Statement by Information Minister Alpha Kanu at launching of Legal Aid Board in Sierra Leone


1. Your Excellency, the Hon Vice President, Dr. victor Bockarie Foh, our dear First Lady, mrs sia nyama Nakama Kablai Koroma ,the Hon Speaker of the House of Parliament or his representative, the Lord Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Sierra Leone and members of the Judiciary, the Attorney General and Minister of Justice , Hon. Ministers, hon Members of Parliament, mayor of the Freetown municipality and other mayoralties ,the president and members of the Sierra Leone Bar Association, the chairmen of Local councils, traditional Rulers, chairman , the Executive director and members of the Legal Aid Board, the chairman of the Constitutional Review Committee, the chief of Defence staff and his men, the inspector General,of police and his men, the Special Advisers to H E the President, the members of the diplomatic corps, members of the grassroots traditional organizations headed by Haja Ya
Bomposseh and Haja Yalmamy Manso, distinguished ladies and gentlemen.

2.One day , a doctor friend of mine was doing his morning rounds. When he came to his terminally ill lawyer friend, he was surprised to find him frantically leafing through the pages of the bible.

Curiously he asked him ” what are you doing my friend”. Whereupon the lawyer confidently replied. ” I am looking for the loop holes” . no doubt preparing his defence in the court of the hereafter. For over there, we are told, there will be no advocates or legal Aid. You are on your own.

3. But not so here in Sierra Leone where we are about to see H E president Koroma launch the Legal Aid Board .

4. Your Excellency, today is indeed a joyous occasion as was manifested by the intricate carefully choreographed dance punctuated by the melodious voices of our female traditional rulers led by Chief Haja Ya Bomposseh Kabba and Chief haja Yalmamy Manso Kamara

As The executive director said, they sang and They danced to show their gratitude to H E the president for setting up the Legal Aid Board which championed the release of 14 of their children from prison.

5.Your Excellency, The concept of legal aid is not new.

In the 16 th century, When Antonio, in Shakespear’s Merchant of Venice, was arraigned in front of a Venetian court, he was aided in his defence by a young and rich heiress , Portia, , dressed up as a male lawyer , for at the time, the idea of a woman becoming a lawyer was inconceivable.

In her plea to the court of Venice on behalf of Antonio, she had this to say to Shylock, the money lender.

“The quality of mercy is not strain’d,
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath: it is twice blest;
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes:
‘Tis mightiest in the mightiest: it becomes
The throned monarch better than his crown;
His sceptre shows the force of temporal power,
The attribute to awe and majesty,
Wherein doth sit the dread and fear of kings;
But mercy is above this sceptred sway;
It is enthroned in the hearts of kings,
It is an attribute to God himself;
And earthly power doth then show likest God’s
When mercy seasons justice. Therefore, Shylock ,
Though justice be thy plea, consider this,
That, in the course of justice, none of us
Should see salvation: we do pray for mercy;
And that same prayer doth teach us all to render
The deeds of mercy. I have spoke thus much
To mitigate the justice of thy plea;
Which if thou follow, this strict court of Venice
Must needs give sentence ‘gainst the merchant , Antonio, there

6. Your Excellency ,
Another instance of altruistic self sacrifice is the story of Florence nightingale who rendered free medical assistance to wounded soldiers during the Crimean war of 1855.

Those were two examples of “pro bono “self sacrifice in the service of our fellow men.

Your excellency,
While a large number of nations in the developed world from Austria Australia, from the United Kingdom to the United States of America, have set up similar institutions to provide legal aid for those who cannot afford the services of a lawyer, the indigent in their society, Africa has been slow on the uptake.

There are a however, a few examples of legal Aid boards in Africa, such as that of South Africa , most countries in East Africa , Nigeria and Ghana in west Africa and now followed by Sierra Leone .
There is also a continent wide NGO , the Africa Legal Aid Organisation , AFLA , with headquarters in the Netherlands with a branch office in mAccra, Ghana.

7. Your Excellency ,
The members of the Sierra Leone legal aid board can be described as the selfless modern day Portia’s and Florence nightingales of yonder times.
We must applaud them for their sacrifice.
Through their chairman, Justice Adeliza Showers and the Executive Director Mrs Claire F. Carlton -Hanciles.

8. However, our people say ” nor look usai u fodom. look usai u buck u foot.”

Therefore , let us remember that,
The legal aid board has been made possible lRgely, because Sierra Leone now has a president whose priorities are anchored on setting up institutions that guarantee the
. Maintenance of law and order
. Respect for human rights
. Respect for women and children’s rights as is evidenced in the 3 gender laws which he helped pilot on his very last day as an MP in June 2007
. Freedom of Association
. Freedom of speech
9.Hon Vice President, we have a
president who , during the past 8 years at the helm of affairs in Sierra Leone , nobody has been held as apolitical prisoner . Nor are there any prisoners of conscience incarcerated

10. The president during whose tenure journalists can freely comment on national issues in more than 50 registered newspapers and more than 30 broadcasting stations, within the ambit of the law.
During whose tenure, programmes like ” papa blow mind “, concerned citizen and satirists like daddy wakabot push the patience and endurance of politicians to the limit

Hon. Vp, madam the First Lady, ladies and gentlemen, it is now my pleasure to present to you, our commander in chief of the Ebola war, the custodian of the prerogative of mercy in the republic, the guardian of our constitution and the fountain of Justice,
The honorary paralegal and Legal Aid Service Champion.
His Excellency Dr ERNEST Bai Bureh Kablai Koroma.

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