‘Disrespect for Law & Order Is Our Number 1 Problem’ – Lawyer Pa-Momo Fofanah 

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In the article below, erudite lawyer, Pa-Momo Fofanah writes on what he believes are some of the major problems affecting the growth of Sierra Leone. He writes extensively on the issues of disrespect for law and order among other issues which he believes any government must take into serious consideration in order for peace, stability and national cohesion to be attained.

Read his article on page……

LIFTING OUR COUNTRY UP: SIERRA LEONE WILL RISE AGAIN!

BY MOHAMED PA-MOMO FOFANAH ESQ.

Please bear with me as this is a long piece. Much has happened since I went on Radio Democracy 98.1 in 2018, when our former President, Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma, was pushing for a third term and legal minds needed to debate the national constitution in order to tell him that the basic law did not permit a third term, whatever Samaritan the outgoing President thought he was then. I had taken similar positions about our constitution, with my Learned Senior Colleague, Mr. Charles Francis Margai, against the late Mr. Solomon Berewa when we proceeded to the Supreme Court of Sierra Leone to say that it was unfair and illegal for a “public servant” to seek presidential seat whilst still serving as public servant and using state resources and power to campaign on a purported democratic level plane. My spirit was similarly not daunted when I argued on several occasions that our constitution did not stop dual citizens from running for at least parliamentary seats!

However, for reasons of my family and professional practice (I believe a nation thrives more on family commitment and one’s personal development) I, over the immediate past years, withdrew a bit to give space to people I consider my contemporaries in the elderly youth bracket to give their best to the nation, but it appears all is really not well. This piece is therefore an endeavour to say my bit in what everyone believes is troubling times. It will, however, be forward-looking, for I believe that all is not lost, our beautiful country, Sierra Leone, will and must rise again!

I therefore commence by expressing my sincere and deep condolences to the bereaved, and wish those who have passed away during our challenging, sad and troubling times in history an eternal, peaceful rest!

Respect for Law and Order:

Democracies all over the world have succeeded because of their respect for law and order. Such law is built on sound foundations of respect for the laws that govern us, including in particular, our national constitution, equality before the law, respect for individual rights (whether we like or dislike each other), duty to serve the nation well (whether in the public or private domain and irrespective of one’s creed, tribe, place of origin or your gender), obligation to be accountable (especially if you are paid and supported from tax payers’ money), duty to protect public, and by the same stretch, private properties, and inter alia, an imperative duty to be always fair and just (especially if you are chosen to be a judge or arbiter of the alleged failings or wrongdoings of your fellow men). All of these values are interestingly provided for and secured by our constitution and the laws that support it, even though they nonetheless require reforms and amendments.

In view of the above, the recent mayhem by violent protesters is strongly condemned!

Our problem has always, however, been with lack of respect for the laws we have and seek to protect. One therefore loses the moral high ground to hold criminals to account when one is busy breaching or showing no respect for the very laws one espouses and claim to protect. We cannot claim to be law-abiding citizens whilst we show no respect for our sacred constitution and laws!

The Three Organs of Government (Parliament, the Executive and the Judiciary):

The three organs of government, Parliament, the Executive and the Judiciary, are the foundations of our constitution and democracy; and our success or failure as a nation rest squarely on how well they perform and how those who serve in these organs remain true to their oaths of office, laws that govern us and their determination to keep us together as a nation. These organs are separate in their functions but are designed to interact meaningfully for the good of society.

It is absolutely a joke to enact well-meaning laws and only try to uphold and enforce them against those we perceive as enemies, whilst pampering those from whom we seek favors. No one entity or person is greater than the other, it is merely our self-seeking perceptions, ambitions and gains that permit us to believe that everything about the success of our nation rests alone upon the executive and the Presidency. Our governors and leaders campaign and take sacred oaths to SERVE US and US alone!

Consequently, we have a strong stake in determining, through elections, who our representatives and governors should be. We owe it to ourselves to choose leaders who are not stooges to party politics and often the never-do-wells and sycophants that surround them during campaigns. We need leaders who can think above the self-seeking minds that surround them! My little political experience has taught me to know that the easiest and most lucrative employment space for failures in life and/or indolent happy-go-lucky people is politics. They cajole to get power, and use power to get quick riches and enslave their electors. They have no clue or are not interested in sound policies and how to sustain them; it is all about their turn to be happy and to live well now and always.

So, in the coming elections we should be particularly watchful and extremely careful about who we return to Parliament and the Presidency. Five years is too long a period to wait for those whom you elect to change, for they will use the power they have anyhow to protect their personal gains!

