At International Seminar in Nigeria…S/Leone’s Chief Justice Addresses Colleague Judges

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The Chief Justice of the Republic of Sierra Leone who doubles as a Judge of the Residual Special Court for Sierra Leone (RSCSL), His Lordship Chief Justice Desmond Babatunde Edwards has delivered a Goodwill Message at the 16th International Maritime Seminar for Judges organized at the Sheraton Hotel in Abuja, Nigeria.

In his goodwill message, His Lordship Justice Babatunde Edwards stated that, he was delighted for the invite extended to the Judiciary of Sierra Leone by the Nigerian Judicial Institute and the Nigerian Shipper’s Council as one of the focal countries to attend the seminar in order to receive insight in what he described as ‘the specialist area of law.’

“Throughout my tenure as Chief Justice I have held capacity building as one of the hallmarks for an effective, efficient and developing Judiciary. Our participation here at your invitation falls within this remit and strategic priority,” Justice Babatunde added.

He stated that the selection of Sierra Leone among other countries was timely and appropriate, adding that Sierra Leone and Nigeria as English-speaking countries have similarities in their legal systems and the common law system of practice in terms of admiralty law and Maritime law.

Justice Babatunde Edwards underscored that sharing experiences from the same legal systems will bring about significant changes in which both countries could learn from or even work together for progress.

He continued that at the end of the seminar they must have gained sufficient knowledge that would help build on the jurisprudence of Sierra Leone.

He commended the National Judicial Institute under the chairmanship of His Lordship the Chief Justice of Nigeria and the Nigerian Shipper’s Council for, according him, the opportunity to benefit from continuing professional development and acquisition of specialist knowledge and skills will be enhanced.

The Chief Justice hope to replicate similar seminar in Sierra Leone in the near future, reaffirming that he would always seek for multiple experts from Nigeria to help transform the trajectory in the legal system of Sierra Leone.

Representatives from the Judiciary of Ghana, Gambia and Kenya also delivered Goodwill messages.

The keynote speech was delivered by the Acting Chief Justice of Nigeria Honourable Justice Olukayode Ariwoola who was the Special Guest of honour for the ceremony.

Also in attendance at the seminar, were Honourable Justice Jamesina Essie Leonora King and Honourable Justice Komba Kamanda of the Court of Appeal as representatives from the Judiciary of Sierra Leone.

RSLAF Makes Statement on Alleged Assault of Journalist

The Media Reform Coordinating Group (MRCG) has welcomed the Ministry of Defence (MOD) investigation into the allegations concerning the attack on journalist Maada Jessie Jengo of the Voice of Peace and Development (VOPAD) radio by soldiers of the Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces (RSLAF).

In a press release issued on 8 July 2022, the Office of the Directorate of Defence, Public Relations and Information states that: “the MOD regrets the unfortunate occurrence which does not represent the RSLAF core values of good discipline and selfless service. The MOD notes that its attention was drawn to the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ) press release of 4 July 2022 reporting the alleged assault on the journalist. The MOD release notes that “the soldiers have been identified and an investigation into the allegations is ongoing in accordance with military procedures.” The MOD assures SLAJ of RSLAF’s commitment for mutual cooperation and cordial relationship in the discharge of their duties.”

Meanwhile, the MRCG also welcomed the move by the Clerk of Sierra Leone’s Parliament to constitute a committee to investigate an alleged ‘physical assault’ on journalist Abdulai Gbla and make recommendations. The MRCG is also delighted that even before the committee commences investigation, the Clerk of Parliament according to a press release issued by SLAJ had apologized to Mr. Gbla. The MRCG in its monthly Media Freedom Review has been following the matter. Abdulai Gbla, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Gbla TV Online on 28 June 2022 wrote a letter of complaint to the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ) regarding an alleged ‘physical assault’ on him by a Member of Parliament (MP), Hon. Abdul Muniru Lansana of Constituency 121. Hon. Abdul Muniru Lansana in response told the MRCG that he ‘did not assault’ the journalist as he had alleged, but rather ‘hit his phone to stop filming the incident’ after he had previously asked the journalists not to film since the parliamentary sitting had been adjourned.  

