SLPP'S SUPREME COURT BATTLE HAS JUST BEGUN
This article BY ABDUL KARIM KABIA (FONTI) first published on March 2nd 2011 is reproduced today.
In the wake of the ongoing Supreme Court Battle between Sierra Leone’s main opposition party, the SLPP and one of its members, Dr. Bu-Buakei Jabbi, pundits have expressed grave concerns over the fate of the country’s multi-party democracy, as it is widely believed that this matter has the propensity to destabilize the country’s main opposition party if not handled with wisdom, responsible pragmatism and maturity.
First of all, it should be stated that the Supreme Court Battle has only now begun rather than the mistaken belief that Bu-Buakei Jabbi has “100%” won the case he took to court. Bubuakei’s case has not even started being looked into yet. The battle has just started and SLPP should know this!
Meanwhile, some are calling for the Defence of the Court case to be abandoned and immediate fresh elections to be held nation-wide for various executive positions. We, here at Awareness Times, sense a major irreparable disaster for the SLPP should this line of thinking hold sway. Not only will it expose the party to the danger of conceding that it has been structurally organised in an illegitimate manner since 1997 but it will mean Clause 1 of the SLPP Constitution will be at stake; i.e: the very existence of a political entity known as the SLPP within Sierra Leone will now be at stake.
Furthermore, with a total of 19 party members contending for the position of SLPP Presidential Flagbearer and each of them brimming with confidence that he or she will emerge the winner, the potential for a disastrous disunity to come out of any attempt to elect new delegates cannot be over-emphasised! Whilst the candidates themselves might stay aloof of such elections, their supporters and strategists certainly will NOT. Each of the 19 aspirants’ camps will be trying to influence the various elections so their sympathisers can emerge as delegates.
Like all political parties in Sierra Leone, most intra-party elections tend to leave the affected party split with losers feeling disillusioned and winners finding it difficult to lead a fragmented party. In January 2009, the Kenema District Executive Elections for SLPP resulted in the party offices being virtually vandalised. Same also happened for the Western Area Regional Elections of February 2009 that saw uniformed police officers fleeing for their lives and furniture at Bishop Johnson Memorial School affected. At that time, there were only two clear camps. In this particular instance, there are 19 distinct camps with the potential for the party to split into 19 different factions not being impossibility.
Dr. Bu-Buakei Jabbi in a recent Press Release has raised the stakes even higher by insisting for biennial intra-SLPP elections to be held not only at the levels demarcated by the SLPP Constitution (National, Regional & District) but also at Constituency Levels, Chiefdom Levels and even Ward/Zonal Levels. This means, should the SLPP pay heed to the demands of Bu-Buakei Jabbi, the SLPP should prepare itself to have some 19 different SLPP factions co-existing from the Ward and Chiefdom Levels all the way up the party’s hierarchy ladder. Is that the kind of disunited SLPP party that should enter 2012? 19 factions of ‘bad blood’? The slogan should be then changed from “2012: Sharp 12” to “2012: Sharp Zero!” Fact!
MOVING ON TO ANOTHER SIGNIFICANT ISSUE:
The danger in the SLPP carelessly abandoning the case at the Supreme Court un-challenged by legal representation, can also NOT be over-emphasized. The 7th Relief sought by Dr. Bu-Buakei Jabbi from the Supreme Court has granted the Five Judges carte blanche to issue out ‘dangerous’ Orders and Directives. An unchallenged Jabbi Motion has left the SLPP in a very vulnerable state at the hands of a Supreme Court that is already accused (with no evidence we must say!) of being biased against the SLPP. Lawyers walking out of the proceedings in mid-stream, in our opinion, is possibly the most inane and thoughtless decision ever taken by a political entity in opposition.
The Awareness Times Team is now using this opportunity to urge the SLPP and all relevant Defendants (John Benjamin, J.J. Saffa and Alex Musa) to swiftly (VERY, VERY SWIFTLY!) file a Strong Defence with accompanying Affidavits against the Originating Motion of Dr. Bu-Buakei Jabbi. If they fail to file a defence on time, it means they have surrendered themselves to the fatality of the Supreme Court making Orders based on what is in front of the Five eminent Judges. And in such a case, no-one will be able to blame the Supreme Court Judges or the Chief Justice. Awareness Times will even strongly defend any such Supreme Court Orders granted regardless of how outlandish they may be as the Judges will bear no fault for the SLPP Lawyers walking out of the proceedings without a Defence!
