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ILLEGALITY AT THE HEART OF GOVERNMENT TRAVEL BAN

The rule of law and adherence to it is a fundamental tenet of democracy from which government derives its legitimacy. In September 2012, the UN convened the General Assembly to discuss “the rule of law at the national and international level”. The UN has adopted the following definition for the rule of law:

“The term rule of law refers to a principle of governance in which all persons, institutions and entities, public and private, including the state itself, are accountable to laws that are publicly promulgated, equally enforced and independently adjudicated, and which are consistent with international human rights norms and standards. It requires, as well, measures to ensure adherence to the principles of supremacy of law, equality before the law, accountability to the law, fairness in the application of the law, separation of powers, participation in decision-making, legal certainty, avoidance of arbitrariness and procedural and legal transparency”.

This definition avoids as far as possible, politicization of the law. There is always an inherent danger particularly in third world countries like Sierra Leone with under developed or ineffective institutions. That political motivations may infect the judicial process in a manner which erodes impartiality and even-handedness. While misappropriation of the criminal law may seem to offer short-term gains to political actors, in the long run it undermines the legitimacy of government. One core component of the rule of law is the separation of law and politics. The UN required states (including Sierra Leone) during its rule of law summit to commit to three fundamental principles:

  • First, effectively and thoroughly investigate all crimes, including—and indeed in particular—where there is a reason to suspect the involvement of state officials.
  • Second, refrain from using the criminal process to punish anyone for political expression, or to infringe upon the principle of judicial independence.  Relatedly, do not prosecute judges for carrying out well founded investigations of politically sensitive crimes.
  • Third, provide effective legal protection for government whistle-blowers who release information of public interest to the media or the public.

With these principles in mind, there has been considerable consternation at the actions of the Chief Minister last week, who upon the release of the Government transition team report, GTT, recommended that travel bans be placed upon those whose names are mentioned in the GTT, and upon whom allegations of corruption have been levied. It is interesting to note that the report merely “recommended” that investigations be carried out into these individuals. Leaving aside the legality or otherwise of any such travel ban for a moment, the GTT report upon which such a ban is predicated upon is firstly not law and has no legal effect. SECONDLY, the accuracy of the report has been challenged on several fronts as factually inaccurate on a number of matters. For example, the Attorney General referred to in the report was not the Attorney General at the time, amongst many other inaccuracies. Thirdly, the contents of the report have not been thoroughly investigated, in order to reach substantive conclusions on culpability and finally there is no indication that the President has accepted the recommendations of the report. In the light of the above, a travel ban on those named in the report is at best premature and at worst inherently unlawful. The question to ask is where is the Attorney General and what legal advise has she given on this issue.

ILLEGALITY

The constitution of Sierra Leone guarantees freedom of movement and the right to be presumed innocent until found guilty in a competent court of law is sacrosanct to the common law. The said freedom of movement doesn’t just apply to Sierra Leoneans but to every person within the jurisdiction of Sierra Leone and provides:

“18. (1) No person shall be deprived of his freedom of movement, and for the purpose of this section the said freedom means the right to move freely throughout Sierra Leone, the right to reside in any part of Sierra Leone, the right to enter or leave Sierra Leone, and immunity from expulsion from Sierra Leone.

(2) Any restriction on a person’s freedom of movement which is involved in his lawful detention shall not be held to be inconsistent with or in contravention of this section.