The MRCG commends the actions of the MOD and the Sierra Leone Parliament to investigate the matters, and looks forward to speedy investigations. It particularly notes the interventions of SLAJ into the matters and views the steps taken by the institutions as indicative of the fact that the culture of impunity is no longer tolerated in a democratic society like Sierra Leone where the rule of must prevail.

Seeking Solutions on Fuel Crisis…

Religious Leaders, Information Minister Hang Heads

By Finda Judith Ngaujah

 The Minister of Information and Communications, Mohamed Rahman Swaray and his team on Thursday, 7th July 2022, met with the executive of the Inter-Religious Council to discuss happenings in the country especially issues surrounding the availability of petroleum products.

Minister Swaray expressed appreciation to the visitors for honouring their invitation at very short notice, pointing out that lots of issues have emerged bordering on the availability of petroleum products in the world.

Particularly citing Sri Lanka and Ghana which he said are presently going through extreme difficulty as a result of the global fuel crisis he said that the government of Sierra Leone has made several interventions to stop further increase in prices of petroleum products and other essential commodities.

He disclosed that government has subsidized in excess of three hundred and eighty billion Leones from January this year to date, increased storage capacity to 200,000 metric tones and provided foreign exchange to oil marketing companies to enable them bring petroleum products into the country.

Government, he went on, is working assiduously to get more players involved so as to improve on the country’s current stock level, as the 200,000 metric tonnes storage capacity is being underutilized.

According to him, experts are of the opinion that if the storage capacity is filled to capacity, the country may just need to import petroleum products twice a year.

Speaking on behalf of the inter-Religious Council, Arch Bishop Tamba Charles, President of the Inter-Religious Council, thanked the Minister and team for engaging them with such insightful details on happenings around the global petroleum crisis, adding that the ordinary citizen that lacks knowledge on the issue would always blame it on government.

He said the information will help them speak to their congregants from an informed perspective and therefore advised that the communication gap be always bridged for the masses not to be misled by wrong information.

Bishop Charles admonished that filling stations be constantly monitored to avoid artificial scarcity of petroleum products.

He also suggested that teachings on patriotism be included in the school curriculum so that citizens can learn to be patriotic even from an early age.

He said it was very important that the Inter-Religious Council be involved in any future information dissemination as they have the largest constituents and can speak to them from a position of truth and trust.

=ISLAMIC CORNER=

The Last Sermon of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) at Arafat

O People! Lend me an attentive ear, for I know not whether after this year I shall ever be amongst you again. Therefore, listen carefully to what I am saying and take these words to those who could not be present here today.”

“O People! just as you regard this month, this day ,this city as sacred ,so regard the life and property of every Muslim a sacred trust. Return the goods entrusted to you to their rightful owners. Hurt no one so that no one may hurt you. Remember that you will indeed meet your Lord, and that he will indeed reckon your deeds.”

“Allah has forbidden you to take usury, therefore all interest obligation shall henceforth be waived. Your capital is yours to keep .You will neither inflict nor suffer any inequality. Allah has judged that there shall be no interest and that all interest due to Abbas Ibn ‘Aal-Muttalib be waived.”

“Every right arising out of homicide in pre-Islamic days is henceforth waived and the first such right that I waive is that arising from the murder of Rabiah ibni al-Harithiah.”

“O men! the unbelievers indulge in tampering with the calendar in order to make permissible that which Allah forbade, and to prohibit what Allah has made permissible. With Allah the months are twelve in number. Four of them are holy, there are sucessive and one occurs singly between the months of Jumada and Shaban.”

“Beware of Satan, for the safety of your religion. He has lost all hope that he will be able to lead you astray in big things so beware of following him in small things.”

“O People it is true that you have certain rights with regard to your women but they also have rights over you. Remember that you have taken them as your wives only under Allah’s trust and with His permission. If they abide by your right then to them belongs the right to be fed and clothed in kindness. Do treat your women well and be kind to them for they are your partners and committed helpers. And it is your right that they do not make friends with any one of whom you do not approve, as well never to be unchaste.”

