Sierra Leone Telegraph: 8 May 2016
Following a London court decision last Thursday, 5 May, 2016, to dismiss an application for injunction to prevent the previous chairman Jimmy Batilo Songa from continuing in office and organising the election of new officers, both sides in the dispute are today claiming victory. (Photo: The Jimmy Batilo Songa Camp – after the court hearing in London).
This court decision comes weeks after the party’s UK and Ireland branch elected a new group of executive officers, led by chairman Ansu Sillah.
The big political fallout which took place in London last year, between the outgoing chairman Jimmy Batilo Songa and a huge swathe of party members, who are officially recognised as the bona fide party branch, was an ugly scene that brought the party into public disrepute.
The refusal of the former chairman Batilo Songa to leave office and handover responsibilities for organising fresh elections to the party’s group of elders was the basis for the application for court injunction.
But many in the party now expect the court action and its decision last Thursday to be inconsequential, as the party is moving on.
There is now a new executive in place and party members and supporters are looking forward to a healing process and concerted peace-building across the party.
According to report from the Batilo camp, the “former SLPP UK/I Chairman, Jimmy Batilo Songa has stated that the UK court had vindicated the SLPP, after the Lambeth County Court in London threw out an injunction application filed against him as then Chairman of the SLPP UK/I region.”
The Batilo camp report quotes Jimmy Songa as saying that:
“This is a victory for the SLPP UK/I Region and all the committed members of the party. We have a greater task to return the SLPP to governance and the party must not be distracted by personal and selfish interest of few people.”
“I want to thank all committed SLPP members who stood by my executive and the party because they believed in the UK/I constitution and our democratic credentials. I also call on the few members whose case was thrown out to put the interest of the party above petty differences and unite behind the new chairman, Mohamed Yongawo, so that we can collectively focus on returning the SLPP to governance in 2018.
“On 4th March 2016, they applied for ex parte injunction to prevent the handing over ceremony of the party which took place on the 5th March 2016. The court rejected that application and told them they want to hear from the SLPP.
“On 29th March 2016, they also made another application for injunction to stop the party from conducting an election on the 23rd April 2016. The court rejected that application and scheduled for a hearing on the 5th May 2016.
“We went to court on the 5th May 2016. After our lawyer made his submission, the judge then threw their case out of court. The judge ordered the applicant to pay cost within two weeks for wasting the time of the court and its resources.”
But this statement by Batilo Songa is seen by many as a recipe for further conflict, chaos and confusion in the SLPP.
By refusing to acknowledge the legitimacy of the newly elected, officially recognised UK party branch executive committee, headed by Mr. Ansu Sillah (Photo), it seems the Batilo faction are bracing themselves for further legal battles at the expense of party unity.
The continuing fallout from last Thursday’s court decision is continuing to widen the gulf that has opened up between the officially recognised party branch and the Batilo Songa faction, who are claiming legitimacy.
This is the response of the officially recognised executive committee of the SLPP UK branch:
“This is to inform all members of the SLPP, particularly in the UK&I, and the general public at large, that the ongoing attempt by a section of the SLPP UK&I to hijack and subdue our beloved party to the unsavoury dictates of their sectionalised desires is an unacceptable stunt that will be tested and trashed, using every available legal channel. (Photo: Officially recognised SLPP UK&I Branch Chairman – Ansu Sillah)
“In spite of the hollow infantile jubilations so wantonly being fronted on public media outlets by a handful of ill-advised zealots, we are happy to confirm that the laws of the UK are thorough, judicious, and ultimately fulfilling.
“In a democracy like this, it is in the nature of things that even Lawlessness may, from time to time, move to usurp its own space; but certainly not for long.
“The noble SLPP membership is rest assured that the greater interest of our region and our party is going to be pursued, secured, and maintained, to the healthy satisfaction of the majority of members.
“We are cordially calling upon all those who are innocently jubilation over a gaping misread of the ongoing situation, to join the ranks of the patient majority, and help take a righteous fight to an odious APC cabal which is busy shamelessly looting while some of us are sleepily dancing.
“We wish to profoundly thank all our members for their patience and their perseverance in the face of these manufactured obstacles designed to undermine our collective efforts, for the personal interests of an individual, or individuals. We continue to count on your invaluable support, to salvage our party and save our country.
“With reference to the premature jubilation in some quarters pertaining to the outcome of the SLPP UKI litigation, the general membership and the general public is hereby informed that no one has been absolved of liability or culpability as the case was not heard on its merit but dismissed primarily on procedural grounds relative to filing for an adjournment.
“The membership is assured that their grievances and concerns shall be heard and tested in a court of law soonest, as the case was not heard today.”
Clearly the application for a court injunction, restricting former chairman Batilo and his group from continuing in office and the court’s decision last Thursday to throw out the case, is now water under the bridge.
What matters now is where both sides go from here – where the SLPP UK branch goes from here.
And what both sides need now, is to take a deep breath and return to the peace table where they can work out an amicable, mutually agreeable path for working together as a cohesive branch.
The newly elected and officially recognised executive committee, which is chaired by Mr. Ansu Sillah, must be allowed to continue its mandate, and the Batilo Songa faction should be given the space to return to the branch.