Dr. Blyden asks Supreme Court not to strike out her Petition against President Bio

Saffea Komba: Sierra Leone Telegraph: 21 February 2021:

Dr. Sylvia Olayinka Blyden OOR, whilst addressing the Supreme Court in the matter of her Elections Petition case against the 2018 election of President Bio, has argued against the striking out of her Petition. Representing herself in person, she was speaking on Wednesday February 17th 2021.

After three years of no movement on the court case, the Judiciary finally commenced hearings on the matter on 2nd February 2021. The hearing started with lengthy submissions by the Lawyers for President Bio requesting for the Sylvia Blyden & Samura Kamara consolidated petitions, to be struck out on several technical grounds.

Veteran and highly respected legal luminary George Banda-Thomas is leading a team of eight brilliant lawyers on behalf of the President and the SLPP. They presented five grounds on which they asked the Supreme Court to throw the Petition out.

The first of the grounds is that Blyden’s Petition did not abide by many of the rules of the 2007 Elections Petition Rules.

It was in answer to Ground 1 of the Motion of the President/SLPP that Dr. Sylvia Blyden used a three-pronged approach to make her submissions in a calm and humble manner.

Dr. Sylvia Olayinka Blyden, with humility, presented her eloquent submissions on three points to counter all the many issues of non-compliance with the 2007 Elections Petition Rules.

Dr. Blyden submitted that no petitioner against a Presidential Election is bound to follow the Elections Petitions Rules of 2007. She said those 2007 Rules were only for challenging elections of Members of Parliament. She referenced legal authorities to back her position including a July 2018 Judgment by the Supreme Court that had stated presidential elections petitions are “radically different” from parliamentary elections petitions.

Two of the Judges who had delivered that judgment in 2018 are Hon. Justice N.C. Browne-Marke and Hon. Justice E. E. Roberts. Both are now part of the five judges hearing this matter. The other judges are Hon. Justice Alusine Sesay,  Hon. Justice Ivan Sesay and the Hon. Chief Justice Desmond Babatunde Edwards who is presiding over the matter.

Furthering her arguments on the radical difference between the two kinds of petitions, Dr. Blyden cited from the Sierra Leone Constitution.

“My Lords, the position of the Supreme Court on the radical difference between a Presidential Election Petition and a Parliamentary Election Petition is endorsed by the Sierra Leone Constitution. Under Section 78(5) of the Sierra Leone Constitution, a Parliamentary Elections Petition can never, ever, ever reach the level of the Supreme Court because the ceiling for legal redress available to Petitioners against Parliamentary Elections is the Appeals Court. In sharp contrast, a Presidential Elections Petition simply goes straight to the Supreme Court as per Section 45 of the Sierra Leone Constitution. This radical difference in how Petitioners access the Law Courts for the two kinds of petitions,  simply buttresses the position of the Supreme Court that the two kinds of Petitions are radically different”.

Dr. Sylvia Blyden then cited another Supreme Court matter from the year 2012 in which Julius Maada Bio and John Oponjo Benjamin had petitioned the elections of President Ernest Koroma. She said the Supreme Court back then had “carefully refrained from asserting applicability of the 2007 Elections Petition Rules to hold in the Supreme Court”.

Dr. Blyden said even in the ongoing petition she had filed, the Supreme Court had again side-stepped to say the 2007 Elections Petition Rules applied to Presidential Elections. She read out a portion of the ruling of the Court which had consolidated her Petition with that of Dr. Samura Kamara. The portion she read out, had firmly refused to say the 2007 Elections Petition Rules applied to Presidential Elections Petitions.

After concluding that first prong of her arguments, Dr. Sylvia Blyden started her second prong of arguments by showing how Section 124(2) of the 2002 Electoral Laws Act, makes provision for the 1986 Elections Petition Rules to be the one that is applicable to Presidential Elections Petitions.

She said that even after the 2002 Electoral Laws Act got repealed by the 2012 Public Elections Act, the 2012 Act under Section 168(2), still made provision for ‘savings’ of that particular prescription of using the 1986 Elections Petition Rules for presidential election petitions and that such ‘savings’ will continue until such time as it was “expressly repealed”.

Dr. Blyden said that no such “expressed repeal” of that particular prescription has as yet occurred and so it stands firmly that the 1986 Elections Petition Rules are the rules to be applied for presidential elections petitions at the Supreme Court.

Speaking on the seeming revocation of the 1986 Rules in 2007, Dr. Sylvia Blyden submitted that “The attempt by the Rules of Court committee to purport to revoke the 1986 Elections Petition Rules is null and void”.

