Sierra Leone Telegraph: 11 October 2017
Today, with general and presidential elections just five months away on 7th March 2018, serious questions are being asked by supporters of Dr Kandeh Yumkella (Photo) about the independence, impartiality, integrity and fit for purpose of the Sierra Leone Political Parties Registration Commission (PPRC), after refusing to grant full certificate of registration to Dr. Kandeh Yumkella’s National Grand Coalition Party (NGC).
According to sources working for the PPRC who have demanded anonymity, some senior officials of the PPRC are working on the orders of, and conspiring with the ruling APC party, to do all they can to prevent Dr. Kandeh Yumkella from either contesting the elections, or make it very difficult for his National Grand Coalition Party – the NGC to mount any serious campaign against the APC.
Hence, the sources told the Sierra Leone Telegraph, the reason for the PPRC’s letter to the NGC today, informing them that the PPRC has received objections from ‘concerned citizens’ about the NGC’s application for registration as a party.
In particular, the PPRC has informed officials of the NGC that the objections were about the NGC’s use of a motor cycle on their logo; and the party’s choice of colour, which the PPRC says is likely to confuse the electorate, who would not be able to distinguish the NGC logo from those of other parties.
Several readers of the Sierra Leone Telegraph have today contacted this medium to strongly put on record their disgust with the decision of the PPRC, which they say despite being funded by the United Nations Development Programme, is seriously failing to live up to its legal duty and responsibility to remain impartial.
But if the allegations of the PPRC failing its impartiality and independence test are true, then this will cast a long shadow on the forthcoming elections, of which both the PPRC and the country’s National Electoral Commission (NEC) are the custodians of the electoral rules and regulations.
And if the PPRC and the NEC are embroiled in any unlawful acts of political chicanery, there will be serious repercussions for the country’s democracy and possibly stability, as this could undermine confidence in the election process and the results.
According to a senior lawyer in Freetown, it is very difficult to understand the PPRC’s objection to the NGC registration application, as stated by the PPRC.
Firstly, there is nothing objectionable about the use of a motorbike as a logo, as this symbol is not being used by any other political party in the country, nor is it obscene – religiously or otherwise as stated in Section 13 of the PPRC Act.
Members of the NGC believe that the motorcycle symbol represents the thousands of hard working men and women, who are driving motorcycles up and down the country for their living.
Secondly, the colours chosen by the NGC – Yellow, Blue, White and Red, which the PPRC finds objectionable, do not bear any resemblance to the colour of any of the other political parties. The ruling APC is the Red Sun and the SLPP is Green Palm Tree.
So what’s the problem?
On the 3rd July 2017, the PPRC Acting Registrar – Zainab Moseray distributed registration forms to new political parties, including the NGC to register their parties.
Coincidentally, this event happened on the same day that Dr Yumkella announced that he was suspending his bid for the SLPP flagbearer nomination. During his speech he highlighted the lack of progress being made to register new political parties.
On the 18th of July 2017, Dr Yumkella’s NGC and four other parties were given provisional registration to operate as political parties, though this limits their ability to publicly campaign and hold events.
And on the 11th of August 2017, the PPRC published the NGC application in the Sierra Leone Gazette as a Public Notice, so that anyone with reasonable objections can raise them with the PPRC before the 10th October 2017.
The PPRC had already confirmed to the NGC officials several weeks ago, that they were satisfied with the quality of the local NGC offices that they inspected. There was no objection then of the NGC logo or choice of colours.
NGC officials were however surprised to be informed today by the PPRC that they should report to the PPRC office next Tuesday, 17 October 2017, to discuss two objections they have received – presumably today, 11th of October 2017, when in point of fact the NGC was to receive its full certificate. (Photo: Dr Yumkella).
But independent observers say that this is part of the PPRC’s delaying tactics to destroy Dr. Yumkella’s chances of contesting and winning the 2018 elections.
Today’s rejection of the NGC registration by the PPRC also raise other pertinent questions of legality.
Firstly, the PPRC by summoning the NGC to attend a meeting next Tuesday at the PPRC office, the PPRC is acknowledging that the required 60 days period before full registration can be granted has ended. Therefore, what is the outcome of the application of the other four political parties, as no announcement has been made on the granting of their full registration?
Secondly, if there are no objections regarding those four applications, then why have they not been confirmed? Their applications are not dependent on the NGC’s application.
Thirdly, can objections on issues that can have an impact on national security or national cohesion be made anonymously?
While everyone is waiting for the PPRC to answer these question, Chairman Donald Roberts of the Kandeh Kolleh Yumkella Movement (KKYM) Global has published this statement, urging supporters to remain calm:
“The Global KKYM as concern citizens of Sierra Leone continues to follow developments from PPRC relating to the issuance delay of NGC Movement final certificate to operate as a fully registered party with great concern.
“The Global KKYM, would like to call on its membership to exercise calm and full restraint* though very disappointed with PPRC. We need to allow the process and review of objections to continue inhibited. We are certain that those objections will be responded to accordingly and the final certificate will be issued hopefully very soon.
“As an appeal to the Global KKYM membership; please continue to measure your enthusiasm and resist re-posting any promotional materials with NGC logo that have been purposefully machinated by our political adversaries with the hope of giving the impression of breach on PPRC guidelines.*
“We know that the NGC Secretariat has been meticulously following the guidelines of PPRC to be in full compliance and has met every requirement stipulated by the PPRC Act since the Provisional Certificate was issued.
“Once again, I am emphasizing on the call for calm and full restraint so to allow the process to continue. This may just be a slight bump on the road or a slight detour. Having met every requirement and acted in full compliance, we hope NGC will receive its Final Certificate very soon.”
It now remains to be seen whether the PPRC will issue a full certificate of registration to the NGC next Tuesday, or whether as critics say, it will continue “to the pander to the wishes of the ruling APC, so as to destroy the chances of Dr Yumkella contesting or winning next year’s elections”.