A source in the main Opposition, All People’s Congress (APC) has intimated this press about the Betrayal of the Erstwhile Publicity Secretary of the main opposition, All People’s Congress, Cornelius Deveaux by members of his party.
The source made the statement at a time government has expressed its intention to fully enforce the White Paper regardless of who is involved. Mr Deveaux is now in hiding after a warrant for his arrest was issued by the country’s chief law enforcement agency, the Sierra Leone Police.
But, he would be remembered for his overzealous actions he embarked on in the protection of the APC, a party he adores and cherishes. Mr Deveaux’s betrayal became apparent when officials of the former government submitted themselves to the commission to assist its hearings.
The former Minister of Social Welfare, Sylvia Blyden is one of those former Ministers who appeared before the commission. Other Ministers, Bai Mahmoud Bangura, Alimamy Kamara and others did not physically appear at the commission, but were represented there.
Former President, Ernest Bai Koroma also was represented by a team of lawyers when his name appeared on a debtors’ list. One of the main allegations against the former President has to do with indiscriminate borrowing and reckless spending which government said led to the incapitalisation of the Sierra Leone Commercial Bank (SLCB).
SLCB is a financial institution that manages the state’s finances. By law, it offers unconditional loans to politically exposed persons as well as their wives and children.
Apart from Ministers, party stalwarts who occupied top positions critical to state governance also appeared at the commission. Most of them were treated as insider witnesses to offer evidence against former government officials.
The appearance of former ministers and top officials of government at the COI symbolised a complete defeat to Deveaux’s position. Mr Deveaux has always seen the COI as illegal since it did not go through the complete process of formation.
After a lengthy and protracted hearings, the COI has since came up with a report accompanied by a White Paper which is an embodiment of approved recommendations. The White Paper, government says, will be enforced at all cost, and the APC seems very much resistant to the implementation.
The enforcement, no doubt, will dearly cost former government officials, as properties earned when they were in governance would be confiscated to the state.
The APC has made its position clear that it would resist any government’s attempt to confiscate houses of former government officials. But, members of the public have cast aspersion on the proposed APC resistance to government actions.
Allegations in the White Paper show that the properties were unlawfully acquired and they must be returned to the state. A house constructed in Freetown by former President Koroma has been listed for confiscation.
Government defends its proposed action towards the former President on the grounds that the house in question far outweighs his emoluments throughout his tenure put together. Officials and other members of the main opposition have however provided a defence that the former President constructed the house before he became President in 2007.
“He is a man of enormous means,” one of his defence lawyers says.
Despite the defence, Government of President Julius Maada Bio seems ready to go ahead as planned regardless of the consequences. Owing to government’s relentless determination to implement the White Paper, Many Sierra Leoneans have come to see it as a mere witch hunt and a political tactic.
At the outset of the Commissions of Inquiry (COI), the former Spokesman has been quite critical of the processes which he referred to as unconstitutional. Owing to the illegality of the process, Mr Deveaux made it clear that the party would not submit their officers to the COI.
He constantly had it hot with the Minister of Information and communication, Mohamed Rado Swarray, on conventional media channels owing to his stance that none of their officers would be submitted to a “kangaroo-styled” commission.
Mr Deveaux would not hesitate to say that he did not care if the state was shut down, but officials of the former government would not appear before the commission. At one point, Deveaux was threatened with an arrest if he proved to be dangerous to the state owing to the resistance he put up at the inception of the COI processes.
A source (name withheld) has also told this press that if the White Paper is not implemented now, it would be enforced during campaign period.
The move, he said, was to stop them from posing a challenge to the party. Apart from his position towards COI, Cornelius Deveaux has also been at the helm of a number of controversies between APC and the ruling SLPP.
On the eve of handing down a High Court verdict that stripped ten parliamentary seats from the main opposition, Mr Deveaux called on APC members to peacefully protest against such action.
The erstwhile Publicity Secretary again showcased his commitment to the APC as he sacrificed his safety for the party. His radical stance at that time made him the target of security operatives whose series of attempted arrests he beat down.
In a teargas firing spree at the APC headquarters at Brookfields community in Freetown immediately after the verdict, Mr Deveaux was also caught up with security forces. They attempted to arrest him, but they were unsuccessful as he melted into thin air.
The days that followed also saw hot police chase on Mr Deveaux who had cause to escape on several occasions. Mr Deveaux’s residence, a Waterloo resident told this press was constantly searched and harassed to get him apprehended. The continuous harassment and waves of attempted arrests made Deveaux to flee for his life, but promised to resurface to continue the fight.
Some APC stalwarts have expressed regret noting that had they heeded to Deveaux’s call, they would have freed themselves from tyranny and oppression before now. The battle for resistance of the White Paper now is too long and tedious. It started in parliament and ended in the law courts.
Parliamentary debates that preceded the setting up of the COI have been described as the lengthiest and most cumbersome in the country’s history. Parliamentarians, during the debate, could not speak with one voice in respect of the formation of COI especially on the issue bordering on rules of evidence.
The ruling SLPP was poised to set up the COI, a move the main opposition, APC did not contest. APC’s main contention with the SLPP was its persistence on the rules of evidence to be tabled in parliament as lawfully provided.
Relying on section 150 of the Constitution of Sierra Leone Act No.6 of 1991, An APC Member of Parliament, Daniel Koroma brilliantly argued that rules to guide the COI proceedings were mandatory.
It was his opinion that the COI should not exist in the absence of rules which the law says must be formulated by the Rules of Court Committee. The parliamentary debates ended into the ballot in which APC won majority votes, but not the two-third majority required to nullify the constitutional instruments laid down by the Attorney-General.
Since the fight was too difficult for the APC to win in parliament, the COI went on as planned.
The COI was launched by President Julius Maada Bio who ordered that all persons of interest appear and cooperate with the COI or face the full of the law. In the midst of the controversy, Justice Biobele Georgewill ruled that his COI would not compel anyone to appear before it, but any adverse finding against any person of interest would be viewed with disfavour.
The aspect of non-compulsion to appear at the COI is definitely, a situation the APC would have capitalised on to strengthen their resistance.
But, they appeared before the COI through their lawyers and later want to contest findings and recommendations contained in the White Paper. The APC is always known for participating in activities whose outcome it would challenge in the future.