By Ralph Sesay
The main opposition All Peoples Congress Party should now have a rethink over their earlier decision not to subject their membership to what they have referred to as a Kangaroo Commission of Enquiry for the simple reason that the Judges of the Commissions of Enquiry have spoken on the most contentious issue of using the Rules of Evidence of 2007 as established by the rules of court committee.
During the opening of the Commissions’ public hearings in Freetown early this week, one of the Judges of the Commission,Nigerian Justice Biobele Georgewill clearly stated that the three judges of the COI have met and have concluded that pursuant to sections 9 of the Commissions of Enquiry Act and Sections 6 (1) of the Constitutional Instruments they have agreed as Judges of the Commission in their Practice Directions to adopt mundadis mundadis the Sierra Leone High Courts Rules of 2007, established on the 31st May,2007 as a guide in conducting the proceedings of the Commissions of Enquiry.
The judge noted that, they have taken such consideration as judges based on the lots of attentions the issue has received and continues to receive.
He also openly addressed Sierra Leoneans that based on evidence before them as judges, they would also use paragraph 7 of the same practice Direction which states that ‘’A witness or persons may be permitted to present electronic or real evidence of any kind in addition to their oral or written evidence’’
The proceedings, the judge continues, also shall observe as far as practicable and applicable the Rules of Evidence but shall not be required to strictly apply the Rules of Evidence.
The learned judge also disclosed that, the hearings will follow the rules of natural justice and fair hearings and most importantly they as judges have the discretion to adopt or exclude any kind of evidence within the proceedings in line with their remit as provided for in the terms of reference in the Constitutional Instruments.
The above clear admonition from a judge of high moral standing and repute to the entire nation should by all means prompt the opposition All Peoples Congress to reasonably rethink their decisions not to subject their membership to the Commissions of Enquiry.They should for once trust the process and cooperate with the Commissions of Enquiry especially so when the issue continues to cast shadows over our hard earn peace as a people.
The judges,as custodians of the law and as independent people have proven to us that they are very much independent and would not be subjected to anybody in the discharge of their duties.They have shown for once that they have a sacred responsibility to document their observations based on the evidence before them and present a report to the President and Cabinet for the subsequent production of a White Paper which will also go through Parliament, the peoples representatives.
The Judges have spoken and the Government has also notified the Commissions of the adequate preparations already made for defense counsels for persons who the Commissions might have interest in at the Commissions facilities in line with international best practice.
It is against this backdrop that, the APC should rethink and attend the Commissions of Enquiry and account for their stewardship to the people of this country.They should be able to trust the remaining state structures i.e. Parliament and the Appeals Court of Sierra Leone who will later validate the recommendations in the Government White paper.
Accountability remains very key and the process is not for their political opponents the Sierra Leone Peoples Party alone but for the People of Sierra Leone who gave them the ten years mandate to rule.
As a people, we should no longer resort to any means that will tear us apart.We should be able to dialogue our differences with a view to disagree and agree for the betterment of our country.
Sierra Leone is bigger than the SLPP and the APC and any other individual and we should therefore strive to protect her interest above all else with the help of the Almighty God.