Madam President, On the Ombudsman, I Will Differ with You For Once

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By Cheechiay Jablasone

Here’s what I think is wrong with the President’s appointment to the Ombudsman.

Lack of Competence: A commission as the Ombudsman will hold pseudo-judicial powers inherent in the work it has to do. Therefore, in my thinking, which I find to be prudent and others will definitely agree, those sitting on the Commission must have at least 10 years of legal practice as a trial judge, a practicing lawyer or, if not those, a professor or lecturer of the law at the school of law or of other renowned accomplishments in the field of law or other areas relevant to such decision making. This is more of an elder council of judges.

Vetting: since the President decided to settle for lawyers, she needed at least a short list of nine sent by the National Bar Association, following its own vetting process, and those forwarded subjected to public vetting. We would like to know if they are assumed neutral politically and, if they belonged to any political party, have resigned in keeping with the law. The process will also consider character and deportment as deemed fit for public office. At least it would build a public consensus around the chosen candidates on their competencies, characters and deportment.

It appears the President did not see reason to go that route with appointment on such an important body but even what she’s given us is unacceptable. Cllr. Massaquoi is an accomplished flunky in many positions. This man has no job in which he’s succeeded and one wonders what the President expects to change now, for the same man she has repeatedly dismissed and reappointed and he failed her; and then removed him and reappointed him; and that cycle has continued. Does she look to another failure for this Commission so crucial to the national process?

Madam President, I will not be the only one opposing these appointments to the Ombudsman and will not be in the minority for an under-achieving chair and mediocre members. Some of these people maybe smart, like my good friend Atty. Edward Dillion whose intellectual ability I can vouch but too inexperienced legally for this herculean task.

You have time to rescue the state and the commission by going back, using my criteria set and vetting process proposed. To keep this present composition of the Ombudsman as it is would mean dsinterest in the Commission’s work or demonstrating lack of seriousness toward the national political process. This composition reminds one of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) whose members were largely inexperienced legally and many decisions from TRC, including its final report, remained contested in most quarters.

Not only that we cannot afford these mistakes, we cannot also afford failed officials being recycled. We cannot do the same thing repeatedly and expect a different result. I am not convinced and I know you too are not, that these are our best legal minds to man this Commission. If you see these are the three open to manipulation, then be warned: who you can manipulate anyone could, too!

I respect and still respect you and think this decision should not define your over 45 years of public service but trust me, it will place a serious cloud of public doubt over your decision-making at this age. You do not need to stand your ground to win like a hero over these appointments nor ignore this call and go down as the villain who derailed the political process, should we come to a political grand-standing from political parties during the process. If the parties would ask me on what I think they do with this composition of the Ombudsman, I’ll tell them: if not changed, don’t honor it. Refer no matter to it and when matters concerning you are referred to it, do not recognize its authority. Show a complete resentment and public dissent for such a commission entrenched under achievement and mediocrity. If not, have yourself to blame for any rubber-stamped decision they will have to make.

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