Sierra Leone Telegraph: 10 September 2019:
President Julius Maada Bio has this afternoon tendered his unreserved apology to the teachers and principal, who were yesterday publicly paraded and disgraced for what the Anti-Corruption Commission says was their alleged involvement in examination malpractice.
This apology from the president comes after an overwhelming condemnation of the action of the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) to publicly disgrace the suspects.
This morning on radio the ACC Commissioner, said that his investigators last weekend caught the education officials red-handed at an exam centre in Freetown, where they were involved in selling examination answer papers to students.
He said his aim yesterday in parading the suspects, was to implement the new Anti-Corruption Strategy which was launched three weeks ago by the vice president, which is all about enforcing the law.
The Commissioner said that he has used section 7 of the ACC Act, which he said gives him the power to take all necessary steps to fight corruption in Sierra Leone.
He told listeners that yesterday’s action was a test of the nation’s ‘sensitivity and acceptance’ of such action by the ACC, no matter how unpalatable.
Lawyer Yasmin Jusu Sheriff who was also speaking on the radio programme this morning, said she was appalled at the decision to parade and shame suspects without due process of law.
She strongly condemned the ACC and demanded strong action by the Human Rights Commission in support of the suspects who have now lost their right to fair hearing in the courts.
Ms Jusu Sheriff said that the ACC cannot use section 7 of the ACC Act to break the law, especially section 23 of the country’s constitution, no matter the objective of the ACC.
Speaking for the Human Rights commission of Sierra Leone, Mr Victor Lansana also condemned the ACC and said they were wrong in parading the suspects without due process of law.
Public display of suspects he said risks the safety and security of the suspects to incitement by an angry public who may want to take violent action against the teachers.
Lansana said that the ACC has misinterpreted section 7 of the ACC Act and must therefore apologise to the suspects whose human rights have been violated.
In response, the ACC Commissioner – Kaifala was adamant. He said the ACC did nothing wrong and sees no reason for an apology.
This afternoon, speaking at an event at State House to mark the International Day of Literacy, president Bio tendered his apology on behalf of the ACC.
But the question now remains, what happens to the suspects? One legal experts told the Sierra Leone Telegraph he believes that the suspects have been punished and suffered enough without trial, and cannot be put on trial again in a court of law for the same crime.
“Furthermore their case has been jeopardised by the extensive public discussion of all the evidence gathered by the police which have not been presented to the court. It is now highly likely they will be freed,” the legal expert said.
In the meantime, reactions to president Bio’s apology this afternoon, have been very positive. Many Sierra Leoneans are happily surprised that the president has apologised and is seen to be on the side of justice and fairness. “The president has shown true statesmanship today, and long may this continue to bring political stability to Sierra Leone”, one commentator said.