By Sorie Fofana.
A report in one of the local tabloids yesterday gave the impression that there is a serious break in the relationship between His Excellency President Julius Maada Bio and his Vice, Dr. Mohamed Juldeh Jalloh. That impression is totally erroneous and misleading.
In the first place, President Bio has absolute confidence in his Vice President. He has never doubted his loyalty, commitment and ability to perform the duties of the Vice President.
Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, the Vice President has represented the President at important functions, both locally and internationally.
On Monday this week, the Vice President Dr. Mohamed Juldeh Jalloh travelled to Guinea, Conakry to represent the President in celebrations marking that country’s National (Independence) Day.
When Pilgrims returned from the Holy City of Mecca last month, the President and the Vice President prayed together with them at State House.
It is also not true to suggest that the Vice President is being marginalised in favor of the Chief Minister, Prof. David Francis. The Vice President is the Vice President. He is the Principal Assistant to the President.
The Chief Minister, on the other hand, is also the right hand man of the President. He has never attempted to upstage the Vice President. He recognizes that the Vice President is the second-in-command to the President.
The two of them (the Vice President and the Chief Minister) have had an excellent working relationship. They both understand each other’s duties and responsibilities. Above all, the Chief Minister will never act as President of the Republic of Sierra Leone whenever the President is out of the country. Only the Vice President can act as President whenever the President is out of the country.
The long and short of it all is that, there is no rift between the President and the Vice President. Period!
Why Did Parliament Not Approve The Ombudsman?
On Tuesday this week, Parliament reconvened after a long recess. On the Order Paper of the day’s deliberations was the confirmation hearing of fourteen Presidential nominees who had been successfully interviewed by members of the Parliamentary Committee on Appointments and the Public Service.
The approval was delayed by few hours based on an objection raised by the Acting Minority Leader in Parliament, the veteran law maker and journalist, Hon. Alhaji Ibrahim Ben Kargbo.
The Speaker of the House, Retired Hon. Dr. Abass Bundu held private consultations with both the Leader of Government Business and the Minority Leader before adjourning Parliamentary sitting.
When the House reconvened later in the afternoon of that same day, the Leader of the House announced that the name of the Presidential nominee for the position of Ombudsman had been withdrawn. Some people seated at the Parliamentary gallery were left stunned at the move taken by the Right Hon. Sidi Tunis of the SLPP who doubles as Leader of Government Business in Parliament.
The withdrawal of Madam Louis Anita Kawa’s nomination left many tongues hanging out. Many people have argued that, Madam Anita Kawa is not qualified to be appointed to the post of Ombudsman because she does not fulfill one of the requirements for such an appointment.
I have read many legal arguments for and against the decision not to approve Madam Anita Kawa’s nomination. We shall continue to read many more legal arguments in the coming days and weeks and even months and years.
What Happens Next?
The Leader of Government Business in Parliament will now have the onus to brief the President on the decision he took to announce the withdrawal of Madam Kawa’s nomination. The President and his legal team will look at all the issues and take necessary action. One of the actions the President might take is to make a fresh nomination for the position of Ombudsman.
There are several names that have been floated for the position of Ombudsman. Some of them are Easmon Ngaqui, J.K. Lansana and the current Chief Justice, Abdulai Hamid Charm.
It is understood that Justice Charm will be retired and appointed Ombudsman. This will give President Bio the free hand to appoint a Chief Justice of his choice. Justice Allan Halloway is being seriously considered for the position of Chief Justice, according to senior Presidential sources at State House.
No Pay For Board Chairmen/Chairpersons
The Times-SL newspaper reported yesterday that from henceforth, non-Executive Board Chairmen/Chairpersons will no longer be entitled to the payment of monthly salaries and other undisclosed benefits.
Many of my colleagues (Board Chairmen) have decided to seek further clarification from the Secretary to the President on the matter.
My candid view is that, State House should carefully take another look at this issue. The President might graciously overturn these directives following concerns that have been raised by senior party officials affected by this decision. May common sense prevail!