By Allieu S. Tunkara
Sierra Leone’s main opposition, All Peoples’ Congress (APC) has challenged government ‘White Paper’ which consists of the approved recommendations of the past Commissions of Inquiry (COI).
The party condemns the ‘White Paper’ in its strongest of terms owing to what the party referred to as the COI is politically motivated, legally flawed and procedurally defective.
“The APC rejects and supports persons of interest to challenge findings and recommendations of the ‘White Paper’ politically, diplomatically and legally at both local and international levels,” the release reads.
The release further notes that the APC shall assist persons of interest to address substantive issues contained in the Government ‘White Paper’ and COI reports in due course.
It also says the COI’s which were set up by SLPP government were neither constitutional and fair nor accountable.
The APC’s resistance to the ‘White Paper’ is contained in a press release dated 27th September, 2020.
The party tacitly argues in the press release that the COI’s findings and recommendations are biased.
The COI findings and recommendations, the press release says share common features with those of the Governance Transition Team (GTT).
“We observe with grave concern that the findings and recommendations of COI are consistent with those contained in the GTT report authored exclusively by members of the Sierra Leone People’s Party,” the press release reads in part.
The APC also maintains that the GTT report maliciously targeted officials of the past government by investigating, indicting and punishing them before the “flawed” COI’s were established.
The vulgar expression of ‘Anyampis’ which was widely trumpeted by SLPP stalwarts including President Julius Maada Bio against officials of the former government traced its origin to the GTT report.
The continued imposition of an unlawful travel ban on and freezing of bank accounts of past APC government officials, the release says, explains the nexus between GTT and the COI.
“It is therefore discernible that the COI’s are the interpretations of the overt intentions of the GTT report: Members of the SLPP who served on the GTT assumed the roles of investigators, prosecutors, interpreters and enforcers of the law,” the release also reads.
From the outset, the release continues, the sole aim of the SLPP government has always unfairly maligned and victimised APC stalwarts for political gains.
Despite allegations of non-neutrality against COI, the APC leadership made it clear that the party will only support a mechanism of fair accountability to the people of Sierra Leone.
From inception, APC parliamentarians have always questioned the constitutionality of instruments Nos. 64, 65 and 67 of 2018 which were documents used to set up the COI on the basis that they contravene section 150 Act No.6 of the Constitution of Sierra Leone, 1991.
The breach in all respects is outlawed by the country’s supreme law.
The Constitution of Sierra Leone makes it clear that any law that is inconsistent with any provisions of the constitution shall to the extent of the inconsistency be null and void and of no effect.
Despite the alleged unconstitutional nature of the COI’s, government went ahead in establishing the commissions without rules.
Prior to the commencement of COI proceedings, members of the APC whose rights are affected by the above constitutional instruments applied to the Supreme Court of Sierra Leone by originating notice of motion to determine section 150 and other relevant provisions of the constitution.
The question of illegality referred to the country’s highest court was not answered.
The Chief Justice failed to empanel judges and assign the matter for hearing and determination.
To further add weight to the litigation, the Country’s body of Legal practitioners, the Sierra Leone Bar Association also filed similar application to the Supreme Court.
The application also succumbed to the same fate since it was never looked into.
Lawyers representing persons of interest raised the same objection that the COI must put a hold on the proceedings if there were no rules to govern the practice and procedure of the commissions.
The application was also similarly turned down by the three commissioners asserting that they were empowered to make rules of evidence in respect of the COI.
Despite the hurdles encountered, the legal battle for the rules of evidence did not die down as lawyers representing persons of interest filed another application for a review of the commissioners’ rulings.
The Originating Notice of Motion of 28th May, 2019 stands as one of the documentary pieces of evidence calling for the formulation of COI rules.
The application bordered on the breach of not only section 150 but also Order 62, Rules 1 and 2 of the High Court Rules of 2007 which confer on only the Chief Justice (CJ), the power to prescribe practice directions.
The CJ issued Practice Directions dated 31st January, 2019 adopting the High Court Rules of 2007 regarding the proceedings of the three commissions.
The move, the APC says, further compounded the unconstitutionality and illegality of the COI’s and their proceedings.
The party, In light of the trail of instances of relentless campaign, felt compelled to challenge the COI reports and their concomitant White paper.
APC says the COI reports are products of processes marred by unconstitutionality, illegality, procedural corruption, political vindictiveness and malice.