Freetown has a new Bishop-Elect

The Sierra Leone Telegraph: 2 March 2013

Annie2Reports from Freetown, say that Canon Thomas Wilson, Vicar of the Church of Holy Trinity was last Saturday, 23 February, 2013, elected as Bishop-Elect, after what was described as a tense and fierce contest, which took five hours, at the St. George’s Cathedral Church, Freetown.

But after a four round poll, Vicar Thomas Wilson polled 174 votes to become Bishop-Elect, as against 71 for Canon Emerson Thomas – Chaplain of Fourah Bay College.

The Reverend Canon Kwaku Hagan – the third contestant in the race dropped out, after the first ballot – scoring 48 votes. Canon Emerson Thomas scored 103 votes, while Thomas Wilson garnered 102 votes.

As the lead contestant had to secure a two-thirds majority from the 253 delegates, both Canon Thomas Wilson and Emerson Thomas settled for the second round, in which  Canon Wilson emerged victorious with 130 votes, with Emerson Thomas polling 123 votes.

This paved the way for a third round voting to secure the two-thirds mandate, with results showing Canon Wilson scoring 145 votes, while Emerson Thomas scored 108 votes.

With the two-thirds majority of 168 still not in sight, they entered the fourth round, which eventually secured victory for Canon Wilson. He scored 174 votes.

He would be replacing the Right Reverend J.O. P. Lynch, who will retire later this year.

Annie1The result of the election of the new Bishop of the Diocese of Freetown has been greeted with cheers and optimism by many, including the Old Girls Association of the Annie Walsh Memorial School, which, a few weeks ago made headline news for all the wrong reasons.

The Office of the President of Sierra Leone had made a huge gaffe, releasing a letter from the president – addressed to the School Board’s Chairman – the now outgoing Reverend Lynch, suggesting that the school will be demolished to make way for the construction of a market.

That letter caused widespread furore, as well wishers and former pupils at home and abroad, joined in a loud chorus – saying NO to the president.

State House - FreetownAnd as a damage limitation strategy, the president made a quick U-turn, using his State House Secretary – Osho Coker, as the fall guy to take the heat of public discontent.

In the engineered confusion that ensued, the Reverend Lynch was also accused of putting monetary interests ahead of the historical heritage of the School, by seemingly acquiescing to president Koroma’s proposal.

In reaction to public disquiet over the issue, State House released this face saving statement, hoping the problem will go away:

“The Office of the President notes with grave concern the acrimony and vitriolic attacks coming from some sections of the public over its letter addressed to the Lord Bishop of the Anglican Diocese of Freetown and the North, proposing the relocation of the Annie Walsh Memorial School to a more conducive environment.

“The fact of the matter is that prior informal discussions were held between His Excellency the President and a very senior clergyman of the Anglican Diocese who confirmed that plans were already afoot for relocation of the school, and explained that they were constrained by the huge financial outlay involved.

“The President saw this as a golden opportunity to kill two birds with one stone by helping to actualize the dreams of the proprietors of the school while simultaneously securing a suitable site for developmental purposes.

“The President was encouraged to have the proposal officially forwarded to the Lord Bishop for initial consideration by the church and school authorities.

“It is pertinent to mention that contrary to what is being rumoured, government has neither presented the Anglican Diocese with a fait accompli, nor has it given any indication that it intends to subject the said property to compulsory acquisition.

“The onus is now on the church and school authorities to take a dispassionate view of the situation and revert to the Presidency with their reaction.

“Such reaction could include concerns about preservation of the monumental value of some of the buildings housing the school and other issues that require critical examination.”

But with the election of the new Bishop and effectively the Chair of the Board of Trustees of the School and Proprietor, concerns are being expressed as to what action will now be taken by Bishop- elect Thomas Wilson.

“Will he hold dear, the heritage and affairs of the Annie Walsh Memorial School?” many are now asking.

Bishop Lynch will retire from his post as Bishop later this year, but the following questions still remain unanswered:

“Bishop Lynch was supposed to be meeting members of the School Relocation Committee and the Freetown Branch of the Old Girls’ Association. What was the outcome of that meeting?”

“What acreage of land has been allocated to the school in Regent and what is the relocation programme to date?”

“What logistics plans are being put in place to ensure that pupils from poor families are not disadvantaged as a result of the relocation to far away Regent, which could pose serious transportation problem for many?”

Until those questions are answered openly and honestly, suspicions of a government cover up, duplicity and subterfuge will continue to grow.

Will Bishop-Elect Thomas Wilson stand firmly against any decision by the government to destroy the historical heritage of the site, and ensure that the buildings are preserved and redeveloped as part of the country’s historical landmarks?


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