There are Rules governing the operations of the Supreme Court and these Rules have timelines by which documents should be filed. We repeat: THERE ARE RULES GOVERNING THE OPERATIONS OF THE SUPREME COURT AND THESE RULES HAVE TIMES AND PERIODS FOR ACTIONS TO BE TAKEN. A word to the wise... LONTA!
Meanwhile, let us now take a look at what has happened so far:
The Supreme Court of Sierra Leone has suspended the March 5th 2011 convention of the main opposition Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP). The Supreme Court verdict came following an interlocutory motion filed against the SLPP by one of the party’s flagbearer aspirants in the person of Dr. Bu Buakei Jabbi, who applied for a temporary injunction on the party’s convention for the election of a flagbearer.
The injunction which was granted in the evening hours of Monday 28th February 2011, at precisely 9:15pm, merely marks a chapter in a legal battle on the status of the various executives of the party. It is more of a beginning than an ending. This means the wild rumours making the rounds that the SLPP has lost the whole court case to Dr. Jabbi is nothing to go by as the actual case (originating motion) filed by Bu-Buakei Jabbi on Valentine’s Day, 14th February 2011, is yet to commence. That notwithstanding, the erudite and learned Constitutional Expert, Dr. Bu-Buakei Jabbi has already scored two major points against the SLPP – The preliminary objection by the defence team was ruled in favour of Jabbi, and his interlocutory motion was also upheld. He has every reason to be feeling good about his legal prowess right now.
The originating motion filed by the SLPP flagbearer on the 14th February 2011, is questioning the status of various executives of the SLPP. Jabbi is arguing that the two years tenure of offices for the various executives of the party, as provided in the SLPP constitution, has either expired or is on the verge of expiring. Bu-Buakei Jabbi is concerned that the aforementioned executive members, who are going to partake in the flagbearer election as delegates, ‘do not have legitimate status’ to elect the party’s flagbearer, and is therefore seeking regularization of their status prior to the flagbearer contest.
Prior to going to court, Bu Buakei Jabbi raised series of concerns over the aforementioned ‘anomaly’ and the aftermath was the convening of an emergency party conference in Bo on the 29th January 2011 in order to legitimately extend the tenures of office. Extensions of tenures of office is not new within the SLPP. The SLPP Constitution makes clear democratic provisions for doing just that and this has been done repeatedly since the inception of Multi-Party democratic pluralism in 1995.
Prior to the Bo conference, the National Executive Council (NEC) of the SLPP had met in Makeni on the 27th November 2010 in which a decision was reached to extend the mandates of the various executives of the party (including the national executive) until after the 2012 presidential election. This decision was reached pending ratification by the general membership.
At the Bo conference in January 2011, the motion to ratify the Makeni NEC decision for the extension of the tenure of the various executives was unanimously ratified by all the SLPP members present. It is of significance to note that Dr. Bu-Buakei Jabbi was present at the Bo convention and the smiles on his face whilst the motion was being ratified were conspicuous. Not a single view was made in dissent and the conference which was considered as the make or break point of the SLPP ended peacefully.
At a time when the SLPP thought it had crossed the major bridge, then came the shock for the party when news broke out that a legal suit has been filed against the party by one of its flagbearer aspirants: Dr. Bu-Buakei Jabbi!
This news was accompanied by allegations that Bu-Buakei Jabbi has received bribe amounting to two hundred million Leones from the ruling APC party to create confusion in the SLPP. The allegation was countered by a response from the Bu-Buakei Jabbi campaign team, which referred to the allegations as absurd.
Few days later, Jabbi filed a fresh second motion to the Supreme Court (interlocutory motion) seeking a temporary ban on the flagbearer convention, on grounds that the issue in his originating motion (which is yet to be heard by the Supreme Court) has direct bearing to the March 5 flagbearer convention.
