The New People (TNP)’s reporter in New York, Anthony Samai, caught up with the leader of the Sierra Leone People’s Party in North America, Lawyer Augustine "Boss" Fallay Esq. at his private chambers in San Francisco, California.
|Lawyer Augustine “Boss?Fallay
In this exclusive interview, Anthony Samai speaks to Chairman Fallay about a range of issues pertaining to the re-organisation and refocusing of the agenda of the opposition Sierra Leone People’s Party. Chairman Fallay offers frank views on both local North American and national Sierra Leonean issues. He charts the outlook of the SLPP on key issues, and sets his sights on the performance of the ruling All People’s Congress, one year into the government’s 5 year mandate. Chairman Fallay speaks about new policy initiatives and targeted, and progressive strategies for undertaking those initiatives. He also comments on the latest scandals that have rocked the ruling All People’s Congress party and attacks on the SLPP’s party offices.
TNP: Good morning, Mr. Chairman. One year on of APC rule, one month into your tenure as chairman of the Sierra Leone People’s Party in North America, tell us a bit more about yourself and your thoughts on politics in Sierra Leone.
SLPP’s Fallay: I hail from Potoru in Pujehun District. My Dad, was a long time section Chief and a Chiefdom Speaker. I started school in Potoru and then proceeded to Pujehun. I ended my Secondary schooling in Christ the King College (CKC) where I got my baptism of fire in political activism in 1977 when a Soko Bana and his men descended on Bo Town during that year’s general election. I fondly remember us lining up behind a local hero then called Keindaka to take on the Soko and his boys. Keindaka won, killed the poor guy and what followed next was simply a bloodbath in Bo; it was disgusting, wanton political violence and bloodshed by the APC against the peaceful people of Bo. That ominous shades of this sort of violence linger around the so-called new APC speaks volumes about how different the SLPP is when it comes to good governance and democratic practices.
In 1982, after graduating from Fourah Bay College and teaching English Literature briefly at CKC, I came to the United States of America (USA), where I studied Law and got a JD (Doctor of Jurisprudence). I worked for a Law Firm called Carrol Burdick & McDonald. In 1986, I went to England and did an LL.M (A masters Degree in Law). I then went to Reading University on a full Ph.D Scholarship to do Law with a provision to teach and tutor. In 1990, I returned to the USA, however, to start working for the City and County of San Francisco in California. By 2000, I was manager in the San Francisco Building Department.
In 2005, my whole world came crashing down, as I got charged with everything these guys could think of, and they dragged me to court. In the end, I won the law suit, and I have sued them. I have been working with Zacks, Utretch and Leadbetter, another Law Firm in San Francisco. I have just opened my own office.
TNP: Give Sierra Leoneans a situation report on the state of the Sierra Leone People’s Party in North America.
SLPP’s Fallay: We need to put boots on the ground; we need to put our thinking caps on. The Party here is otherwise sound structurally but it needs a lot of work. What strikes me most is the commitment of a lot of our members who are ready and have volunteered to undertake functions within the Party. We have added the SLPP - Manitoba branch to our existing slate of more than 15 different states in the USA, and more Chapters are still being formed in Texas, Wisconsin, Minnesota etc. We are now going through a reorganization of our party’s structure here and once we finish, which should be presently, I have no doubt that we’ll be able to carry the national party on our shoulders.
I am particularly happy that certain descriptions like tribalism and/or regionalism that dog the SLPP in Sierra Leone are not factors here. We have extremely committed members from all corners of Sierra Leone. There is the odd internal disagreement on procedures but all’s well otherwise. The state of SLPPNA is strong but we can be stronger knowing that we have millions of our people in Sierra Leone depending on us in more ways than one for the advancement of the SLPP.
TNP: What is your plan of action now for the Sierra Leone People’s party?
SLPP’s Fallay: It is really simple: we need changes - changes in leadership, changes in direction, changes in leadership composition, and changes in attitude. This will effect a change in the disposition of uncommitted members of the electorate toward our party. We need people in positions who are committed, know what they are doing, and have the guts to stand up to our opponents. Above all, we are going to have people in leadership positions who put the Party first, second, third, ,etc., We must fight with every sinew in our body to remove those who are only interested in using the Party for their own personal goals. We are going to introduce discipline in the use of funds; all funds can only be transacted through the Banking and other formal money management systems to help us promote accountability and better recordkeeping in the party.
TNP: African politics is always marked by an adversarial relationship between ruling party and opposition. Are there points of cooperation between your party and the ruling party?
SLPP’s Fallay: As Sierra Leoneans, there are more issues on which we agree than there are those that we fight over. We agree that Sierra Leone needs to develop. It is in the process, the details and the emphasis of such development that we differ. While, for instance, SLPP believes in putting qualified Sierra Leoneans in positions (irrespective of regional and tribal affiliation), APC would rather have incompetent and unqualified party members in those positions - so long as they are APC party members; for SLPP, it’s your qualification as a Sierra Leonean to do the Job; APC looks for loyalty to their Party. While SLPP believes in going to court, APC would always brutalize people first. We, members of the SLPP, love Sierra Leone. I’ll allow the APC to speak for itself.