“O People! Listen to me in earnest, worship Allah, say your five daily prayers, fast during month of Ramadan, and give your wealth in Zakat .Perform Haj if you can afford it.”

“All mankind is from Adam and Eve, an Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab nor a non-Arab has any superiority over an Arab; also a White has no superiority over a Black nor does a Black have any superiority over a White except by piety and good action. Learn that every Muslim is a brother to every Muslim and that the Muslims constitute one brotherhood. Nothing shall be legitimate to a Muslim which belongs to a fellow Muslim unless it was given freely and willingly.”

“Do not therefore do injustice to yourselves. Remember one day you will meet Allah and answer your deeds. So beware, do not astray from the path of righteousness after I am gone.”

“O People! No Prophet or apostle will come after me and no new faith will be born. Reason well, therefore O People! and understand words that I convey to you. I leave behind me two things, the Quran and the Sunnah and if you follow these you will never go astray.”

“All those who listen to me shall pass on my words to others and those to others again; and may the last ones understand my words better than those who listen to me directly.”

=OPINION=

The PR about PR Is Deceptive: The Process Gone Rogue and the Goals Bring Bigger Problems

Mohamed Gibril Sesay

I have seen the proportional representation arguments – about its advantages for peace, social cohesion, and better representation of preferences. These arguments are very weak and they are proposals for democratic mischief, drivers of greater fragility, conflict and more. And this is why.

1. On this thing about its contribution to peace. None of the proposals tell us how that is the case.  They just say it contributes to peace, peace, peace. As if just saying the words makes it so. Fact is, in the electoral system we already know, disruptions in relation to a constituency election may be localized to that particular constituency, and easy to contain. In a proportional representation system, where mischief anywhere in the large constituency can really affect the results everywhere for that constituency, disruptions and violence would be planned for a larger area. For instance, should all of, say Eastern Freetown be one constituency, violence to disrupt the same constituency election could take place at Foullah Town, Upgun, Kissy Mess, Calaba Town and Allen Town. In these instances, the PR expands the arena for violence rather than contain it.

2. PR undermines accountability at the local level. The electoral system we already know allows for people to know who directly represents them in their constituency. This is diluted in the PR system. I hear all the talk about how accountability to a local area could be allowed for in the PR system. But I have not seen one suggestion as to how it can be operationalized or implemented.

Relating to strengthening accountability with the system we already know, we have been noticing how the dominant parties in the country are moving towards primaries at the local level to elect their candidates (for elections). A whole array of structures are already being put in place at party levels- constituency party memberships, ward executive, constituency executive and party youth and women  branches. These are all being brought into the fore to vote for candidates to represent them at elections. Those are great moves. The wise thing to do is to strengthen electoral management at those levels rather than throw away these emerging ways of choosing party candidates for general elections as would be the case with PR, where national party people and old boy networks would have their hands strengthened against people at the grassroots. There is little  that is democratic about this. The possibility becomes wide open for those whose only claim to elected office may be their paper qualifications, old boy networks, and other non-popular competences. There is nothing wrong with them being in parliament. But let them subject themselves to the test of the people at the grassroots rather than solely rely on their paper qualifications, old boy network and other experiences. PR, I submit, is contempt for the people written into law and structured to prevent accountability to the people.

3. Independents – I have seen very little practical suggestions by the proponents relating to how they would factor in independents in to the system. The large constituencies envisaged in the PR system increases costs of campaigning for independents – for they would have to campaign all over the large district. Moreover, it increases, by far, the threshold they would need to be elected. Even political parties may have difficulties meeting some of the thresholds suggested, let alone independents with fewer human and other material resources. The PR system may, in these circumstances, make it very difficult for newer and alternative voices to the dominant political parties to emerge.

