President Bio sacks Attorney General Priscilla Schwartz

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 6 July 2020:

Sierra Leone’s Attorney General – Dr Priscilla Schwartz, has this evening been sacked by president Julius Maada Bio, after making a series of legal gaffes, including her decision to charge the former minister of defence – Retired Major Palo Conteh with treason, without any shred of evidence of treason having been committed.

After four months of investigation, trying to make the evidence fit the thirteen counts of treason filed against Palo Conteh, and a High Court trial that became a painful circus to watch, the Jury decided it would not be safe to find Palo Conteh guilty of treason, as the Attorney General and her officers in the government’s Law Department had failed to provide evidence for conviction.

Despite defense counsel representing Palo Conteh pleading in court for the Attorney General to withdraw the treason charges, so as to save unnecessary waste of tax payers’ money, the Attorney General had convinced herself and the president, that she was going to find Palo Conteh guilty of treason. Today she has paid for her stubbornness, lack of diligence, incompetence and inexperience.

The Attorney General was recently lampooned by the media in a separate case, brought by the State against the former minister of Social Welfare and opposition politician – Dr Sylvia Olayinka Blyden, who is charged with ‘subversion, cyber crimes, and allegations of libellous conduct against the president’.

After months of investigation, struggling to find evidence that fits the allegations, Dr Blyden was arraigned before a magistrate court with a litany of ill-prepared charges by the Attorney General, only to make a mockery of the judiciary, prompting the media headline – “Dr. Sylvia Blyden lectures Attorney General”. Today, the media have been proven to be right.

Angered by that media headline, Dr Blyden was threatened and coerced by the court to publish a statement dissociating herself from the humiliating stories published about the poor performance of the Attorney General in preparing her case against Dr Blyden, who was kept at the notorious Pademba Road prison for months in violation of her human rights, before she was released on bail.

Although Dr Blyden’s trial continues, she now finds herself in a rather bizarre legal twist, where she is having to attend trial in both magistrate and High Court for more or less the same, alleged crimes against the State, upon the advise of the Attorney General.

Such wasteful and poor use of public resources by the Attorney General’s office has not gone unnoticed.

In the last week, since losing the Palo Conteh treason trial, the Attorney General has faced resounding calls for her sacking or resignation. And today those calls have been answered by the president.

Her critics say that by losing the Palo Conteh case, she lost the first case she ever dealt with in court, since becoming a lawyer twenty-five years ago.

So why did president Bio appoint her in the first place as Attorney General, when clearly her experiences and competences show she is more suitable for academic roles?

Some may say that, that question is now water under the bridge, but who has president Bio appointed as a replacement for Dr Priscilla Schwartz?

A statement released by State House this evening, reads: “It has pleased His Excellency the President (Retired) Julius Maada Bio to appoint Anthony Yehwoe Brewah as Attorney General and Minister of Justice with immediate effect”.

Anthony Yehwoe Brewah is the proprietor and lead partner of the firm of lawyers – Brewah and Co Chambers.  He was bypassed for the post of Attorney General when president Bio announced his first cabinet, after winning the presidential elections in 2018. He was instead appointed as minister of Local Government but was then sacked by the president shortly after his appointment.

Anthony Yehwoe Brewah is the third Attorney General appointed by the president since his election in 2018. He is said to have acted as lawyer for president Bio and the SLPP party during their days in opposition.

Sierra Leone now has a new Attorney General. But, when the history of this government is written, Dr Priscilla Schwartz will go down as the first Attorney General to be sacked within days of losing her first high profile, politically sensitive case for a sitting government of Sierra Leone.

14 Comments

  1. These days you cannot just arrest someone, and charge them with the heinous crime of committing treason. The prosecution had many ways to build up their case, without the need to fabricate the evidence. If you do that, and present it in a court room, it won’t pass the lie director test. Once you arrest captain Joe Average, you follow the evidence. Don’t lead the evidence, let the evidence lead you to places you’ve never been. In the case of Rt. Major Paolo conteh, the first thing you ask is for his motive. Why on earth would he want to do that? How will the military, the police, the public that elect their president react to such suicidal adventure? Was he a lone wolf, attempting to kill president Bio? In which case he himself would have been killed. Its called suicide by the police.