The adversarial relationship you refer to, especially the sort that results in violence, is really usually due to political immaturity on the part of the APC. I believe that instead of creating a task force to cause mayhem, the political parties would serve Sierra Leone well if we train our party constituents to respect the basic principles of good governance and law and order. I hope the APC understands that there is no place for a party militant force like the Task Force, I am sure Sierra Leoneans are ever hopeful that the APC will have a road-to-Jerusalem moment and stop using violence as a political weapon.
TNP: Is it true that you were not invited by the Ambassador to attend activities planned for President Koroma’s visit to the United States?
SLPP’s Fallay: We were not invited and I thought the President and the APC in North America missed a great opportunity to hear suggestions and thoughts from some of the younger Sierra Leonean talents in the SLPP and in the diaspora.
Let me add for the records that SLPP members are mindful and very respectful of the office of the Presidency and every Sierra Leonean who is a member of the SLPP in North America respects the office of the President of Sierra Leone and the authority of the current President, His Excellency Ernest Bai Koroma.
However, we in the SLPP believe that for the process of nation-building, President Ernest Bai Koroma must strive to listen not only to the voices of his own supporters but also to the critical and fearless voices of the members of the opposition party. At the moment, the president is on a single-track, and I believe he must adopt the advantage of parallel thinking by listening to the voices of all Sierra Leoneans whether they belong to the APC or the SLPP.
TNP: Why did the APC refuse to invite the leader of the opposition party to activities planned for the President of Sierra Leone?
SLPP’s Fallay: The fact that we were not invited really comes with political maturity or the lack thereof on the part of the President’s handlers or the organizers of the events. It was really naive, I thought, the way they went about it.
Three members from three different chapters informed me that they had been called to attend a function with the President as representatives of SLPP. All three members told them that they belong to a federation and therefore advised the APC party operatives and designated organisers to approach me, the chairman of the SLPP Federation Executive. On each occasion, the invitation died right there.
I am sure the APC operatives and other organisers who tried these underhand tactics have now got the message that the old APC strategy of divide and rule will no longer work. We, members of the SLPP, are now well organised and disciplined and we will not fall prey to the rather primitive divide and rule plus violence strategy that the APC used in the 1970s and 1980s as well as over the last one year.
TNP: Chairman, is this another instance of APC’s divisive politics as alleged by the secretary general of your party (the SLPP) that President Koroma is practicing in Sierra Leone? Is the APC practicing divisive politics? We ask this because some of our readers tell us that the APC government is very representative.
SLPP’s Fallay: WHAT?! APC Government is very representative? Representative of what? The politics of region and ethnicity is not representative politics. Even the president is aware of that. The current APC is one of the most divisive governments in the history of Sierra Leone.
At the worst of times, even Siaka Stevens’ APC dictatorship of the 1970s and 1980s was more representative of Sierra Leone. Even Joseph Saidu Momoh’s bumbling one-party government was more representative. Of course, you know that the SLPP has consistently appointed representative cabinets from the late Sir Milton to President Tejan Kabbah.
If Sierra Leone should take advantage of its full human capacity and therefore sustain any development drive, President Koroma must learn from the SLPP that the president of Sierra Leone should be ready to use all Sierra Leoneans in developing Sierra Leone and not just a select few APC members and loyalists from Bombali, Tonkolili, Kambia, and Port Loko districts.
TNP: Tell our readers about your position on the well-documented and reported attacks on the headquarters and other offices of the SLPP.
SLPP’s Fallay: Like most Party members here, I was obviously very upset. I was also quite upset with our Party because I was told that the attack was the 6th attack on that particular office in Freetown and nothing has been done on each occasion to protect the building.
Obviously, in more advanced countries where police commanders stay away from partisan politics, Police officers would protect the building after the first instance of attack. Government prosecutors would work with the police to investigate and prosecute the perpetrators on each occasion. There have been no prosecutions and jail terms for any of the attackers in APC-ruled Sierra Leone. Perhaps that reflects, and very unkindly so, the ruling party’s attitude to democratic governance and the security and constitutional liberties of all its citizens.
I wondered aloud why we did not have security guards, or better still why the SLPP should not insure the building with RITCORP, the APC President’s former Insurance Company. The funny thing is that these attackers dress in a black commando outfit and they are referred to as the APC Rapid Response Task Force. If this group identifies itself as such, then we should identify those who organize, finance and direct this group and take them to court; attack the problem right at the source - we call it here dip pocket. My position is that it’s better for us to pay a monthly Insurance bill than to pay huge repair bills every time the building is attacked.