(3) Nothing contained in or done under authority of any law shall be held to be inconsistent with or in contravention of this section to the extent that the law in question makes provision—

  1. which is reasonably required in the interests of defence, public safety, public order, public morality, public health or the conservation of the natural resources, such as mineral, marine, forest and other resources of Sierra Leone, except in so far as that provision or, as the case may be, the thing done under the authority thereof is shown not to be reasonably justifiable in a democratic society; or
  2. for the imposition of restrictions on the movement or residence within Sierra Leone of any person who is not a citizen thereof or the exclusion of expulsion from Sierra Leone of any such persons; or
  3. for the imposition of restrictions on the acquisition or use by any person of land or other property in Sierra Leone; or
  4. for the imposition of restrictions upon the movement or residence within Sierra Leone of public officers or members of a defence force; or
  5. for the removal of a person from Sierra Leone to be tried outside Sierra Leone for a criminal offence recognised as such by the laws of Sierra Leone, or to serve a term of imprisonment outside Sierra Leone in the execution of the sentence of a court in respect of a criminal offence of which he has been convicted; or
  6. for preventing the departure from Sierra Leone of a person who is reasonably suspected of having committed a crime or seeking to evade the fulfilment of an obligation imposed on him under the civil law or to evade military service:

Provided that no court or other authority shall prohibit any such person from entering into or residing in any place to which he is indigenous; or

  1. for restricting vagrancy.

FURTHER

Section 18 (4) provides:

(4) If —

  1. any person whose freedom of movement has been restricted by virtue only of such a provision as is referred to in paragraph (a) of subsection (3) so requests at any time during the period of that restriction not earlier than thirty days after he last made such a request during that period, his case shall be reviewed by an independent and impartial tribunal, established by law, comprising not more than three persons from amongst persons of not less than fifteen years’ standing entitled to practice in Sierra Leone as legal practitioners;
  2. any tribunal has been set up under paragraph (a), the Chairman of that tribunal shall be appointed by the Chief Justice, and the two other members of the tribunal shall be nominated by the Sierra Leone Bar Association.

Subsection 5 further provides:

(5) On any review by a tribunal in pursuance of subsection (4) of the case of any person whose freedom of movement has been restricted, the tribunal may make recommendations concerning the necessity of expediency of continuing that restriction to the authority by whom it was ordered, but unless it is otherwise provided by law, that authority shall not be obliged to act in accordance with such recommendations.

What do all these legal provisions mean?

Firstly, no one shall be deprived of their freedom of movement to move freely within Sierra Leone or to enter or leave Sierra Leone.

Secondly where the state wishes to deprive a person of their freedom of movement, there must be a law which allows the State to do so. There is no law identified by the Chief Minister that allows the state to impose a blanket ban on the movement of citizens simply to facilitate an investigation.

Thirdly that law must be reasonably required in the interest of defence, public safety, public order, public morality, public health or the conservation of the natural resources, such as mineral, marine, forest and other resources of Sierra Leone AND even if it is reasonably required as stated above, where it is shown that the thing done, ie the travel ban is not reasonably justifiable in a democratic society, it would contravene the constitution. The actions of the Sierra Leone police in putting out a press release demanding that people whose names are mentioned in the GTT report surrender their passports to them is absolutely unlawful. The police have no power to do so and it is sad to see the police being used by the state to violate the rights of citizens. The GTT report has stated or been pointed out has no force of law and the movements of citizens cannot be restricted under it. Further the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights of which Sierra Leone is a signatory provides at Article 11 that: “Everyone charged with a penal offence has the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty according to law in a public trial at which he has had all the guarantees necessary for his defence.” Penalties cannot be imposed prior to charges being levied and certainly not before the accused has had an opportunity to put his defence.

The right to move freely within and outside of Sierra Leone is of fundamental importance and should not be meddled with outside of the recognised provisions of law. The actions of the police in demanding the submission of passports of those affected is not only arbitrary but also unlawful. Sierra Leone is not a jungle but a state with democratic credentials. The Attorney General must explain these unlawful actions of the government and proffer that would not threaten or undermines the legitimacy of the government.

 

SOCIETY

MoHS on operation reach the needy!