    The body guard that killed Laurent-Desire Kabila on January 16th 2001, the former DRC president in state house was also killed. How long has he had the gun? Was it licenced? Has he ever fired it in anger? Follow his finger prints in the world wide web. Is there anything in his laptop or mobile phone records, to suggest during the planning stages he searched how to kill an elected president, and take over a government? His mobile phone records. Did he speak or sent messages to his family or friends that he intends to do it? That he is visiting State House, he might not be coming home after that. Or did he speak to somebody as a word of mouth?

    Lee Harvey Oswald, the man responsible for the assassination of president Kennedy on 22nd of November 1963, was also shot by Jack Ruby, he died on the 24th. Same as when Archduke Ferdinand the heir apparent of the Austro-Hungarian empire, was shot and killed by a Serb nationalist in the streets of Sarajevo on June 28th 1914, which starts the chain of events that led to the first world war. Gavrillo, Princip, was himself killed by the guards. The lone wolf theory would never have worked for Major Alfred Paolo Conteh, hence the acquittal. The whole architecture of security around the president needs an urgent overhaul. Thank to this jury. We want peace in Sierra leone!

    • At first we saw a lot of praise going out for the president for not interfering with the justice of this country, that he allowed the justice sector to do it’s best. But all of a sudden and to the surprise of those praising him, he turned round and showed his true colors by sacking the Attorney General of the state for not accepting his wish of finding Paolo Conteh guilty of the thirteen count charges.

    • My own question: What first degree, Bachelor or Masters did he have before proceeding to obtaining a Ph.D? Asking for a friend.

  2. We were hoping that the former Attorney General would have done the decent thing, as her position became highly untenable by resigning. She was responsible for the decision made to prosecute with a charge of treason. I hope lessons are learnt here that holders of public offices are accountable for the decisions they make. It has been said before, that running a government is not an academic exercise. We expect our PHD holders with all due respect to be contributing to knowledge for future generations, by engaging in research in the various areas of their specialty rather than waiting for political appointments. So many industries are struggling because of the lack of expertise for example Agriculture. Let Dr Swartz return to academia and help our future legal professionals and the legal profession.

  3. Yeah. President Bio has done what is expected of a SLPP party leader, President and not Bio SLPP. I am not surprised by the sacking of the PhD Attorney General. Many people including myself advocated for the novice Attorney General and other government officials handling that cooked, setup and botched up treason trial against the gallant and well decorated Rtd Major Paolo Conteh to be sacked. More heads have to roll for the President to get my total approval for this action.
    The Chief Security Officer and the Chief Protocol Officer at State House, including all those officers at the CID and the State Prosecutors Office responsible for this bungled and botched up flawed pre-treason investigation against the gallant Rtd Major Paolo Conteh the great must be sacked. You don’t just mess around with personalities like the gallant Rtd Major Paolo Conteh the great, former Madam the Attorney General. It is dangerous territory Madam the former AG. What a shame for your stubbornness!

    Finally, I believe the former Attorney General Dr Priscilla Schwartz must not only be sacked, but investigated for her corrupt role in that bungled and botched up treason trial. God bless the best JURY ever and of course, the gallant Rtd Major Paolo Conteh the great.

  4. All those security guards in state house, who operate the metal detector machine including their bosses, should all be relieved off their duties-sacked and be replaced with immediate effect. No time for nonsense.

  5. Young4na, well said. You wrote for millions of us. Please your list of those who should follow the Attorney-general into the political sunset is a top secret so that you do not jinx it. President Bio knows that time has become his worst enemy and he is not looking good. Unless he moves faster than the speed of sound, he could find himself on the floor being counted out. Who would disagree with you that we have had enough of PhD holders, they are nothing but parasites, we need people with common sense who are forceful. I wonder whether President Bio should not take a second look at the fearless Charles Margai. He needs people around him that can stand up to him, not a bunch of servile flatterers or suckers. Thank you.

    • Have you done a count of how many PhD holders we have in the current government compared to the last government? The numbers are almost the same.

      Many here are saying that Dr. Scharwtz is a novice in practical legal issues. That is not true. Dr. Scharwtz was a state council at the law officer’s department at the same time that Justice Abdullah Charm, J.F.Kamara and others for close to 8 years. When Berewa was Attorney General, she was regarded as one of the brightest legal minds at the Law officer’s department. It is said that she was recommended by late Pa Berewa when Bio got rid of Charles Margai.

