Watch Out, Mr. Carew

31 January 2006 at 04:08 | 620 views

Our regular Washington correspondent Alpha Saidu Bangura offers a brief analysis of the role of the judiciary in Sierra Leone. He also gives free advice to our judges and to the country’s Attorney General and minister of Justice. Like most of Saidu’s writing, it’s a piece that is short but thought-provoking.

By Alpha Saidu Bangura, Washington DC, USA

Democracy is a system of government in which absolute political power is vested in the hands of the people.For democracy to work well, there are fundamental principles that must prevail.The most fundamental principle in a democracy, is the RULE OF LAW.The RULE OF LAW simply means that everybody must be equal before the law. Nobody should be above or under the law.

The judiciary is the arm of government that is charged with the responsibility of interpreting the law and punishing law breakers. Because of its important constitutional role, the judiciary must be independent from the other arms of government(the legislature and the executive).To ensure that we maintain the independence of our judiciary in Sierra Leone, I suggest that the legislature(parliament) formulates a law that will give a life- long appointment to judges of our superior courts.

I know that if our judges can be assured that nobody can remove them from their positions easily, they will dispense justice fairly and equally. I also call on parliament to properly examine people who are nominated to serve as judges in our high courts. Parliament must properly look at the past records, temperaments and judicial opinions of all persons nominated by the president to serve as judges, before approving their appointments to our superior courts.We need judges who can give verdicts based on the evidences adduced before their courts.Our judges must understand that their job is to follow the law and not to legislate from the bench.

With respect, I draw the attention of our judges to the fact that before they start performing their duties, they subscribed to an oath which clearly states that they must uphold and defend the laws of Sierra Leone. I hope and pray that all judicial officials in Sierra Leone will keep in their minds that, if they continue to fail in the discharge of their duties they will be held accountable by the people.We will always hold our judicial officials to very high standards. Justice must be meted out fairly and equally. This means it must be done without favor or ill will.

Finally, I would like to remind the Attorney- General and minister of Justice that he is not the lawyer of the president nor is he the lawyer of the ruling party.The Attorney- General is the lawyer of the people of Sierra Leone. That is why he is paid by the people.It is his responsibility to defend and prosecute all cases for and on behalf of all the people of Sierra Leone.The Attorney -General and minister of Justice is not the head of the judiciary.He is part of the executive.The head of the judiciary in Sierra Leone is the Chief Justice and the Chief Justice is not under the supervision of the Attorney-General.Mr. Fred Carew, do not forget that the day of accountability will surely come and you will be judged by your present actions.

Photo: Alpha Saidu Bangura