TNP: President Koroma has just celebrated one year in office. Rate his performance for our readers.
SLPP’s Fallay: The president has had to imagine what he has to say about a year in office. The official indicators are obvious. Sierra Leone remains pegged at the bottom of the Human development index; Corruption has worsened and Sierra Leone has dropped to 158th in the list of most corrupt nations – with a disgraceful 1.9 score out of 10. The price of food and the cost of living are getting higher by the day in Sierra Leone. If this was the good life that APC was promising, it has been a very difficult year for Sierra Leoneans. The corruption scandals have multiplied three-fold.
It is interesting that the only positive indicator that the APC has found reason to brag about is the solid achievement of Dr. Kadi Sesay in the Trade Ministry and the series of infrastructural projects started by the SLPP. The temporary power program is heavily subsidized and it is making a spectacular loss of over $7,000 a month.That is not progress; that is madness. The SLPP completed 95% of Bumbuna before leaving office. Surely 5% or progress toward that meager 5% should have been reported.
The SLPP left more than $500 million dollars of funded projects. Where are the projects? The President is reported to have recently acknowledged that the SLPP left billions in the country’s reserves. At least, he has acknowledged what most of his followers have spent their short lives denying. The SLPP was fiscally responsible and believes in foreplanning, and that remains a core value of the SLPP.
TNP: Where do you see the APC leadership taking Sierra Leone? Is the future bright under the APC?
SLPP’s Fallay: The President has a chance to change course but he seems deafened by the sycophancy that surrounds him. The future seems to be heading in the wrong direction at a breakneck speed. The president needs to revisit his decisions and priorities. That is what good managers do.
TNP: Does the SLPP have viable policy alternatives to what President Koroma and the APC are offering Sierra Leoneans?
SLPP’s Fallay: At the appropriate time, we will give maximum publicity to our party’s core values and new policy initiatives that are consistent with the principles of good governance, transparency, progress and development in Sierra Leone.
TNP: Give us an assessment of the cocaine scandal and the President’s handling of it?
SLPP’s Fallay: The president has assured Sierra Leoneans that the matter will be rigorously investigated and the judicial process will be seen to work transparently without fear or favour. The president has put his integrity at stake; we will wait to judge him on his promises to the nation.
TNP: Do you think the APC party may be involved in the scandal?
SLPP’s Fallay: I don’t know because I have not seen all the evidence and the judicial process is still on. I am told that Magistrate Deen Tarawalie who is presiding over the trial is incorruptible and he has a reputation for sound rulings. As a member of the SLPP and as a Sierra Leone, I have a strong interest in seeing the justice system work under an APC government. It will be a pleasant surprise to see it work.
I am also told that one of the APC ministers has been fired as a result of investigations. There are strong rumors that he is only a scapegoat to save higher-ups. I am sure the outcome of the investigations and the judicial process will also tell the international community whether the APC intends to continue its practice of designating sacred cows and of letting party loyalists off the hook. This brings to my mind the common joke that APC rewards the best of its crooks whether they be people who squandered tremendous sums of money during the Siaka Steven era and are now charged with "organising", quote on quote, the "new" APC or we simply have loot reinstated without judicial review. At least, this is what is being said in the media.
TNP: Everyone is complaining about the economic hardship in the country, yet APC says it is a year of successes. What is your party’s position on that issue?
SLPP’s Fallay: Sierra Leoneans have the final verdict on that matter. If you ask the average Sierra Leonean the simple question: "Has this year been a year of prosperity and plenty," I am sure you will get the same answer – "NO."
TNP: What is your view on corruption in Sierra Leone?
SLPP’s Fallay: I have yet to study the implications and the spirit of the 2008 Anti-Corruption Act fully. I am interested in knowing when the president will give FOIA (freedom of information act) access to his declaration of assets so that Sierra Leoneans and public accountability and ethics organisations can monitor and report changes and other developments. I would like to see the President get his ministers and senior officials to declare their assets and make those declarations open to public accountability and ethics groups too - just as the president has promised.
TNP: Do you think your party has a winning chance in 2012, if so why?
SLPP’s Fallay: Definitely! The SLPP’s core values and new policy orientation mark the difference between us and this very incompetent APC administration that has failed to fully use the goodwill of all Sierra Leoneans during the first year of its tenure. The APC’s record on job creation and training, healthcare delivery, food security, foreign direct investment, public accountability, good governance and violence-free politics speak volumes to Sierra Leoneans already. Sierra Leoneans are suffering real hardship while the APC purchases new PRADOs, flies dozens of ministers to Tripoli, New York and all over the world, and other such engagements that do not enhance the lives of Sierra Leoneans. The alternative is a party that has robust policies in place for taking this country forward. That alternative is the new leadership of the new SLPP. We will bounce back in 2012.
"That alternative is the new leadership of the new SLPP. We will bounce back in 2012"
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Newspaper in Freetown, Sierra Leone.