The effort to expand the free health care initiative to the needy and the most vulnerable category of society, the Ministry of Health and Sanitation has dole out assorted medical supplies worth millions of Leones to the National School for Blind and Deaf in Freetown yesterday. Making the presentation on behalf of the Minister of Health and Sanitation Dr. Alpha Wurie the Ag. Director of Drugs and Medical supplies Pharmacist Michael Jack Lansana said the donation which costs Millions of Leones include: wound dressing, anti malaria drugs, analgesic, antiseptic, plasters, antibiotics, anti inflammatory agent and insecticide treated bed nets are aimed at addressing some of the basic health conditions prevalent in our society under the free health care programme. He went on to say that under the new direction of President Julius Maada Bio the scope of Free health care initiative has expanded to cover not only the initial targeted beneficiaries of under-five children, lactating mothers and pregnant women but to now cover school going children, the disabled and the disadvantaged as their health is of high concern and critical during formative years of growth and learning. He maintained that the medical supplies would serve as safe guard against emergencies, stating that students may receive a timely treatment at the school that otherwise requires a trip to another health facility.

The senior pharmacist Jatu Abdulai noted that the gesture is in line with President Bio’s vision to reach out to Ebola survivors, persons with disability and other vulnerable categories of citizens. She said to assist with inventory control and monitoring of donated medical supplies to the school of blind and deaf, tool will be used to train nursing staff attached to the school for proper usage and storage.

The principal of the school Salieu Turay expressed gratitude to the Government through the Minister of health and his ministry for prompt action to their request. He said Dr. Wurie has ever been supportive to the needy, boasting of a brand new 40 seater Bus which he donated to them while serving as Education Minister under the late President Kabbah. He called on all good wishers to emulate the good works of Dr. Wurie and the Ministry.

PETROL PRICE GOES UP

The Sierra Leone government has deregulated the petroleum industry this week. This means, among other things, the price of fuel will increase – sources say from Le 6,000 to Le 8,000 a liter. The IMF has preconditioned deregulation which will stop the payment of state subsidies on the pump price of fuel.

HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION TO CLOSE DOWN

…abuse of democratic institution

Several established democratic institutions have been dissolved since the Sierra Leone’s People Party (SLPP) assumed the reins of political power and governance of the state. Apart from these institutions that have been unconstitutionally and undemocratically dissolved, many Sierra Leoneans with security of tenure in office and on contracts have been shown the exit door without pay or any remuneration for the remaining term of their contracts or tenures. Sierra Leonean diplomats have become the latest laughing stocks overseas as most of them cannot return home or manage to dispatch their families back home. The situation is fast becoming unavoidably serious and to many foreign diplomats; residing in the Country, the situation has gone beyond normal expectation as the survival and livelihoods of many government workers have become threatened.

The latest on the firing line among the Commissions and Boards of the various institutions is the Sierra Leone Human Rights Commission that would have members of its Board shown the exit door. Already, a letter from the office of the Secretary to the President, signed on behalf of the Secretary, Dr. Sandy by Mr.S.E.B. Momoh dated 4th July, 2018 has reminded the Executive Secretary of the Sierra Leone Human Rights Commission that the Commission is included in the public Notice, which was issued by his office on Tuesday 26th June, 2018 under the Caption…”RESTRUCTURING OF BOARDS/COMMISSIONS/AUTHORITIES/AGENCIES

It would be recalled that since Sierra Leone Diplomats were fired and a paltry sum of money sent to them for their repatriation, the SLPP has not replaced anyone of them while services in those offices have remained a standstill as they are not recognized by their host country to perform diplomatic services anymore due to the premature and undiplomatic manner their national assignment had been rendered hopeless. With the recent reminder sent to the Human Rights Commission, it becomes obvious that the service of this independent body has been terminated unconstitutionally and undemocratically like other offices and institutions.

