Sierra Leone Telegraph: 24 January 2016
Yesterday’s meeting of the members of the SLPP UK branch was at risk of being turned into a serious fracas that could have led to the breaking up of the organisation. (Photo: Cross-section of SLPP members peacefully attending yesterday’s meeting in London, UK).
A handful of members of the party, believed to be supporters of Julius Maada Bio – the former SLPP presidential candidate for the 2012 presidential election in Sierra Leone, brought the meeting to a standstill, after they failed in their attempt to stop the meeting from going ahead.
The meeting was called so that the executive officers elected in 2013, but whose term of office expired in 2015, would hand over administration of the party affairs to the Council of Elders, in accordance with the constitution.
So what caused the chaos in what was otherwise expected to be a friendly and orderly meeting?
On the agenda was a proposition to elect an electoral committee of no more than 5 people from the membership present at the meeting, who will supervise and oversee the next election of executive officers, which is expected to take place in the next eight weeks.
But the outgoing Chairman – Jimmy Batilo Songa (Photo) – a strong supporter of Julius Maada Bio, was insisting on being a member of the electoral committee, contrary to the constitution.
This did not go down well with members attending the meeting.
According to eyewitness reports, the argument that ensued over what was seen by many as the outgoing chairman wanting to maintain control of the affairs of the party, and in particular the conduct of the forthcoming executive officers election, was a major factor in yesterday’s public row.
However, it is understood that the row started when security personnel from a private security company in London, contracted by the outgoing chairman Batilo Songa turned up at the meeting, in anticipation of what he said were thugs – mainly foreign nationals planning to cause chaos at the meeting.
But members of the outgoing executives, say that his decision to contract a private security firm to guard the meeting was a unilateral decision that they were not informed about or privy to such decision. In consequence, members of the party present at the meeting and several of the outgoing executives, refused to allow the private security officers into the meeting.
The argument that ensued degenerated into a full blown row and someone then called in the London police.
The outgoing chairman said he felt threatened and then walked out of the meeting before he could officially hand over to the Council of Elders, an act many saw as a ploy to avoid giving up his office in order to continue to protect the interest of Julius Maada Bio (Photo: The former military officer wanting to become president of Sierra Leone, but accused of promoting violence and division within the opposition SLPP).
The decision of the outgoing chair – Jimmy Batilo Songa to walk out of the meeting in anger or otherwise, did not prevent the meeting from continuing. The meeting went ahead and members of the outgoing executives handed over peacefully to the Council of Elders in accordance with the constitution.
Verification of the membership register should have been done by the outgoing financial secretary and secretary general in collaboration with the electoral committee at yesterday’s meeting. But the Sierra Leone Telegraph has been informed that this will now be done at a future date.
Members of the Kandeh Yumkella Movement who are also members of the SLPP, said this in a statement to correct what they see as an attempt to embroil the KKY supporters in yesterday’s row (Photo: Chairman of the UK KKY Movement – Dr. Blango):
“There is a breaking news report which states that the meeting was organised by KKY supporters. This should be corrected to give people the correct picture and for the general public to realise that this is an issue between some rogues who are supporters of Maada Bio and the entire membership in the UK.
“The meeting today is a general membership meeting of SLPP-UKI. It is supposed to be a handing over meeting that should allow the expired UK&I executive to handover power to the Council of Elders as stipulated in the constitution.
“The outgoing Chairman wants to have control of the agenda and they came out with an agenda for the meeting in which the chairman (Batilo Songa) wanted to preside over the elections of the Electoral Committee members. His interest in this is quite obvious. An opportunity to preside over the elections of Electoral Committee members will give him the undue advantage to only pick nominations from the side of the Paopas.
“There has been hue and cry about this from members before the meeting. The Council of Elders met yesterday and it is reported that they sent out their official position on the matter, stating that the agenda be revised to ensure that the Chairman plays no more role after the handing over.
“There is the strong feeling also that the outgoing Chairman wants to use the opportunity also to delay his illegal stay in power to give him the opportunity to attend the forthcoming SLPP convention in Sierra Leone.
“His walking out of the meeting was deliberate to achieve his hidden objectives. He did not have the support of the Secretary General and some other executive members on this. Already, the Vice Chairman had resigned on the grounds that their executive term has come to an end. The intransigent chairman thought he could manipulate his ways. He was robustly resisted by the general membership.”
Last night, Mustapha Wai of Mamba TV caught up with both the outgoing chairman Jimmy Batilo and the outgoing secretary general Ansu Momoh to discuss what took place. Take a listen to the interviews below:
Jimmy Batilo speaks to Mamba TV:
Ansu Momoh Speaks to Mamba TV: