By Ralph Sesay
Hundreds of Lawyers and other distinguished personalities of the country’s legal system gathered in Freetown yesterday for the start of Sierra Leone Bar Association’s Annual General Meeting.
The meeting is expected to end today with the election of a new President and Executive to lead the affairs of the Bar for the next few years.The current one-year term of Basita Michael ends today.
She has called on her successor to ensure that the Rule of Law and all other democratic tenets are safeguarded by the Sierra Leone Bar Association.
This, she noted, falls under the core functions of the Association.
The outgoing Bar Association President while formally welcoming guests to this year’s Annual General Meeting of the Bar, took the opportunity to account for her executive’s stewardship to the Bar under her leadership.
She recounted the massive rehabilitation done to the Association’s Secretariat, the Library and efforts also done to introduce a radio and television programme on the law.
This for her was a platform over the years for educating citizens and raising awareness on legal issues in the country.
She thanked AYV Television for hosting the program and lawyers who willingly participated or coerced to take part in the program.
Mrs. Michael espoused on the various stance taken by the Association on the establishment of the Commissions of Enquiry to the extent that they had to file a case to the Supreme Court for interpretation.
The case, according to her, was never listed for hearing and also referred to the meeting on the pronouncement of the State of Public Emergency by the President and the subsequent correspondence by the Attorney General to Judges and Magistrates and several others.
She highlighted the fact that the Bar and the Bench could have their differences but that they also work together to sustain the rule of law and development.
The Bar Association President took time to speak on the challenges facing the Bar under her tenure including strides taken by her executive to start the construction of a Secretariat for the Association.
She reported that her executive was technically advised not to start the project due to structural issues.
The outgoing Bar President told the meeting that her executive was able to raise two hundred Million Leones for the project and that the Michael Family on behalf of their late parents are also happy to donate a Le 100 Million to the project.
She also reported that on her personal behalf she is donating twelve thousand five hundred thousand Leones towards the building project.
Madam Basita called on her successor to ensure that they maintain the relationship the SLBA has created with other Associations across Africa and specifically cited the Cameroonian Bar Association which, according to her, accorded her a befitting welcome during their Annual General Meeting quite recently.
She thanked other members of her Executive including the Secretary General and the Vice President and members of the Association for the support accorded her over the years as President of the Association.
Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Priscilia Schwartz told the meeting that she was moved by this year’s theme for the AGM which is Rule of Law and State Development in Africa and reiterated the fact that the Government of the New Direction is working very hard to create an environment that has respect for the rule of law.
She called for a change from the old and traditional method of lawyering to one that supports new fields such as Cyber Crime issues, labour laws, the Environment etc.
Lawyers, she stated, should refrain from polluting the profession with their political leanings and to support the state as it strives to provide justice for all.
She cited the New Direction Transformational Development which, according to her, has a pillar that supports peace and national cohesion.
Justice Browne Marke who represented the Chief Justice Babatunde Edwards, noted that the Judiciary is very much in tune with this year’s theme, promoting the rule of law in the state development of Africa.
He recounted the fact that the Sierra Leone Judiciary is oblivious of the technological and reporting challenges facing the judiciary in Sierra Leone.
The Honourable Chief Justice representative listed efforts by the Judiciary to put at the center of their priorities, rights issues by introducing new court reporting methods to increasingly provide reference points for practicing lawyers.
Honourable Browne Marke also disclosed that the Judiciary is putting a lot of efforts in place to accommodate disables and other rights facilities across its new court facilities across the country.
Keynote Speaker and Sole Commissioner at the ongoing Commissions of Enquiry, William Annan Atukugbah, spoke on the increasing rate of unconstitutionality and dictatorship across the globe.
He particularly encouraged the Bar Association in Sierra Leone to initiate constitutional reforms as part of the overall Governance reform process.
The meeting which will end today with the election of a new executive is also expected to discuss the activities and financial status of the Association for the last few years, and also map out new strategies for the incoming years.
The Director of Public Prosecutions, Desmond Nguaki, Deputy Minister of Justice, Napoleon Koroma ,distinguished members of the judiciary, past and present of the Association and other senior members of the Bar and the Bench were also in attendance.
The theme for this year’s AGM was the ‘’Rule of Law and state development in West Africa
By Ralph Sesay