Before the Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) issues Press Statements, it is advisable for them to get proper legal advice. Yesterday’s Press Statement marks the second time this year that the SLPP, an otherwise matured political party, is issuing Press Statements on Legal Issues that have left a few eyebrows raised at the ignorance of the Law being exhibited by the crafters of those Press Statements.
Yesterday, following the SLPP joining the Bar Association to rightfully lambast the APC over Executive interference within the Judiciary and making a much-desired call for the Judiciary to become more financially independent via self-accounting in managing revenue raised, here is how the SLPP’s National Executive proceeded to embarrass itself by saying:
The SLPP is also mindful of Government gazette No.44 Volume CXLI of Thursday 17th June 2010 which established a Tribunal to investigate the removal of three High Court Judges. As a democratic Party committed to the rule of law and the independence of the Judiciary; we will continue to cautiously monitor the process and will make a comprehensive statement at the conclusion of the tribunal’s sittings that will guide our Members of Parliament when the matter eventually comes up for final determination by the house which requires a two-third majority under the provisions of the 1991 Constitution to remove a judge for proven misconduct.
First of all, the said Tribunal was set up NOT to investigate the removal of three High Court Judges but to investigate supposedly stated misconduct of three High Court Judges, pursuant to which, recommendations are expected to be made that could result in either the Judges being removed from office or their current suspensions being immediately lifted and they resume their judicial duties.
Secondly, it is so embarrassing for the same SLPP that is lambasting the APC Executive arm of Government over interfering with Judicial processes, to go on and actually prejudice the ongoing Tribunal by predicting that the Tribunal will eventually result in the Executive sending the matter to Parliament for the Judges to be removed! How did SLPP arrive at that prediction?
The SLPP is already finding the three Judges guilty by the Tribunal even before the Tribunal concludes its sittings! Unconscionable! Where are the SLPP Lawyers? The SLPP is already assuming that the three Honourable Judges are definitely going to be found guilty of misconduct by the Tribunal to the extent that Parliament might have to sit on their removal proceedings. What gives the SLPP such an impression? Are they now fortune-tellers who can see into the future?
Let us look at what the Constitution says. It says that a Judge can be removed for stated misconduct only through the process mandated under Section 137.
Section137(4) and 137(5) of the National Constitution call for the President, acting in consultation with the Judicial and Legal Service Commission, to appoint a tribunal which shall enquire into the stated misconduct, report their findings to the President and then recommend to the President whether OR NOT the Judge ought to be removed from office. According to the Constitution, it is only at this point if the Tribunal has recommended for a removal that the President exercises his powers to send the matter to Parliament to seek a two thirds vote for the removal of the Judges. Section 137(6) is categorically clear that the Tribunal, following investigation, can recommend to the President that the Judge shall NOT be removed from office and any suspension that the Judge might be under, will immediately cease to have effect.
It appears that the SLPP, a supposedly matured political party with good lawyers amongst their membership, does not even understand the constitutional procedures by which Judges are removed which is why they are jumping to the conclusion that the Tribunal will be definitely recommending to the President that the three Judges should be removed from office by Parliament.
I submit that in the same way the SLPP is urging the APC to hands-off the Judiciary so also must the SLPP advise itself to not predict or prejudice the outcome of the ongoing Tribunals. Where are all the SLPP Lawyers? Could none of them have turned the attention of the SLPP Executive to the relevant sections of the Constitution?
Why the inclusion of this matter in a political press statement anyway? Has there been any sign so far that an otherwise straightforward judicial process has taken political SLPP-APC-PMDC overtones? Not to my knowledge so why the inclusion in yesterday’s SLPP Press Statement?
To make matters even worse and even more embarrassing, there was the SLPP straight-facedly talking nonsense and misinforming the innocent Public that the Tribunal was set up to “investigate the removal of three High Court Judges”! For the records and to correct the nonsense fed out to the Public yesterday via the SLPP Press Release, the Tribunal was set up to investigate the conduct of the Judges and come up with recommendations!
Bottom-line, by second-guessing the outcome of the Process even when it is still on, is the SLPP not as guilty as the APC of interfering/prejudicing constitutional and/or judicial processes? Yesterday was surely another embarrassing day for the SLPP Leadership. Indeed, where are all the SLPP’s lawyers?
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Newspaper in Freetown, Sierra Leone.