The Sierra Leone Telegraph: 14 July 2014
The last twenty-four hours has been a roller coaster for the pa-o-pas in the SLPP. All because a leading SLPP flag bearer front runner, has accepted an offer to sit on the Koroma government’s Commission for Electricity and Water.
Various professional and civic organisations, such as the Institute of Engineers and Commerce, had nominated Andrew Keili for that position, as the government unbundled both electricity and water supplies into three sectors. (Photo: Andrew Keili).
Andrew Keili has worked in these industries previously, and has a unique expertise spanning twelve years.
One of his roles will be to ensure fairness, and protect consumer interests from undue exploitation.
More importantly, the commissions should ensure the government does not use these utilities to strengthen their political influence, especially in their stronghold.
Yet, the pa-o-pas have seized on this appointment to smear Keili as a traitor. Because in their unpatriotic and twisted logic, Keili should not accept job offers from the APC government, even though he was recommended by the public, due to his much needed expertise as an engineer.
To the pa-o-pas the only business of opposition is to criticise government policies.
But even here, Andrew has been at the forefront in making constructive criticism of the government’s policies, whilst offering solutions as well.
The role of the opposition is not just to shout at the government, but must also be seen as part of governance. And voters look up to the SLPP to be more responsible, and to cooperate with the government in dealing with some of the difficult problems that affect lives.
SLPP can gain the trust of voters not by refusing to cooperate with the government where it is in the national interest, such as electricity and water.
It is perfectly right for an opposition member to highlight and criticise the weaknesses of the government of the day, and accept appointment to rectify the areas to which he had expressed some misgivings.
It is not always about criticising, but what one can do to help alleviate the acute deprivation in Sierra Leone. I proposed this was in the mind of Andrew Keili when he decided to accept the president’s offer.
All over the world, there are times when the government in power can deploy the expertise of the best brains outsides its own party, to help deal with an issue that affects the development of the country.
This is necessary for stability and for tackling issues that border on the distribution of national resources.
Here in Britain, the former conservative Prime Minister John Major supported his former opponent, Labour party opposition leader Neil Kinnock to lead the European Commission.
The current conservative prime minister David Cameroon, appointed Frank Field, a prominent Labour party MP to be lead the committee he set up to review the British welfare system in relation to poverty in UK. Frank Field is an expert in this field.
The Business secretary, Vince Cable, in the Conservative party led Liberal Democrat coalition had on several occasions criticised some aspects of his conservative partner’s policies in government.
The Liberal democrat leader Nick Clegg is frequently at odds with the government on a raft of policies such as EU, welfare cuts, immigration and freedom of speech.
Nick Clegg is the deputy prime minister, whilst still retaining the leadership of the Liberal Democrat opposition.
Andrew Keili or any other SLPP politician with expertise can serve as a member of a government appointed committee, whilst retaining their SLPP identity and interest.
In fact being a member of such important commission that manages and delivers electricity and water provisions, provides him with the opportunity to ensure fair play, and ensuring that SLPP is not disadvantaged politically.
Keili has considerable influence and authority as an engineer. Indeed his success could help to enhance SLPP’s image.
If an APC president can hire the expertise of an SLPP politician to help improve the performance of a vital sector of the country’s economy, then the nation can also trust that SLPP politician with leadership. (Photo: President Koroma).
His appointment is a plus to SLPP electoral chances, rather than a minus.
As an opposition we value inclusive politics. We have persistently criticised the APC administration of tribalism in making appointments that lack inclusiveness.
How ironic therefore, that after Andrew Keili’s appointment to this crucial sector of our economy, the pa-o-pas has condemned it. This is political hypocrisy of the highest order.
Why refer to Keili as a traitor, after accusing president Koroma of appointing only his tribesmen in his government, and now he has appointed an SLPP politician to an important office?
What message are the Bio supporters sending out to the Sierra Leone public? Are they saying that a professional with the relevant expertise cannot work for his country because he is SLPP?
Unlike their leader Julius Bio (Photo), Andrew Keili is not only an accomplished professional engineer, but he is also a politician seeking the presidency to utilise all the experiences and skills he has built over thirty decades to transform our nation.
When things are getting tough for the suffering people, a patriot does not just criticise, but act in whatever ways he can to mitigate their sufferings. Andrew has been given that responsibility.
When the time comes, some will say that; at a time when the government was struggling to put our electricity and water supply in order, it was an SLPP politician the nation’s civil and professional bodies turned to for expertise.
I would like to join all my fellow SLPP rank and file supporters in congratulating Andrew Keili, and wishing him success in this assignment.
He needs SLPP’s support, because the story will be told that SLPP had a say in making sure consumers’ interest was protected, and that the APC government did not politicise the distribution of water and electricity, simply to further party political advantage.