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COMMENTS & OPINIONS  

Justice Cowan: Did President Koroma make a Mistake with an Octogenarian?
By Abdul Malik Bangura
Mar 2, 2016, 17:08
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Honourable Justice Edmond Cowan has a long and sterling bright service to this our beloved Nation. He has served as one of the senior Judges of the Sierra Leone Judiciary, as the Honourable Speaker of Parliament during which time, he acted as President of Sierra Leone many times. He is also currently the de-facto Ombudsman of Sierra Leone and for the purposes of this piece, he is the Chairman of the all-important 80-man Constitutional Review Committee mandated to secure the views from citizens and submit to the government about what the majority of citizens will like to be contained in their proposed new Constitution.


I have spent some days now researching on Hon. Justice Cowan and I learnt that next year March, he will turn a grand old eighty (80) years of age. This means virtually an Octogenarian is at the helm of our sacred constitutional review process. Why His Excellency took such a decision to appoint an old, old man like Hon. Cowan to preside over such a delicate process, beats my imagination. Who advised President Koroma to make such an appointment? Was it the former Attorney General Frank Kargbo? Or did the President act on his own deliberate judgment? Whatever the case, it is a fact that the brain cells inside the head of an 80 years old man is not up to par. The brilliance which Justice Cowan exhibited as a young man is no longer expected to be there. This is just natural. An 80 years old man is pliable to being misled and the process hijacked by unscrupulous members of his staff and team.


Last week Friday, the BBC Media Action programme had Justice Cowan sit on an ill-publicised Panel at the YWCA at which the likes of well known Opposition SLPP sympathetic activists were reported to have shared the Panel with him, under the guise of being the voice of ‘civil society’ that were helping to validate the views of the ‘majority public’ insofar as recommendations to do with the Presidency, Parliament and Elections. According to a CRC Press Release, Hon. Justice Cowan told the ill-publicised gathering that the proposals he has released as a draft, “represents the aspirations of the people”.


My question and that of a growing number of concerned citizens, is: which “people” are these whose aspirations are represented in that piece? The mere “37%” but loudly vocal people in the Opposition or the majority people of Sierra Leone? Secondly, with proposals running embarrassingly in counter paralleled directions of each other, then which exact one of the divergent proposals represent the aspirations of the citizens?


Examining the recent draft report of the CRC of Cowan produces embarrassing gaffes and contradictions; especially the one highlighted by Cornelius Deveaux in his piece we have published today. The formerly brilliant Judge, Speaker, Acting President, etc. etc. is no longer the man he used to be. Justice Cowan in his productive days will not have made such foolish gaffes as to release such a piece in which he claims the people want no changes to Section 35 and then in the SAME DOCUMENT, he says the people want a significant change to be made to dictates of Section 35. That was an abominable gaffe especially for something as sacred as a review of a national constitution.


When you add to this, the claims emerging from various quarters that the CRC process has been compromised under leadership of Cowan, you are left with a worrying and troubling scenario. The Committee might have been already hijacked from the hands of an 80 year old chairman who is too tired to really exert as much needed brain power attention as possible into such a sacred assignment.


The credibility of  Constitutional Review Committee of Sierra Leone has now become a mockery. The new report, especially contradictions with respect to Section 35(1) and the proposed Subsection 7 of the proposed new chapter on Local Government &Decentralisation show the extent to which the process has been ridiculed. For a formerly much respected and revered Justice of the Court of Sierra Leone from whom much is expected, to have drawn such an unrehearsed report is a cause for alarm.


A post-conflict land like Sierra Leone is threatened with instability if its various state institutions are not handled in the proper manner. Notably, the Constitutional Review Committee was charged with responsibility to make impartial recommendations on issues affecting our well being.


Section 35.(1) of our current 1991 Constitution states that political parties can sponsor candidates for local government elections and Justice Cowan in draft report says the “aspirations of the people” do not want any changes to that section meaning that the “aspirations of the people” is for political parties to continue to sponsor candidates for local council elections.

 

However, and embarrassingly for a former respected Judge, he goes on to contradict that the “aspirations of the people” is for political parties to be prevented from sponsoring candidates for local council elections.


The CRC is saying that Section 35 of the 1991 constitution should not be changed. The mockery in its process now is how will Section 35 of the 1991 constitution survive if what is recommended in section 7 of its proposed new chapter is endorsed?


There are many other self-mockery and contradictions by Justice Cowan and his 80-man committee that renders the process now impugned.


Now, from my diligent research on his activities over the past decades, I want to state that I find Justice Cowan to be an honourable man. I might be wrong but I strongly believe he is a honourable man. And given that he is a honourable man, I want to suggest that Justice Cowan immediately does the honourable thing and relieve the President of having to live with the painful realization that His Excellency might have made a mistake in appointing an Octogenarian with failing brain power as Chairman of our sacred constitutional review process. It is time for the elderly, old man called Justice Cowan to RESIGN as Chairman of our sacred C.R.C! The process is being hijacked by elements who have compromised the credibility of the process. Every day a new suspicion emerges… In my view, Justice Cowan’s continued presence at the helm of the C.R.C is a recipe for instability in this country.


The honourable gentleman should quit and quit immediately whilst the President should consider instituting a hard look into the ongoing process as constituted. His Excellency might have made a grave mistake that this country cannot live with.

 

Justice Cowan should immediately resign and President Koroma should immediately review the entire CRC Composition and CRC Process including the impartiality and credibility of Mr. Saa Kpulun, the current Executive Secretary of the CRC and Mr. Sannaulah Baloch, the Chief Technical Officer. Thank you in advance Justice Cowan and thank you in advance President Koroma for taking steps to rectify the growing concerns


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