The Judiciary in Particular:

Among the three organs mentioned above, the Judiciary should stand tall and firm always. The pulse of sober democracies is defined by the seriousness of their judicial organs. Ordinary men and women seek justice in the courts when they are aggrieved, politicians also do the same both within and out of power. People only seek the gates of the courts because they believe that when all else fail, a just and fair institution will avail to give them redress. Similarly, respect for the courts and the legal system gives mark of acceptance of a nation by the international community.

So, our business, moving forward, is to keep the courts absolutely out of politics! But it is not only about keeping the courts independent and impartial in the manner they deal with cases and dispense justice, it is actually about firstly, getting the right caliber of men and women to uphold strict tenets of the rule of law, justice and fairness; and secondly, about holding judicial officers to account when they blatantly and open-endedly pervert justice for personal and political gains. Court orders and judgments must be sound and prompt in coming; the judiciary should be well-resourced and fearless in decision-making; the appellate courts must be quick and detailed in reviewing and determining judgments and orders of the lower courts; and above all, discipline should apply across board to those who fail to keep their oaths of office and ethics of their calling.

It is indeed the case that our Judiciary, like the other two organs of government above, is in need of drastic institutional and personality reforms, some of which are ongoing; for the progressive development of a nation rests on its level of judicial seriousness!

The Police and Security Forces:

Whilst it is the case that a sound Judiciary will help curtail political and Police excesses, the Police as an institution certainly calls for reform too, both short term, before elections, and long term, after elections. The ordinary man’s first point of call for dispute and crime investigation is often the Police, which should investigate crimes and in some cases social misconduct impartially. Good elements in the Police have always stood up for what is right, and I sincerely pay tribute and respect to Police officers and other security forces who stood up against the recent uprising.

However, the Police as it stands is still a far cry from what it should be. For the past two and more decades of my legal practice, the Police has been a tool of politicians. The politicians will dictate who to arrest and detain and for how long, the laws notwithstanding. Similarly, the concept of investigating crimes is a one-way street, the complainant is almost always right. So, it is often the case that criminals will run first to the Police to be complainants, and in the process either weaken their victims’ case, or sometimes even make their victims the suspects. In a recent case that I am aware of, a hardworking youth involved in a corporate industry was brutally murdered at a wine bar and his dying body deposited at Waterloo. Some young boys who knew him as their “pappay” in the area, rushed him to the hospital. The Police later arrested them as suspects and detained them for about 21 days before realizing that they had no evidence against them. In the meantime, not one plain clothes officer went to the identified bar to at least pretend to get the evidence!

Moving forward as a country, we need a disciplined, professional and well-resourced Police Force that serves the nation and ordinary Sierra Leoneans, and not just our chosen representatives and governors. The Police (and for that matter the Judiciary and Anti-Corruption Commission) acting on “orders from above” should be a thing of the past, if we are to put our democracy to the test and rest. It was thus a big moment in our history when former Police Inspector-General, Mr. Keith Biddle, charged the late Hon. S. B. Marrah, then Majority Leader of the House of Parliament who was revered by H. E. President Kabbah, to court for assaulting a Police officer on duty!

The Army and other security forces should equally be patriotic and impartial in executing their duties to the State; their business being to impartially defend the lives and properties of every Sierra Leonean. The foreign/UN training of segments of the Army and the Police Forces should thus show out when on national duty.

Conclusion:

Our history of violence during the nation’s civil insurrection has clearly taught us to be true to ourselves, love one another and stand above bigotry, sycophancy and ethnic or regional hate. It begs the question to be religiously tolerant and inter-marry each other but yet remain politically divided; such state of affairs only exist when never-do-wells and charlatans (both at home and abroad) identify their political and selfish goals ahead of us, often through party politics, and use them to plunder the state and divide us. Never again, should we permit this state of affairs to prevail and continue!

And in order to remove the above sense of hope from rhetoric to action, it is time well-informed, well-meaning and enlightened Sierra Leoneans with a patriotic mindset, whatever their discipline, stepped up to fill the political space. This will certainly not be a welcoming idea to those ill-motivated folks whose breadbasket is the political plantation; but to eschew leadership challenges because of the smears that self-seeking charlatans peddle is to resign oneself to the blame game of mediocrity and generational finger-pointing. The constructive political debate or national dialogue must therefore start now, as it is often out of hard times and economic challenges that nations rise to map out their positive future!

Genuine and peaceful dialogue also means truly reviewing our current economic, social and constitutional situations and setting out a blue print for coming generations, so that successive political systems and regimes do not interfere with or derail our democratic path to success using tribal, regional or partisan underpinnings. I pray that our country rises again from the debris of being the first in many things after our 1961 independence until we lost it all through successive self-seeking power acquisitions!

May Allah bless Sierra Leone always!

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