4. Electoral knowledge: With the system we already know, people know instantly and directly who has won elections in their locality, without need for other tiers of interpretation we would witness in a PR system- where we need statisticians and other very numerate persons to compute winners. This removal of knowing winners from the hands of the people is itself a recipe for increasing perceptions of illegitimacy of the ‘elected’ representatives. This society is still struggling with literacy, and numeracy is at a very low edge for the overwhelming majority of even the literate. Adding those hiatuses of numeracy before knowing winners is bad for the country’s stability and the legitimacy of its governing institutions.

5. More concentration of power. Democracy is now moving towards making sure that power is removed from the hands of the few, and put in the hands of the people. That is the rationale for Decentralization. In fact de-concentrating rather than concentrating power is majorly seen as the way to ensure peace. Sierra Leone’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission Report makes that claim. In Kenya, to diffuse tension in that nation, counties were created, given budgets calculated according to rules laid down in law, and areas identified for their primary responsibilities. PR gives lots of fillips to filthy lipped ‘big men’ at the national level. And dark exchanges of money and dishonesty amongst a few men determines the representational contours of the country. PR is very bad for transparency.

6. And voting gets complicated with the PR suggestions we are hearing. Already, there are many void votes in the system we know. And people want to introduce something new less than a year to elections. How would people know this system to effectively participate?  How will the country put in place measures at the local level to counter rogue behavior by electoral officials and other people? How would monitors be trained? With which new contextualized materials?

7. And this NIN shenanigan. I have already heard translations of it that speak to it as the turds – nin, in one of our languages- they seek to throw into the electoral system, to make it smellier. Some people creatively render it as PIN and then say: ‘den done kam with ‘pini’ for we’. This is the level of derision with which the new suggestions are held. And it speaks to the laziness and incompetence of NCRA to want to ride on voter registration to cover its botching of civil registration in this country. There are many other ‘eligibility documents’ and other means to ascertain rightful voters in this country. This ‘pini’ nonsense, at this late hour, adds to the confusion, fragility and potential conflicts that these new electoral suggestions and PR mischief are heating up in the nation.

8. And this talk of PR increasing female representation. The system we know can also do that, retain its many advantages for accountability, rights of independents and decentralize representation. This is how: Two adjacent constituencies can be made one and candidates asked to be paired, one male, one female. The pair that gets the highest votes wins. That way we even get up to 50% of the seats in parliament being women rather than the token list system we are hearing in the proposed PR.  And it brings greater gender cooperation at the local level to ensure proper delivery of what people want, and takes the tokenism out of what the PR brigade of PR are telling us about.

9. And back again to the social cohesion thing. In countries like ours, social cohesion is majorly a function of the winner take all nature of executive power- and not of legislative power. We have all seen how parliamentary mandates of the people have been stolen by executive misbehavior in the country – and judicial mischief adding insult to executive misbehavior and recklessness. The driving force then of social non-cohesion is executive misbehavior – and all others follow. The call then is to structure executive authority- to decentralize it, to remove the claws of the central executive in so many decisions. That’s the greater conversation this country needs to have. Already, we are seeing how even decentralized institutions like the Freetown City Council are being paralyzed by central executive retention of discretional powers over financing, staffing and other resources. Executive discretions need to be taken away from how these things are done, and replaced with constitutional and other statutory formulae for distributing resources and hiring staff. With these, social cohesion looms better than the misplaced shenanigans of the current PR suggestions.

10. And a bigger problem is the rogue attempt to shove it down the nation’s throat. Those rogue attempts and desperations are symptomatic of ill-intent, and they are driving greater fragilities in the country than creating social and political cohesion. These rogue attempts are moves to centralize executive over the electoral system- from who gets registered, who gets to vote, and who gets to decide what vote counts at even the basic unit of elections- the polling station. The president can remove electoral commissioners at any time according to the new bills before parliament, polling staff have greater discretion to cancel elections at polling stations, the PPRC has greater powers to do its thing, and NCRA that has shown its gross incompetence during the ‘national’ registration exercise is made central to who is eligible to vote. All these speak to the same greater centralization of power in the hands of the executive, which we all know is against the grain of the so- called social and political cohesion talk. The PR about PR is deceptive, the process is gone rogue, and the substantive goals drives greater fragilities on an already fragile political, economic and social landscape.

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