By Hassan Bruz
Northern Bureau Chief
The Attorney General and Minister of Justice –Hon. Joseph Kamara has instructed for the setting up of a Legal Aid Office in the Northern District of Port Loko. It is in response to some of the concerns surfaced by the People of the District as a way to improve the Justice Delivery Systems in the Country. He further disclosed plans for the deployment of a Resident Magistrate in all Class ‘A’ Districts adding that there will also be a Resident Judge for Port Loko District.
Hon. Joseph Kamara was in Port Loko as part of a weeklong familiarization tour that has seen him in Kailahun, Kenema, Bo, Magburaka and Makeni. The purpose was to sort the experiences and perceptions of both the Local Authorities and the General Public on either the Policy or Practices in the Justice Sector. This initiative which was jointly developed with the Chief Justice, also created a platform to brief the Public on the Plans, Policies, and Actions so far taken to improve the System of Justice delivery in the Sierra Leone.
The turnout at the Port Loko District Council Hall where the meeting took place was Massive and those in attendance were bold enough to press home their feelings. Paramount Chief Alhajie Kompa Bomboli of Koya who doubled as Chairman of the Council of Paramount Chiefs in Port Loko, spoke on the appointment of Local Court Chairmen and the crowning of Section Chiefs that is no longer in the care of Paramount Chiefs and how much it has belittled their authority. He was buttressed by the Paramount of Lokomasama- Pc Bai Marrow Angbothor, who demanded clarification between the Powers of a Paramount Chief and that of a Member of Parliament.
Concerns were also raised by the Deputy Chairman of Council in Port Loko-Councillor Ibrahim Santigie Bangura. He did not only observed that the bulk of those in Correctional Centres are young people who ought to be the future leaders of the Nation, but went further to appeal for a Resident Magistrate as well as Civic Education to fast track Court Trials and help people gain basic knowledge on some aspects of the Law. Abu Kemoh Sesay, Hassan Yansaneh and Madam Rugiatu Benson – the Chairperson for the Maforki Local Court, contributed on a number of issues ranging from the need for legal representation for Accused Persons, rape and other sexual related cases that are often delayed at the Family Support Unit of the Sierra Leone Police. There was also the issue of the Local Court Supervisor who is said to be fond of snatching cases from the Local Courts as well as the exploitative pattern in the process of electing Section Chiefs in certain Chiefdoms in the District. Madam Rugiatu Benson explained how the unavailability of salaries for Court Chairmen is bound to reduced them to corrupt tendencies which she noted will serve as a setback to the dispensation of Justice.
F U K Daboh is the Assistant Inspector General of Police in charge of the North/ Western Region which comprised – Lungi, Lunsar, Masiaka, Port Loko and the entire District of Kambia. He spotlighted the crucial role of the Police in society whose duties includes the arrest, investigation, charging and prosecution of people. He said that is why the Police are not favoured by the public. He spoke of the drastic reduction of Check Points adding that there were only 3 from the Border District of Kambia to the National Capital of Freetown. He said even though there are mistakes along the line, the Police are trying to be very professional. He assured the Attorney General of his support.
The Chief Justice –Abdulai Hamid Charm was deputised by the Resident Judge in charge of the Northern Province –Hon. Justice John Bosco Allieu. He said the reason for the visit, is for them to look at ways through which the Justice Sector can be made more efficient. Hon. Justice Allieu mentioned the inadequate sessions of the High Court which he noted, are conducted for just 2 weeks in 3 months and 8 times for the whole year. He cited the issue of witnesses who are reluctant to come and testify in Court. The Resident Judge zeroed with an appeal for all to support the Justice Sector and to also see the need to address the issue of accommodation for the Resident Magistrate. Similar concerns were also expressed by the Deputy Director for Correctional Centres who observed that most of what was being said about their Centres is incorrect. He gave a brief account of the prevailing situation at the Centre in Port Loko that has a total of 109 Inmates of which 73 were without indictments.
In conclusion, the Attorney General and Minister of Justice stressed the need for people to have confidence in the Justice Sector and for all to be truthful in the execution of their respective duties, as it is only the truth that shall set them free. He said the Chief Justice and him have made significant impact within the first 30 days of their appointment. I gather they have filed over 90 Indictments. Mr. Joseph Kamara was earlier introduced by the Director of Public Prosecution- Mr. Sulaiman Bah, as a professional Lawyer that had trained and practised in the United States of America. He served as lead prosecutor at the Special Court for Sierra Leones and rose to the rank of Deputy Prosecutor. Mr. Joseph Kamara became Commissioner of Anti Corruption Commission in 2010 and was in his 2nd. Term of 5 years, when he gained the appointment of Attorney General and Minister of Justice………….