To show why she held the revocation to be null and void, Dr. Sylvia Blyden tendered the Statement delivered by the Honourable Chief Justice Desmond Babatunde Edwards on 29th January 2019 at the opening of the Commissions of Inquiry (COIs) to investigate the erstwhile APC-led Government.

“In this brilliant and inspirational statement, the Honourable Chief Justice Desmond Babatunde Edwards, lectured us the people of Sierra Leone on the difference between a Primary Legislation enacted by a whole House of Parliament as against a Subsidiary Legislation created by a delegated committee such as the Rules of Court Committee,” Dr. Sylvia Blyden said.

Continuing, she asked the Judges to turn to Page 5 of the published Statement so as to see where the Chief Justice had emphatically underlined certain words to create emphasis.

The underline segment had said Rules of Court Committee can make rules but such rules are rules “which cannot in any way override the Primary Legislation”.

Dr. Blyden therefore submitted that the attempt by a Delegated Committee to revoke a Statutory Instrument that is already part of the expressed prescription of a still active Primary Legislation was null and void.

“My Lords, the Rules of Court committee cannot purport to over-ride any prescription of a primary legislation, enacted by a whole house of Parliament and which prescription is still in force, until such prescription is expressly repealed; so I humbly submit and hold that the purported revocation of Statutory Instrument Number 12 of 1986 as stated in Rule 54 of the Elections Petition Rules of 2007 is null, void and of absolutely no effect,” Dr. Blyden said.

Dr. Blyden then said even if the Supreme Court were to disagree with her and hold that the revocation was valid, still the Elections Petitions Rules of 2007 had no mandate over Presidential Elections Petition so there would “still remain a vacuum” in terms of which rules of procedure applied to Presidential Elections Petitions.

She furthered that it cannot even be automatic that Rule 98 of the Supreme Court rules applies to extent of using 2007 Elections Petition Rules at Supreme Court, just because it was currently applicable at the High Court.

She said there were many different kinds of Petitions that have various procedures and rules at the High Court including Divorce Petitions, Winding-Up Petitions, etc. etc. She said they were all “radically different” from a Presidential Elections Petition and so it will be unwise to say that Rule 98 automatically means using any of those procedures of “radically different” kinds of High Court Petitions.

“My Lords, can we use the procedural rules for hearing a Divorce Petition at the High Court to be the procedural rules for hearing a Presidential Election Petition at the Supreme Court? No, we cannot because they are two radically different Petitions. My Lords, can we use the procedural rules for hearing a Bankruptcy Petition at the High Court to be the rules for hearing a Presidential Election Petition at the Supreme Court? No, we cannot because they are two radically different petitions. So I submit that we cannot use the rules of a High Court Parliamentary Petition to hear a Presidential Elections Petition at the Supreme Court because they are two radically different Petitions,” Dr. Blyden submitted.

Dr. Blyden then blamed the country’s Rules of Court Committee for failing to make the required Rules for many proceedings since 1991 which was now a 30-year time frame.

She asked the Supreme Court not to punish Sierra Leonean petitioners from exercising their right to petition simply because the Rules of Court committee has not yet made required Rules for proceedings in a presidential election petition.

She again cited from the Statement of the Chief Justice at the opening of the COIs to show absence of rules cannot inhibit a procedure from being heard.

Dr. Sylvia Blyden then proffered that given the tremendous powers of the Supreme Court, in the absence of any such rules, the vacuum can be cured by the Supreme Court using its powers under Rule 103 of the Supreme Court Rules to direct the way forward.

The Supreme Court judges keenly listened and interjected several times with questions which Dr. Sylvia Blyden handled with dexterity in a manner that showed she had a grasp of many of the country’s laws around Elections and a good grasp of the Sierra Leone Constitution. She was calm and responded with humility and highest respect for the five Judges.

In sharp contrast to the calmness with which Dr. Sylvia Blyden made her submissions, the lawyers for President Bio, in persons of Lawyer Musa Mewah Esq. and Lawyer George Banda-Thomas Esq. had to be advised by the Judges to keep their cool when they several times stood up to strongly interrupt Dr. Sylvia Blyden as she calmly laid out her legal arguments.

Earlier before commencing her submissions in reaction to the various grounds, Dr. Sylvia Blyden apologized to the country’s Legal Profession. She said her decision to make a self-representation was not to be taken as a slight of the country’s legal practitioners but as a result of the nature of the matter.