The Sierra Leone Human Rights Commission was established by an Act of Parliament under the Human Rights Act 2004 and its Commissioners are protected for a fixed tenure of five years, subject to another five- year- renewal. Not that a Commissioner cannot be relieved or fired, but the procedures have to be followed to the letter. The Commissioners can the removed by the procedures as enshrined in section 137 subsections 7 of the 1991 Constitution, contrary to the manner that action was taken, which is not contained in the Constitution. According to a foreign Human Rights Lawyer, the removal, he said should be similar to a Judge of the High Court, which means a tribunal has to be set up and findings forwarded to Parliament with a three-third majority endorsement. It is evident from documentary evidence published in this edition that Mr. S.E.B Momoh has failed to take either a partial or full cognizance of the implications in dissolving the official and Constitutional voice of the voiceless in the Country.

It is not known whether the dissolution of the country’s Human Rights Commission is endorsed by the International Community that has placed high premium on human right issues and the establishment of Human Rights Organisation and entities. Sources at the Geneva Headquarter of reportedly had got a tip of the communications between the Sierra Leone Human Rights Commission and the office of the Secretary to the President. In their quest to verify whether or not the information is true the office had contacted other Human Rights Establishments in the country, but up to press time, it is reported that they have not received any credible confirmation and the office has applied the wait and see approach. Civil Society Groups in the Country that have been described as not credible any longer since the 2018 elections have not been contacted, sources say, Meanwhile, the attention seemed to be directed on the issue and if the Commission is dissolved unconstitutionally and undemocratically, it could lead to a conclusion that may put the Government of President Bio on another level that would not be too far from countries that are described as autocratic or undemocratic, therefore it would be in the interest of the authorities of the state to handle the Sierra Leone Human Rights Commission with caution.

Local sources have claimed that representatives of the Sierra Leone Human Rights Commission are expected to meet with the Attorney General and Minister of Justice in relation to the dissolution of the Commission and to enquire whether or not it is part of the restructuring of Boards/Commissions/ Authorities/ Agencies.

INSURANCE COMPANIES BATTLES WITH PROPAGANDA

….even against difficult market situation

Every sector of the country’s market is affected, not only by the faulty and biased transition report manufactured by a handful of selected party politicians, but also by massive propaganda. It is unfortunate that prior and after the General elections in the country the media landscape was and still divided along party lines. Media practitioners are publicly seen supporting political parties and condemning others that they have no link with. In other countries, developed or developing media practitioners maintained their distances from political parties. In the event that some sections are in support of political parties, its professional obligations to the state and people are not sold or mortgaged. In Sierra Leone, the situation is made obvious and glaring. The debate on the transition report has been extended to other businesses that have no link or owned by officials of past political party. The APC politicians, whether being in business prior to their legitimate entrance into politics or not is now causing discomfort to many business establishments in the country. The political Civil Society Groups in the Country, some benefitted immensely from the past regime are now calling it all sorts of names. But what has saddled the entire debate relating to the transition report are some of the comments made, which have been clearly perceived as not objective and also not in the interest of national development. Media practitioners and Civil Society Groups should be seen helping the Government of the day by making suggestions that would lead to development. Innovative and creative suggestions, that are developmental and not those that have the tendencies of undermining key significant contributors to national development. The debate on the transition report has been extended to the Insurance Industry and comparison is made by some of the Civil Society Groups about which Insurance Company has more clients than the others with reference made to RITCORP. The National Insurance Company, the oldest Insurance Company in the country with no innovation that has almost lost its credibility in the market. Its failure to take effective control of the market is being pushed on the head of other Insurance Companies that are creating impact, credible, trustworthy and productive. This is an unfortunate scenario. Clearly, the insurance of assets of MDAs has become the tender and thorny issues in the industry and those who don’t know how the situation is being handled are heaping blames on RITCORP as being responsible for taking over all the assets of the MDs because a shareholder of that company was the President of Sierra Leone. The premise and interpretation are obsolete and absolutely wrong. What about the Speaker of Parliament? Dr. Abass Cherenor Bundu, is he not a shareholder of Ritcorp? For the benefit of the readers, this medium after conducting an investigation into the MDAs assets and insurer has come out with the following details that the insurance of properties of MDAs as stipulated by the Sierra Leone Insurance Commission is done by the Sierra Insurance Pool at 17, Upper Brook Street in Freetown. The process is accomplished by what is known as “Quota” that involves shared agreement among nine Insurance Companies. This is how the process is done, starting with the National Insurance Company with 17.5%, Aureol Insurance Company 15.5% Reliance Insurance Company with 13.5%, Transworld Insurance Company 10.0%, Medical and General Insurance Company 10.0%, International Insurance Company 10.0%, Marine and General Insurance Company 10.0%, Sierra Leone Insurance Company 7.0% and Staco Insurance Company 6.5%. With this arrangement in place that has been generally accepted by the stakeholders of the various Insurance Companies, the question is why is the National Insurance Company crying wolf all the time and pointing accusing fingers at others. The National Insurance Company used to be the Company with huge assets base with very effective and productive managers, but due to bad management the Company continues to retrogress and performance has become one of its biggest challenges. Even the entire office building has become a challenge and begging for improvements. The atmosphere is unfriendly with leakages, rust, and cracks visibly seen by clients who try to patronize the Company. The top floors are becoming death traps with infighting keeping the workers apart.