Following the new motion, the Supreme Court fixed a date for hearing on the interlocutory motion. On the scheduled date of Friday 28th February 2011, hundreds of supporters of the SLPP converged at the Supreme Court and its environs in solidarity with their party. The SLPP lined up a total of ten lawyers in defence, whilst Bu-Buakei Jabbi solely represented himself.
The SLPP Lawyers, headed by Eke Halloway raised a preliminary objection even before Bu-Buakei Jabbi could state his case. The SLPP lawyers argued that the Supreme Court lacks jurisdiction to hear the matter. Their objection was based on grounds that it is the PPRC that has the authority to regulate political parties in the country and it is only after petitions to PPRC fails that a party should resort to approaching the Supreme Court. Also, the SLPP lawyers challenged that Jabbi has no Locus Standi under the Constitution to take such matters to court. After their submissions, Jabbi asked for a two hour recess to adequately prepare his response to SLPP’s preliminary objection. On his return, Jabbi took his time to eloquently and dramatically debunk the points submitted and at the end of this, the matter which had by then lasted from 10am to 5pm was adjourned to Monday 28th February 2011 for ruling.
On Monday 28 February, the panel of judges headed by the Chief Justice ruled against the SLPP Lawyers, stating that the Supreme Court has the authority to hear the matter and that Jabbi has the right to take such matters to court.
It was after this ruling on Monday that Bu-Buakei Jabbi moved his interlocutory motion for an temporary injunction to be ordered on the SLPP flagbearer election, pending the actual court case.
The SLPP lawyers were unable to adequately defend against the motion moved by Jabbi which subsequently ended in an injunction restraining the party from not only going ahead with the March 5 convention, but to also desist from all activities, including meetings and arrangements for a flagbearer contest.
Immediately after the verdict, lead defence lawyer Eke Halloway stood up to announce that his team was withdrawing its participation from further proceedings on the matter as per the instruction of the defendants.
On his part, Dr. Jabbi thanked the panel of judges for ruling in his favour and swiftly left the court room amid taunting from the SLPP supporters.
The defence lawyers have described the verdict as unbelievably unfair.
This is how the matter has gone so far. The actual proceeding to look into the merits of the originating motion filed by Bu Buakei Jabbi is yet to commence.
Bottom-line, Dr. Bu-Buakei Jabbi has taken the SLPP to court. Will the SLPP be naive enough to walk out of the proceedings and leave Jabbi’s briefs unchallenged? How thoughtless! A word to the wise... Lonta!
Dr. Bu-Buakei Jabbi, Sections 29 and 27.(1).(b) of PPRC Act of 2002 By Dr. Sylvia Olayinka Blyden
Section 35.(5) of the 1991 National Constitution is almost identical to Section 16 of the Political Parties Registration Commission (PPRC) Act passed in Year 2002 except for two main differences. Firstly, PPRC’s Section 16 includes a clause to ensure no foreigner can lead a political party in Sierra Leone. Secondly, and most importantly for this my Opinion today is that Section 35.(5) has only four subsections namely, (a),(b),(c) and (d) whilst Section 16 has an additional subsection namely, (e).
Section 16.(e) of the PPRC Act says the PPRC shall refuse registration to a proposed party which has contravened ANY (I repeat, any!) provision of the National Constitution of Sierra Leone. It is clear that 16.(e) was added to the laws governing party registrations to show how seriously Sierra Leone takes contraventions of its National Constitution by political entities. In other words, any political entity wishing to be registered as a political party, which has contravened any of the sections of the National Constitution, SHALL be REFUSED registration by the PPRC.
Against this backdrop, I now wish for us to look at Section 27.(1).(b) of the PPRC Act of 2003 which says thus of Sierra Leone’s Political Parties Registration Commission:
Without prejudice to any other penalty prescribed by this Act or any other enactment, the Commission may apply to the Supreme Court for an order to Cancel the registration of any political party where that party has contravened any provision of the Constitution or this Act.