      In high treason trial cases like the Parlo Conteh’s case, the Attorney General who happens to be the Minister of Justice will consult with the president before proffering charges. Did Bio insist that the AG proffer treason charges even against the advice of the AG and his team? Is Bio now scapegoating the AG after what he insisted went wrong?

      This is a dent to Bio matter his late action. It is one woman less in his government making the female representative less than 30%.

  6. Nothing suprises me anymore. At the end of the day the buck stops with the president. Full stop. You cannot keep changing personal until it fits your agenda. I wonder how much consideration was given when hiring these personnel. In terms of not only their qualification but experience as well. Leadership is not about passing the buck, but sometimes to put your hand up and say, you know what, this time we got it wrong. This is the most difficult statement you can extract from politicians of every colour. You are more likely to squeeze blood from a stone, than politicians accepting a fault. Sirra Leoneans will be more susceptible to such admissions and admiration for those in power, than just plough on regardless.

    You cannot preside on cases that invlove life and death issues by learning on the job. Attorney General Dr. Priscilla Schwartz, is taking some stick after the acquittal of Rt. Major Poalo Conteh. She has been hung to dry due to her unwillingness to have dropped the case. There is an other school of thought. She and her team might have misinterpreted the president, when he went on national television and made comments that he will crack down hard on terrorists that tried to divide the nation. At the time, I told myself the president is wrong to make statements like that, especially when opposition politicians have been rounded up. Some in the justice department might have felt the president has given them the green light to carry out his wishes, even if that was not what he meant.

    In moments of crisis everyone looks to the president for guidance. So it is incumbent on the president to stay clear of judicial matters or making statements that will have adverse effects on societies and communities up and down the country. Right now the change of personnel, indicates to me, this president does not have the right people around him. They are only there for their selfish interests. We all want president Bio, to succeed. But in other for him to crack on with his new direction agenda, he needs to ditch some of those people around him that are giving him the wrong advice. It is not good for the country’s development.

  7. That is exactly true of your party, the APC, whose woeful ineptitude at running the state actually buried Sierra Leoneans below the poverty and ignorance line. I see it more like the President bridging the gender gap.
    If we had had such clean political system, Dr. Forna and co would not have perished the way they did under APC.

    • JSC, not sure if you are responding to my post. Nonetheless, I must say that you shouldn’t label people as APC supporters when they raise questions about the current policy failures in Sierra Leone. I for one I am not affiliated to any political party, and as a citizen of this country, I think I am entitled to my opinion.
      As things are at the moment, this country is heading in the wrong direction, and you know that pretty well.

  8. It is absolutely incredible reading this. We have this obsolete mindset in Sierra Leone that people with PHDs are better suited for public roles. This is especially so in the current administration, where we have seen Dr Tengbeh, Dr Ali Kabba, Dr This, and Dr That all going out in spectacular fashion. We have no inclination whatsoever that someone who has done a PHD in ‘Why concrete has good compressive strength’ is literally unfit to be given a responsibility in managing social policies. Such people are only effective in classrooms. I have nothing against people pursuing PHDs; I am supposed to be one of them.

    Priscilla was undergoing a very painful process where incompetence and inexperience placed a major role. She was a lecturer and she has never even managed a community group or a legal project of national significance before she was appointed. Appointing someone like that, in such a high-profile role was ill-advised. The two court cases are very panful to watch.

  9. Alas common sense has set its feet at the desk of president Bio. Of what good is it for us as a nation to have a bunch of ‘know nothing’ classroom PHD holders, siphoning millions of our meager resources, with absolutely nothing meaningful in return? Is anything wrong in appointing the best and brightest our nation has to offer, as opposed to the incompetent party loyalists bunch?

    Seriously president Bio needs to act fast before it’s too late, he has barely 2 years remaining to prove to the electorate that he deserves a second term. Extremist elements and bootlickers who are only around to serve their greedy, selfish goals, must be shown the door right away with no time wasting. The president must realize that he is accountable to the 7 million citizens of Sierra Leone, not the small percentage of extremist PAOPA supporters.

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