By Stephen V. Lansana
The opposition leader of the All People’s Congress (APC) party, Hon. Chernor R. M. Bah on Monday September 9, 2019, wrote the Chief Justice Babatunde Edwards complaining about “persistent delays” in assigning and expediting constitutional and electoral matters pending before the courts.
“The parliamentary leadership of the All People’s Congress political party (hereinafter referred to as the ‘APC’) is concerned about the persistent delays in expediting constitutional and political cases in Court,”
Hon. Bah said that since the end of the 2018 elections, the APC has filed several petitions and constitutional matters, most of which have taken over a year without being assigned to a Judge or panel of Judges for hearing.
According to the opposition leader in Parliament, the cases that have been assigned are not expedited which has resulted to significant delays in the dispensation of justice, which goes against the principles of the rule of law and natural justice.
The cases include: The presidential election petition filed by the 2018 Presidential Flagbearer of the APC, Dr. Samura Kamara against the election of His Excellency the President; the presidential election petition filed by Dr. Slyvia Olayinka Blyden against the election of His Excellency the President; election petitions filed against elected Members of Parliament of the ruling party; Appeals filed by eleven APC Members of Parliament removed from parliament by decisions of the High Court; the interpretation of Section 78(2) of the 1991 Constitution of Sierra Leone and to review the decision of the Honourable Justice D. B. Edwards (JA, as he then was), sitting in the High Court; and the challenge to the jurisdiction of the Commissions of Inquiry (COI) to operate without Rules of Practice and Procedure formulated by the Rules of Court Committee as provided for in Section 150 of the 1991 Constitution of Sierra Leone.
“Your Lordship will agree with me that the subject matters of the court cases listed above have time value attached to them, given that they involve the petition of occupants of political offices that are tenured. It therefore behoves the judiciary to dispose of these matters expeditiously. Specifically, let me direct your Lordship’s attention to the parliamentary election petitions filed in May 2018, which only got disposed of in May 2019, in breach of constitutional provisions that limit the hearing and disposal of parliamentary election petitions to four months,” Hon. Bah said.
He said that the effect of this delay was manifested in the disenfranchisement of the electorates in having their duly elected Members of Parliament represent them in parliament. “This unfortunate development is repeating itself with the appeals filed by the eleven APC Parliamentarians. The constitutional four months limit to hear and dispose of the appeals is almost exhausted, compounding the illegalities and constitutional breaches in these matters from origin,” he said.
“It is the view of the Parliamentary leadership of the APC that the delays in assigning and/or disposing of the aforementioned matters negatively impact on our constitutional democracy. As such, the parliamentary leadership of the APC, therefore, calls on your good office to give consideration to the above matters for expeditious hearing and disposals,” he emphasized.
The letter was copied to 14 stakeholders: the Honourable Speaker of Parliament; the Attorney General and Minister of Justice; the Secretary to the President; The Resident Coordinator, United Nations; The British High Commissioner; the United States Ambassador; The Head of Delegation — European Union; the Irish Ambassador; The German Ambassador; The Nigerian High Commissioner; The Ghanaian High Commissioner; The Secretary General, Mano River Union; The Chairperson, Human Rights Commission, Sierra Leone; and the Chairman of Political Parties Registration Commission (PPRC).