Yusuf Keketoma Sandi
Sierra Leone Telegraph: 15 August 2015
Whatever our views about the internal bickering in the SLPP, the party press statement dated Tuesday 28th July 2015 and the subsequent letter to the Speaker of Parliament, expressing the party’s opposition to an extension of the then state of emergency, should have given hope to the citizens of Sierra Leone. (Photo: Yusuf Keketoma).
The fact that the SLPP took a position against the extension of a state of emergency, which captured the frustrations of majority of the citizens, is a reminder about the capability of the party in standing up for ordinary people.
Interestingly, a parliamentary source told me that before the expiration of the one year public emergency, the government made six attempts in parliament to extend the State of Emergency.
Every well-meaning SLPP must be proud of our Members of Parliament and the Parliamentary Leadership, for their remarkable show of unity, discipline and solidarity to comply with the party’s position statement.
And we must also doff our hats to the party’s firebrand MP – Philip T. Tondoneh, who took command of the radio airwaves to convey the party’s position. He had command of the facts, he spoke the language of the common man and he had a blend of both academic and governance experience.
The SLPP’s opposition to the extension of the State of Emergency left the President politically bruised and with very little choice.
As uncomfortable as it was for a President whose authority seemed to have been weakened by open defiance from the opposition for an extension, it was no surprise that the President in his proclamation had to lift the many restrictions which have not only been politically exploited, but also crippled the livelihood and social well-being of citizens.
Consequently, the spin doctors tagged him a “listening president”. But I am sure if Mr. President was actually listening, there would have been no new proclamation of another State of Emergency.
The one-million dollar question now is: what happens next after the proclamation of another state of emergency by President Koroma?
Sadly, the recent proclamation by the President seemed to have dragged the government into another constitutional saga.
Interestingly, I had a discussion with a very respected APC member on the proclamation saga, and when I pressed him to tell me what specific subsection of s29 of the constitution the President had invoked to proclaim another state of emergency, the APC member acknowledged that the President’s speech could have been better drafted to include the specific subsection of s29 to avoid any controversy.
And whatever APC members think about the PMDC Leader and a reputable lawyer, Charles F. Margai, or his letter to the Attorney General, he has intelligently raised a public interest issue, which if anything must address the lack of clarity in the President’s broadcast.
With the greatest respect to him and the office he holds, as an occupant of one of the most respected offices in government, a very senior cabinet minister and a respected and senior lawyer, many would have expected him to use his initial reply to Charles Margai to enlighten the anxious public on the law as invoked by the President in his proclamation and its application thereof.
As Principal Legal Adviser to the Government, I only hope that at some point the Attorney General will make the clarification on what specific law was invoked by the President in proclaiming the extension of the public emergency.
It is not unreasonable to think that as a result of the enormous powers conferred on the President during a public emergency, the drafters of the constitution intended that declaration of public emergency or an extension of a resolution passed by Parliament for the said purpose, amongst other things, must be supported by the votes of two-thirds of Members of Parliament.
Since Parliament was not sitting when President Koroma made his latest proclamation, many will expect that the declaration will lapse at the expiration of a period of twenty-one days, unless within that period it is approved by a Resolution of Parliament supported by the votes of two-thirds of the Members of Parliament.
With the news of discharging two of the last four Ebola patients nationwide, many Sierra Leoneans would have remained unconvinced by the President that “incidences of unsafe burial and the need for quarantining and placing restrictions on people who may be contacts of persons with Ebola” are enough to justify a public emergency on the whole country.
However, an SLPP Member of Parliament intimated me that the latest proclamation of public emergency may not be unconnected with fear the Government has, for any potential backlash which may emanate in the event of a judgement in favour of the government in the Sam Sumana case.
For the SLPP, as we all look forward to a united party, the national executive and our Members of Parliament must continue with this impressive form – becoming the powerful voice of many people suffering in silence under an APC, in which those in government are more interested in getting richer than addressing the bread and butter issues challenging ordinary people.
I read the statement delivered at his press conference on 12th August 2015, and wholly share his view that the new public emergency proclaimed by the president is unnecessary, for the powerful reasons he proffered.
Particularly on his thoughts about the SLPP, I also agree with him when he said this: “For us in SLPP, if we put all our interest in working together and say goodbye to our camp interests, we can be seen as a serious and responsible party pre-positioned to move into governance. I appeal to my colleague aspirants that we all come together and give one Flagbearer who must be supported by the whole country to become our next president.”
Just as I agree with the above statement, I also sincerely hope that the former Chairman and Leader will agree with me and the majority of us in the party that, the one flagbearer aspirant who should be given that opportunity to lead the party and be supported by all his colleague aspirants and the whole country to become our next president is Rtd. Brigadier Julius Maada Bio. (Photo: Above).
Maada Bio has the popularity, the household name, the support of grassroots across the country, the experience at the highest level of state governance. He is young and energetic and has a track record of commitment and service to the party.
And if John Benjamin as the former Chairman and Leader wants anymore evidence to agree with majority of us, as to why all aspirants and the whole country must support Rtd. Brig. Julius Maada Bio to be the SLPP flagbearer and become our next president, few months ago in one of his ‘Ponder My Thoughts’ articles, another respected SLPP flagbearer aspirant – the Engineer cum politician – Mr. Andrew Kelie, highlighted what he referred to as “Maada Bio’s patriotic credentials” for endorsing Dr Samura Kamara’s Candidacy for presidency of AfDB and offering to work with the President in ending the Ebola scourge.
Mr. Andrew Keilie wrote amongst other things that “…Brigadier Bio Puts service to country above partisan bickering”.
And so, I agree with former Chairman and Leader Benjamin on his appeal for all aspirants to come together and give one flagbearer, who must be supported by the whole country to become our next president.
But does he agree with the majority of us in the party that, that one flagbearer should be Rtd. Brig. Julius Maada Bio – the most popular aspirant across the country?