Section 27.(2) of the PPRC Act goes on to say the Supreme Court will give a decision within 30 days as to whether or not the Political Party’s registration should be cancelled. Following this, Section 27.(3) of the PPRC Act says if the Supreme Court does go on to cancel the party’s registration, if anyone dares to summon a meeting purportedly of that cancelled political party or attempts to do anything on behalf of that cancelled political party, such a person can be sent to jail for up to one year. As can be seen, the Laws of Sierra Leone do not joke with contraventions of the National Constitution by political parties! THE LAWS OF SIERRA LEONE CALL FOR A CANCELLATION OF A POLITICAL PARTY’S REGISTRATION IF IT CONTRAVENES ANY SECTION OF THE NATIONAL CONSTITUTION.
Let us now look at Section 29 of the PPRC Act. It says:
“Where the registration of a political party is cancelled, the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice may apply to the Supreme Court which may make such orders as appear to the Court to be just and equitable for the winding up and dissolution and disposal of the property, assets, rights and liabilities of the political party."
I have taken my time to highlight all the above points because a certain SLPP Lawyer yesterday spent the better part of a phone conversation arguing with me that the best thing for the SLPP to do now is to simply file a so-called ‘NOTICE OF INTENTION NOT TO CONTEND’. In other words, this Lawyer wants the SLPP to go to the Supreme Court and state in writing and to the hearing of the whole world that everything Dr. Bu-Buakei Jabbi has filed against the SLPP is not going to be contended by the SLPP but would be conceded to by them.
A similar thought process has been promoted on certain newspaper pages that the SLPP’s best option is ‘not to drag the matter on’ but to simply concede and proffer that since elections have now been held, the Supreme Court and Dr. Bu-Buakei Jabbi will now be satisfied and allow the National Convention and Flagbearer Elections to go on. How naive! It is obvious that anyone who puts forward that suggestion has not carefully read what was taken to the Supreme Court by Dr. Jabbi.
Since this saga started, I have kept on telling everyone who desires to listen that what Dr. Bu-Buakei Jabbi has taken to the Supreme Court is more complicated than just ‘holding of elections’. One of the things that Dr. Bu-Buakei Jabbi wants from the Supreme Court as listed in Sections 2B(1) and 2B(3).(b) of his ORIGINATING NOTICE OF MOTION is a Declaration that the SLPP contravened Section 35(2) of the National Constitution when its Bo Party Conference in January this year, extended the tenures of SLPP Executives. By implication, such a Declaration will mean the SLPP has been guilty of multiple contraventions of Section 35(2) of the National Constitution since November 1997.
Additionally, the esteemed and learned Lawyer has told the Supreme Court, in his requested RELIEF #7 that the Supreme Court should feel free to make “any other or further Relief, Order or Directive that this Honourable Supreme Court would deem fit, proper and just in all the circumstances”.
Under what are these circumstances as outlined to the Court? They are to be found in the title at the heading of every single document filed by the learned Lawyer Jabbi. Most interestingly, when these titular headings of the learned lawyer’s documents are carefully perused, it can be seen that he has informed the Supreme Court that he was bringing to them a matter that concerns numerous Laws, including in my opinion, the MOST DANGEROUS ones of Section 27 and Section 29 of the PPRC Act of 2002.
The inclusion of Sections 27 & 29 of the PPRC Act in the Titular Heading of all of Dr. Bu-Buakei Jabbi’s documents means he is giving the Supreme Court the laxity to apply any order that may be pertinent to those sections of the PPRC Act of 2002. That, my dear readers, is interesting. Very, very interesting. Please go back up in this article and re-read what Section 27(1).(b) and Section 29 say.
The wise ones within the Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP) should start to scratch their heads and wonder at the motives behind those who are relentlessly pushing for the SLPP to file a ‘NOTICE OF INTENTION NOT TO CONTEND’ rather than ask the learned Dr. Jabbi to simply withdraw his case from the Supreme Court. In other words, why would certain shadowy operatives want the SLPP to publicly concede to the Supreme Court that the SLPP, a registered political party in Sierra Leone, has serially been contravening Section 35(2) of the National Constitution of Sierra Leone since November 1997?