She said she would have wished to have lawyers make the arguments for her, but she lamented that given the fact that H.E. President Bio was now well entrenched in office for three years, he had become very, very powerful and so many lawyers shy away from engaging in forceful representation of her position that seeks to have such a very powerful President Bio removed from office as president.

Dr. Sylvia Blyden said even the Affidavit filed last month on January 12th 2021 by the President was “very intimidating” in the contents and in the assertion therein that the place of signing it was the “State House”.

Meanwhile, the matter has now been adjourned to Monday February 22nd, 2021, when Dr. Sylvia Blyden is expected to make her further submissions to challenge the other grounds of objections presented by the SLPP and President Bio through their eight-man team of brilliant lawyers.

7 Comments

  1. Accountability and upholding the tenets of the rule of law is the corner-stone of a healty democracy. Dr Bylden has got a point. Bio’s team of lawyers, called the dream team, choosing to challenge the rules applicable to elections petition of a presidential election, brought forward by Dr Blyden, and interrupting her whilst she lay out her arguments, and worst, putting foward arguments that the supreme court judges should apply the same rules in this case, like the ones that apply to the rules governing petition of Parliamentary members. In so doing renders Dr Blyden’s presidential pettion, null and viod, that the court should strike her case out, not only renders Bio’s lawyers case invalid, but the same rules that were applicable back in 2012, in Bio’s pettion of the presidential election, is still applicable today.

    They were not clearly defined then and they remain so to this day. Only the supreme court can provide guidance on this matter and any such decisions have to be guided by precedents. The laws have not changed. What has really changed is the occupant of State House. More like they are saying election petition rules do not apply on Bio and his government. You cannot keep moving the goal post when it suits your agenda. There should never be one rule for one and another rule for others. The laws of the land should rein supreme, against anyone’s self interest. Laws are made for reasons and they should be applicable without political due consideration or interference. In considering them and reaching a conclusion , they have to be seen to be free and fair. The supreme court is unique, in the sense, it has a latitude, or enough leeway of interpreting the laws of the land, as the the final arbiter in all cases, whether is political, constitutional, criminal matters or treason.

    The decision or the judgment it makes on this matter, always acts as precedents or refrence point, in arriving in any future judgement it has to make. It should make clear the ways court decisions or petitions of this nature should be considered, or heard. Given that some of the sitting judges in that 2012 pettion case brought about by Bio, are sitting on this case albeit on a different capacity, the rules that were used then apply in this Dr Blyden case.

  2. Dr Sylvia Olayinka Blyden, the Iron Lady of Sierra Leone, is supposedly a ‘Jack of all trades and master of ALL’. From being a Medical Practitioner, to journalist, to politician and activist … and now to a Legal Luminary. She excels in all. What a great lady. Preferably, she should have just studied law – she is better suited that way. Keep it up my dear; irrespective of the outcome. You will surely be in the history books of Sierra Leone.

  3. For God’s sake, why should an article on issues bordering on court hearings like this, contain court jargon, when opinion has nothing to do with the outcome of the court case. Thanks for being fair for the update indicating that indeed the rule of law is actively working in Sierra Leone under the leadership of my president, your president our president Dr. Julius Bio.

  4. It has taken a long time for the supreme court of Sierra Leone to hold its first sitting on the much anticipated election petition, challenging the presidential election results. The court sitting, to hear the election petition came five months after the presidential elections. Some opposition observers were saying the delay was at the behest of the government. I am not talking about Dr Bylden’s elections petition. This was the election petition filed by Brigadier (RtD) Julius Maada Bio, the loosing candidate of the opposition SLPP party, after he secured 37 percent of the vote against the then incumbent president Ernest Bai Koroma of the APC party, that won by 59 percent of the 2012 presidential vote. Dr Bylden’s petition is like a wild goose chase. Unlike Bio, she has personally paid a heavy price for the same sort of thing that Bio did back in 2012. The reality, Bio never lost his sleep over it, or spent a second in a cell room in Pademba Road prison for challenging those 2012 presidential election results.

    Three years after the filing her petition can only be described as justice delayed and justice completely denied. Since it is a judicial and constitutional matter, its never too late. A precedent was set in 2012, started by Bio, so it should go through the process. Do on to others as you will like them do to you. Totally in agreement with that phrase. By filing her petition after the presidential elections, Bio made sure she pay a high price for challenging the presidential results of 2018. She was detained on false charges and went to hell and back. Bio was never subjected to the degradation she went through. His petition was heard expeditiously, compared to what we are witnessing now. Finally she has her day in court.

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