State of emergency debate – SLPP made us proud – but what next?

Yusuf Keketoma Sandi

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 15 August 2015

Yusuf K Sandi

 

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.

ParliamentariansEvery 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.

President Koroma at malabo ebola conferenceAs 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.

Frank-kargboUnfortunately, many people must have been shocked or disappointed as I was to read the initial reply of the Attorney General, lawyer Franklyn Kargbo (Photo).

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.

John Benjamin -slppI agree with the statement of the former SLPP chairman and leader – John Benjamin (published here by the Telegraph). But does John Benjamin agree with the majority of us?

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.”

Maada Bio 2014Just 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?

4 Comments

  1. What I prefer is that the board should not only base on individuals credentials but who will have the country at heart, that will be more preferable so looking at Mr Bio to served as a standard bearer of the party should be well looked at, looking at his contributions to the party and helping the country to be relieved from the current epidemic which is beneficiary to the people of this country so the man deserve to be supported to parddle the cannoe to victory for the forthcoming election.

  2. We need to educate all Sierra Leoneans that we are dealing with a systemic issue, in which the elites of all tribes have been willing participants, and it is the poor and vulnerable from all backgrounds who are the victims.

    Even the poor and desperate, through their lack of education and low expectation – and simply because people do not have a positive vision of their own future and what is possible in Sierra Leone, have been grafted into the politics of patronage, which both SLPP and APC have peddled.

    We need to have a vision of men and women and their families making their own way without depending on “broda” or “uncle”, so that they can be proud of their own achievements and fulfil their own dreams, without depending on someone else’s handouts which are obtained through serial embezzlement of state funds intended for all.

    This is the vision that Maada Bio cannot commit to, because the present system works for him. This is the vision that Kandeh Yumkella has and why it is worth fighting for.

    So to my Mende, Temne, Limba, Kono, Koranko, Vai, Sherbro, Mandingo, Susu, Loko, Kissi, Fullah, Krio, Lebanese, Syrian and Indian brothers and any other tribe I have failed to mention – please take this message to your communities. We need a change we can believe in, and we need as a nation – Kandeh Kolleh Yumkella.

  3. Well said Allen Luke. My husband and myself are Mendes but our support is for Yumkella. Remember that there are a lot of Mendes who are thinking the same way – what has Bio done since 1996?

    We need progressive people who will put the country first like Yumkella. Bio can never win and if his Mende followers cannot see the writing on the wall then they are fools themselves.

    Only Yumkella will make SLPP a winner again. Brother Sandi think wise and join the KKY camp as they are winners, forget about Bio being a Mende, think about the SLPP party that consist of all tribes.

    Yumkella will take us to the STATE HOUSE. BIO WILL BRING BACK KOROMA AND HIS 40 THIEVES.

  4. I am not sure if this article is intended to promote the SLPP’s role in the lifting of the the Ebola State of Emergency or whether it is a covert attempt to position Julius Maada Bio. As it appears that it is intended to do the latter – we must subject it to the “scrutiny sauce” that Luseni Dassama mentioned in Kevin Kingsley-Williams Facebook post.

    Yusuf Sandi states that “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”. In effect these qualities should be evident to all the other flag bearer aspirants and they should allow Maada Bio to contest for the flag-bearership unopposed.

    It would seem as though a sense of panic is gripping the Maada Bio camp, if so early in the presidential campaign, other aspirants are being asked to stand aside and make way for him to run.

    We are informed that he has the popularity and household name. Let us examine this further. Maada Bio is a household name – undoubtedly – but is it for the right reasons. In the UK, anyone who did not know Jimmy Saville and who did not live in the era of “Jimmy will fix it” surely know who he is. Has Mr. Sandi tested why Maada Bio is a household name. Does he care to find out why?

    Mr Sandi also claims that Maada Bio has experience at the highest level of state. Undoubtedly, as a serial coupist, Maada Bio was able to attain the position of Head of State, but that was by imposing his will and that of the others in the military junta upon the Sierra Leonean, not because people were drawn to his political message or policy agenda.

    So what should we make of the experience of Maada Bio as Head of State and of his role in the NPRC. Maada Bio’s own biography on his website does not mention this episode in his life and career – is this because he is seeking to bury the political baggage he acquired during that time. As the election progresses, the scrutiny sauce would be unwrapped.

    Barack Obama says that Africa needs strong institutions NOT strong men. Maada Bio’s track record during the NPRC era demonstrates his penchant for distablising, dismantling and disregarding institutions. Maada Bio has not been engaged in any meaningful endeavour in either private or public life that would prepare him for another stint as President of Sierra Leone. Therefore we only have his track record during the NPRC to judge him by as well as the manner in which he conducted himself in the run up to the last election campaign and afterwards, when he refused to concede defeat.

    Those in the SLPP who wish to pursue the South Eastern / Mende hegemony and who judge every thing that is happening in Sierra Leone through the prism of South Eastern / Mende victimisation believe that Maada Bio should be the only candidate for the SLPP. What Ebola should teach people like you is that health epidemics or environmental disasters and all the other ills that Sierra Leone is vulnerable to, do not make a distinction between South Eastern / Mende and Non-South Eastern / Non-Mende. You need to broaden your world view and understand the needs of ALL Sierra Leone.

    You chant “One People One Country” when in truth your concerns do not extend beyond South Eastern / Mende heartlands. This is why the SLPP has not been capable of articulating the needs of All Sierra Leone. You are so consumed with being the victim, that you can’t see the real issues.

    Sylvia Blyden has informed the SLPP that with this narrow prism – it can only garner 37% of the vote and it will not win with 37% of the vote. If the alternative to APC corruption is South Eastern / Mende hegemony, it is not appealing to many. SLPP needs to be inclusive and outward looking, rather than continuously propagating a South Eastern / Mende first, narrative.

    Kandeh Kolleh Yumkella inspires hope and has a positive approach for taking Sierra Leone out of the gutter that it is in – that is why people in Sierra Leone and abroad are responding to his message. It is only through his candidacy that the SLPP has a chance of winning the elections in 2017.

    But let us return to the experience of Maada Bio again and do a quick comparison with Kandeh Yumkella. Yumkella served in the NPRC government as Trade minister between 1994 to 95 and left to join the United Nations Industrial Organisation where he rose to become Director General and served for two terms. Following this, as Under- Secretary General at the UN, chaired Sustainable Energy for All until his resignation in August 2015. What has Maada Bio done since 1996?

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