MIND THE GAPJune 30, 2014
BY: Winstanley.R Bankole Johnson
London trains commuters are all too familiar with warnings occasionally transmitted throughout stations and the coaches’ publics address systems for them to “MIND…..the GAP”, as the trains arrive at stations where misalignments between the train steps and the platforms exist. The intention is to amply forewarn passengers to exercise due caution so as to avoid slipping in-between those “gaps” and injuring themselves. Occasionally it would arouse mild derision from passengers, depending on the accent of the announcers. It is that expression to “MIND……the GAP” that rang in my ears as I observed with utter unbelief, media reports on two serious developments impinging on corruption, economic sabotage and with a tendency to reverse government’s strides for the equitable distribution of our natural wealth and the dispensation of justice to all and sundry.
As both issues are either sub-judice’ or under active Police investigation, I will advisedly use innuendoes and restrict my comments around print and electronic media reportages so as not to prejudice the investigations or incur the wrath of our Courts systems.
Let me start with a matter of the alleged Fuel Theft, as was reported recently in a popular AM Radio Breakfast Show, and I will implore readers to reason out things with me. A senior learned Prosecuting Counsel apologized to a Court for the absence of his witness (say PW3) from the proceedings for that day on grounds of illness, and had tendered “a Medical Prescription” (??) to substantiate his statement. He thereafter promised the Court that though PW3 was absent, he will ensure that the other Prosecution Witnesses are produced at future sittings.
From the conclusion of the radio reports on the matter, it would appear the Counsel’s depositions were accepted by the Court because appeals for bail on behalf of all the accused persons were declined by the Magistrate, and they were all ordered to continue their custodial remands at the Prisons.
Hmmmmm!!! I muttered to myself, because it was the very first time in my life I was hearing of “a Medical Prescription” – NOT “a Doctor’s Medical Report” being accepted for such a purpose. But I suppose that is what is meant by exercising one’s discretion (in this case the Learned Magistrate’s) which is unchallengeable. But there are a few “GAPS” we need to be mindful about, as we try to move onwards and away from one of the main issues that ignited our 11-year internecine strife – to wit: the inordinate and systemic delays inherent in dispensing of justice Sierra Leone-wise. So my lay man’s concerns are as follows-:
– If a prosecutor failed to produce his own witness, why should the accused continue to be detained? Where are our Human and other Civic Rights bodies in the country? Not for that matter alone but for several others in which people have continued to be unduly incarcerated because the prosecution (as complainants who initiated the cases in the first instance) could not adduce sufficient evidences or produce their own witnesses for the matters to be concluded within reasonable time, even as the Judiciary cries itself hoarse about case backlogs.
– If a Court matter could not progress on a particular day because a particular Prosecution Witness was absent, it follows then that other Prosecution Witnesses the Counsel promised to produce at subsequent sittings were also not in Court on that day. Otherwise the matter would have proceeded with the remaining PWs in attendance. But it didn’t. So is it not a sheer waste of government resources to be arranging single witnesses per day/sittings who if taken ill, will not only delay the administration of justice, but also infringe upon the civil liberties of others?
– Further interestingly according to the radio reports, the Prosecuting Counsel only committed himself to producing “the remaining Prosecution Witnesses” at future Court hearings on the matter – NOT the same PW3 whom he had reported as unwell. And no timeline was given for his recovery and production either!! And it would appear the Court acceded to that, which can imply that the PW3 could never again be subpoenaed in that matter? Hmmmmm!!!
The next “GAP” we cannot avoid to be mindful about relates to a recent newspaper commentary over an issue that appears to be rolling in bigger heads by the day as the Police continue their meticulous investigations. The “Op-ed” went like this and I quote-: “Police sources are claiming that the so-called “Unauthorized Executive Order” allegedly signed by a kingpin suspect granting an open-ended mandate for the export of value-added processed timber could not be found”. Unquote. Meaning that the most reliable piece of evidence or “Ace” that the government needs to nail the culprits has disappeared –feyhhhhuuuunnnn!! Hmmmmm!!!
I have used the expression “Hmmmmm!!!” four (4) times and I feel I owe readers an explanation for my fancy of it. Actually I am copying from one of my grandchildren – Olatokunbo. As a toddler unable to pronounce the word “smell” he would scan the entire sitting room in the event of onomatopoeia, as if to complain of odour to all present and being unable to express himself properly would simply sigh-: “Hmmmmm!!!” – in exasperation. And if pressed further as why he sighed, he would casually remark, “…well I just feel like saying “Hmmmmm!!! …..because I don’t want to talk much”. Poor boy!!
And that has since caught up with our entire household that in order avoid complaining much over odious developments over which we have little or absolutely no control, we would prefer to just exasperatingly heave a sigh of ”Hmmmmm!!!”