 

 

 

MAX, MERCURY

Max Brandwein is Jewish by nationality, and a former principal shareholder in Mercury International, a major gambling company until lately it is alleged he has sold most of his shares to focus on diamond business. To most people, Max is a household name in both gambling and the diamond industry.

Records show that this half pint size Jew is notorious of flouting the laws of this country and often he gets away with it. Max’s connection with Mercury International has been highlighted in several journals for the company’s humanitarian gesture it has been providing for marginalized communities in this country. Meanwhile, he has been lately embroiled in several unlawful activities ranging from diamond business, where it is alleged he has flees a lot of people mostly in the eastern province of Sierra Leone, Kenema and BarmahKonta to be specific. One of his victims who recently suffered from the hands of Max is Amadu Yusifu Kamanda of Bamah Konta who said Max took ninety-nine pieces of diamond worth forty-eight thousand dollars with the pretext that he will pay him after he sold them. To date, according to Amadu, Max has not given him the money. Amadu said on the second occasion, Max collected 42 pieces of diamond from and he (Max) priced it with the intention of paying him after the sales of the pieces, but that again did not happen. Amadu said besides the diamond transaction, the house he rented to Max in   Wandorfor a period of five years, according to him is currently being boarded by Max, after he refused to pay the rent. Amadu said Max has been using his political influence under the previous government to hoodwink vulnerable businessmen like him, and has resulted massive loss of business dividends on their part with serious financial implications. Amadu speaking in a rather stressful tone said Max is not a genuine businessman adding the authorities should kick him out of here. Max’s life is full of drama and narratives as his tentacles are spread on every aspect of business in this country. A man with unsavoury cravings for money with a lust for good life, Max has no limitation to his ever growing appetite and desperation for money. He has allegedly secured hundreds of acres of land tucked away in a remote area in Kabala where it is alleged he is cultivating marijuana on a large scale. Max’s excuse according to close sources is the marijuana he is farming is for medicinal purpose. But the reality on the ground is Max continues to harvest the drugs and allegedly export them to Liberia, a clear contravention of the Sierra Leone Pharmacy Board guidelines which in the form of a certificate states that he (Max) should export the harvested drugs directly to Israel for processing ideally for alternative medicinal use. This half-pint size wheeler and dealer has step on several toes of hard working Sierra Leones and often he gets away with it. His activities in Kenema has angered so many people quite recently that he was almost hounded by the businessmen he had defrauded. His antics is not only limited to business communities in the diamond industry but has angered quite a good number a members of the press who have crossed his path.

Max’s dealings in Barma Konta and Wandor in Kenema district where he has fleeced several people and left them with abandoned excavators and other dysfunctional mining equipment together with his illegal business activities will be exposed in the next edition. This man has inflicted so much agony and pain on the people of that district that he thinks he can go away with it.

 

 

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