IN SEARCH OF PEACE AND UNITY
A SHORT REPORT OF MY MEETING WITH THE SLPP
8TH TO 19TH APRIL 2014
I arrived in Freetown on the 7th of April and met with the Chairman and Leader to discuss the programme of meetings. This was followed by meetings with the members of the Secretariat and the executive in the Party Office. I concluded the round of meetings with a well-attended meeting with a representative group of stakeholders.
Some parties were unwilling to attend any meeting held at the Party Office. Therefore I had discussions with them in my residence or in their offices. I then went to Bonthe, where I met with the local executive committee members and members of the Urban District Council, and many individuals separately.
In all the discussions we discussed the problems and split in the Party and the way forward. I came to the conclusion that;
- All the Parties agree that a divided party is a weak Party and most agree that a weak Party cannot win an election.
- The Party has been weakened by conflict between those who have been branded “The PA O PA” group, led by Rtd Brigadier Julius Maada Bio, and their opponents who, for the sake of convenience I would label as the Anti-Pa O Pa group. I could not identify their leader but they seem to relate well to members of their group.
- The vast majority of people I spoke to or who spoke to me want peace and unity in the Party. And it is said that the voice of the people is the voice of God (Vox dei Vox populi)
- The cause of the division in the Party is hard to identify. The division and acrimonious comments and newspaper comments and the current litigation are consequences rather than the cause of the split. One thing I am certain of is that the split or the acrimony is not related to any ideological difference or political strategy.
The resolution, I was told, was as follows:
“The flagbearer and running mate of the Party in the 2012 Presidential elections continue to provide political leadership of the Party until the next Party Conference”.
It was withdrawn, but even if it was not withdrawn, it would have been in conflict with the relevant provisions of the Party Constitution, and therefore null and void. Although the Secretary General was right to mention it as a resolution, he should have, without any prompting, added that it was null and void and of no effect. His failure or refusal to do that, led the would-be aspirants to the flagbearership to assume that it was a deliberate ploy to make Maada Bio and his running mate flagbearer “in perpetuity”, whatever that means. The result was that it discredited the Secretariat and triggered off the inter-party press war that has inflicted serious damage on the Party.
I THINK that this sorry situation can be attributed to the fact that we have a Party that is traumatized by the way they were deprived of victory in the 2012 elections. Even worse was the way they lost the election petitions on a simple technical point. All these disappointments and sense of unfairness have had their side effects on the Party.
In this predicament the Party has turned upon itself: some blamed the officers and leaders of the Party, some others blamed the constitution and others blamed Maada Bio in this regard, I suggest that we put an end to the blame game and concentrate on how we can avoid the mistakes of the recent years. I shall return to this topic in my recommendations.
SOME UNDENIABLE FACTS
- Maada Bio is very popular particularly among young people, in some places there is uncompromising commitment to him.
- All agree that he would have won the 2012 elections but for the intervention of Miss Christiana Thorpe. Even so, he won 37.36% of the votes. This makes him the second only to Solomon Berewa with regards to votes won. It is inevitable that such a man should be regarded as an asset to the Party, at any rate, among the young generation.
- I need hardly say that in spite of that there must be people who do not support him, and such people should not be victimized or insulted in any way because of their view. Freedom of speech is a fundamental right which all previous SLPP governments highly respected. Let us follow in their footsteps. That is the only way forward.
- Here is an anecdote of what happened when Sir Albert refused to strike a compromise with Dr. Karefa Smart. They were both at daggers drawn during Sir Milton’s reign and soon after. When Albert succeeded Sir Milton, he wrote to Dr. Karefa Smart offering him the position of Foreign Minister. Dr. Smart returned the letter and left the country.
- But in 1966, Dr. Smart wrote to Sir Albert in a spirit of peace and reconciliation and offered to come home from America and help Sir Albert to fight the 1967 elections. Unfortunately Sir Albert did not so much as acknowledge receipt of the letter. So when Dr. Smart came he did not join the APC, but he provided substantial financial support to that Party in its contest against the SLPP in that election. What happened after that is universal knowledge in the SLPP.
- In the anti-PA O PA group there are no doubt men and women who have many followers and supporters. If both sides join forces, the Party will regain its pristine respect and win elections. However, I cannot believe that the supporters of the Anti-PA O PA group are all disciplined, polite and non-violent individuals. Therefore joint effort is needed to change the attitude of supporters on both sides of the divide. Let us adopt as one of our slogans at meeting “SLPP SAYS NO TO VIOLENCE”.
THE COURT CASES
The most serious threat to the Peace and Unity of our Party is the habit of party members taking the Party to Court over. It must be obvious to the litigants and Party members that whatever the court decides, it will not put an end to the conflict within the Party. Moreover, as we all know, the superior courts of Sierra Leone ARE NOT friendly to the SLPP, EVEN IN THE DAYS OF Sir Milton; some unforgettable examples include the election petitions against Mrs. Constant Cummings-John and Mrs. Patience Richards, Sir Albert’s libel cases against some newspapers, the election petitions of 1967, which unseated enough SLPP members to give the APC the two thirds majority they needed to impose the One-Party governance. In any case, the courts cannot compel people to LOVE one another. We must therefore bend over backwards to have these cases removed from the courts.
The next cause for concern is the undisclosed campaign for the flagbearer position. I am sure that the brouhaha over the ghost of Resolution 3 is directly related to the flagbearer contest. This contest has had a ripple effect on the Party and seems to be the reason for some of the actions of the secretariat, the executive and regional officers.
- I recommend that the Chairman and Leader of the Party invite a group of reliable and experienced men and women to meet with Dr. Bernadette Lahai and Mr. Ali Bangura to persuade them to withdraw their cases from the courts, in their own interest and in the interest of the Party. I suggest that the committee be compose of The Rev Bishop Humper, a well-known and highly respected personality, Alpha Wurie, Alhaji U N S Jah, Mr. Solomon Berewa and Anthony Brewa or Eke Halloway.
THE FLAGBEARER CAMPAIGN
- I recommend that the National Executive Committee put a moratorium on all flagbearer campaign, open or clandestine, to a period nearer to the annual conference of 2017. All aspirants should be persuaded by the Committee elders and the NEC to sign a concordat to that effect.
- There should also be a moratorium on the constitutional review, subject to any amendment that is not controversial.
THE REGIONAL OFFICERS
- I recommend that the Disciplinary Committee, reinforced by Regional Chairmen, review the cases of all suspended officers with a view to reinstating them.
- I recommend that the Chairman and the NEC plan a programme of regional meetings to inform supporters and others that the internal war is over, as well as to condemn violence among members and supporters.
- There is a need to strengthen the Secretariat and encourage the Chairman and Leader and his Deputy to exercise firm and fair leadership. Both of them should work together to restore confidence in their impartiality and effectiveness.
Finally, we have a rich and honourable heritage in the SLPP and we have African icons like Sir Milton Margai and Nelson Mandela, whose examples should inspire us to be magnanimous and forgiving. It is said that IF YOU STOP TO THROW STONES AT EVERY DOG THAT BARKS AT YOU, YOU WILL NEVER GET TO YOUR DESTINATION.
LET US BURY THE HATCHET AND SET THE Party on the road to victory after President Ernest Bai Koroma.
Signed: Dr. Peter L. Tucker
4th May 2014