I submit that the issue is not about this current SLPP Executive neither is the issue the ‘holding of elections’ but the real issue which should be worrying all bonafide SLPP members is whether the SLPP will concede that it has been serially contravening Section 35(2) of the National Constitution since November 1997 and if so, what are the penalties for such serial contraventions under Section 27 and Section 29 of the PPRC Act which sections are both referenced in the Titular Heading of Dr. Jabbi’s Originating Notice of Motion and all his subsequent documents?
I will cease the flow of ink for now. I am sure there are many intelligent people in the SLPP whom might or might not agree with what I am saying in the words above. My opinion is not meant to be presented as a conclusive one but as a thought-provoking one.
John Benjamin Hires Bu-Buakei Jabbi in Laudable Gesture but...
A Commentary by Sylvia Olayinka Blyden
In a highly acclaimed and laudable gesture, John Oponjo Benjamin, National Chairman and Leader of the main opposition Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP) has formally re-enlisted the skills of “esteemed” SLPP member Dr. Bu-Buakei Jabbi Esq. on behalf of the SLPP, in the matter of the SLPP’s request for a judicial investigation into the conduct of the 2007 Elections by Dr. Christiana Thorpe. This was revealed in a Press Statement by the party last Wednesday published elsewhere in this edition. It can be recalled that Jabbi was the Lawyer who first filed papers in the matter in December 2007. Jabbi’s continued retention by John Benjamin on behalf of the SLPP, has been warmly welcomed by SLPP stalwarts who see it as a positive sign in the SLPP-Jabbi saga.
Unfortunately, the fate of the other matter taken to the Supreme Court against the SLPP by the same Dr. Bu-Buakei Jabbi, is still not yet known. It can be recalled that Jabbi, himself an SLPP member, recently dragged the SLPP to the Supreme Court where he asked the Court to make a DECLARATION that the SLPP has contravened Section 35(2) of the Sierra Leone National Constitution.
It is a fact that if the SLPP is proven to have contravened the National Constitution with such a Declaration from the Supreme Court, any ordinary citizen from the streets of Freetown, can then file papers asking the Political Parties Registration Commission (PPRC) to exercise Section 27(1)(b) of the PPRC Act which calls for the PPRC to apply for the Supreme Court to institute the penalty for such breach. The said penalty calls for the SLPP’s registration as a political party to be cancelled; following which the Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP) will then become banned and all its properties seized and sold off by the Attorney General under Section 29 of the PPRC Act of Parliament.
After such a scenario, which would be legitimately executed within the ambit of the Laws of the Land, any citizen who attempts to carry out any act on behalf of the banned SLPP, can be carted off to Pademba Road or Mafanta Prisons for a period of up to one year; following which term of imprisonment, he can be asked to pay an additional fine of up to half a million leones before he is released from Mafanta or Pademba jailyards.
In all of these actions, the ruling APC and President Ernest Bai Koroma will not have any visible hand for which they can be blamed; as the Judiciary is theoretically separate and independent from the Executive arm of Government. It will just be a case of a political party being banned because one of its own “esteemed” members got the Supreme Court to declare that the party has breached the National Constitution.
Of course, the ordinary citizen who could legally file papers to the PPRC calling for the SLPP to be de-registered, does not have to be an APC or SLPP member. He can be any John Doe from the street.
The SLPP is an important ingredient in Sierra Leone’s democratic culture therefore the current fate of Sierra Leone’s democratic culture lies in the hands of Dr. Bu-Buakei Jabbi and the Leadership of the SLPP. The sooner the matter of this Supreme Court Declaration is withdrawn from the Judiciary, the better for our country. This is not a matter of ‘Elections’. If the matter was only concerning Elections and did not seek to have the SLPP de-registered, banned and all its properties seized under Sections 27 and 29 of the PPRC Act of 2002, then since the lower-level Elections have all been 100% conducted with no more petitions remaining anywhere, why is the case still in front of the Supreme Court?
What Dr. Jabbi took to the Supreme Court is not one of ‘Executive Elections’ neither is it one to undermine the John Benjamin leadership per se as some conceited pundits proclaim. Rather, it is one that hinges around the very existence of the SLPP as a viable political entity in Sierra Leone. The sooner this is realised, the better for the SLPP.
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Newspaper in Freetown, Sierra Leone.