to see Paul succeed but not at the expense of our Constitution. After all that was why some of us fought alongside with him when the Kabbah and convict issue came up because we believed at the time Paul was on the right path. Later, when my by-line was used to dishonestly publish that Tejan Kabbah owned a mansion in Guinea, I ensured I apologised to Tejan Kabbah because I do not want to be perceived as a dishonest man. That is what a honest journalist does. Paul wrote what he could not prove against Justice Tolla Thompson and to the legalist he is dishonest.


Dishonesty means a lot which includes but not restricted to; presenting half truth when required by a court of law, no truth, or even saying nothing when requested to. Half truth in a court of law is tantamount to no truth in its entirety. I still reserve some where in my heart some love for Paul. Paul epitomizes what a journalist should be or look like in the Third world. He is fearless, deliberate and of course a fighter. But as far as the Tolla debate is/was concerned, Paul was captured legally though morally he sustained no injury. We (those who stood by him at that time) knew where he went wrong that led to his current predicament.


This debate should not be the end of Paulís political life expectation. Of course H.E. Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma can find another solace for Paul without going through the recourse of bastardizing our Constitution. President Koroma will certainly recall that this is not the first time I have intervened personally to President Koroma on behalf of Paul Koroma. I am sure the President will recall when he was then Leader of the Opposition and he found himself was under constant firing from FDP on his role with the formerly Jamil Sahid owned RITCORP Insurance company. Ernest Koroma was frustrated with the way Paul was attacking him back then and I was the one who intervened personally to make peace; a peace that held ever since then to this day. So, I now appeal to President for him to still relocate Paul somewhere, where constitutionality doesnít have to come to the fore.


Finally, I enjoyed the attempt to split hairs to save Paul Kamara by Sylvia Blydenís standard test of Section 26 versus Section 27. God bless you Sylvia but allow me to leave you with just one question: Is lying a dishonest act or a honest act? Because that is what libel is all about. Section 26 or Section 27 does not matter. They both involve dishonesty and lying to the public. Thank you very much.



© Copyright 2005, Freetown, Sierra Leone.