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SLPP Not Interested in Power-Sharing but wants Friendship
By Abdul Karim Kabia
Mar 20, 2009, 15:18
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The Chairman of the opposition Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP) has categorically made it clear that the SLPP had no interest in any power sharing arrangement with the Executive arm of Government in Sierra Leone but wanted to have a climate of friendship with the Executive.

Mr. John Oponjo Benjamin was reacting to a question posed to him by this writer about an allegation in the APC We Yone newspapers edition of Wednesday March 18th 2009, that the American Ambassador June Carter Perry has expressed a belief that the political violence in Sierra Leone was due to a desire by the SLPP to be included in the Ernest Bai Koroma led Executive arm of Government.

"Such a belief, if really held by Her Excellency, is incompatible with the true position of the SLPP. I cannot more strongly assert that my party has no interest in any power-sharing arrangement with the executive arm of the Ernest Bai Koroma APC Government," Benjamin insisted.

Mr. John Oponjo Benjamin: Opposition Leader in Sierra Leone

He said he was appreciative of the role played so far by the Diplomatic Community, especially the American Ambassador, in trying to get to the bottom of what caused the crisis but alerted diplomats "not to fall for cheap propaganda" that he said they were being fed by "enemies of democratic tolerance".

Quoting from a prepared letter that was on his desk, Benjamin stated: "We are quite satisfied with our involvement in the Legislative arm of Government; coupled with a free press and our constitutionally-guaranteed unhindered right to express our opinion through our partys legitimately registered media like our Radio Station. Our Parliamentarians and our Freedom of Expression are more than enough for us to take part in the current democratic dispensation that Sierra Leoneans and the International Community worked so hard to attain".

When queried by Awareness Times if President Koroma and himself had held any communication since he John Benjamin, assumed the position of Leader of the Opposition in Sierra Leone, John Benjamin responded that President Koroma has rebuffed all his overtures for dialogue between the two men. It should be noted that not only were John Benjamin and Ernest Koroma, former college-mates at the University of Sierra Leone in the seventies, but they were also very good friends in the past even after they both entered active politics.

This writer has learnt that even up to the point when Koroma was campaigning to become President from a position of opposition, John Benjamin, as the then ruling party Minister of Finance, would regularly bring gifts back for his friend Ernest Koroma whenever he traveled out of the country.

When I asked Mr. Benjamin if it was true that as Minister of Finance, he had maintained a cordial relationship with the current sitting President, he responded in the affirmative.

"Yes, you have been correctly informed. The last gift I remember giving to him when I was Finance Minister was a well-crafted, bright red designer shirt in 2007 and another time, I gave him a gift of a bright red neck-tie which I believe he is still using up to this day," John Benjamin informed.

When asked why it was that the President was now so hostile to him after the President assumed office at State House considering how friendly Mr. John Benjamin had been to him when Benjamin had been in power, Mr. John Benjamin responded that it was only President Ernest Bai Koroma who would be in a better position to answer that question.

"I called him up on Christmas Day of 2008 to wish him Merry Christmas and he refused to take my calls. I sent him a text message wishing him a Happy New Year on New Years Day of 2009 and he still ignored my overtures of felicitations to him. He has been hostile to me since the day he took up office as President of Sierra Leone," John Benjamin lamented adding that such hostility was not good for the countrys democratic plurality.

"If our respective membership sees their leadership being hostile right at the top, they take their cue from that and the hostility extends to the masses. It is time we put this country first and develop it together for our people. SLPP is not interested in power-sharing with Ernest Koromas APC. What we want from Ernest Koroma is friendship as we carry out our legitimate, democratic duties of opposing the Executive," the erudite, soft-spoken gentleman ended.

© Copyright by Awareness Times Newspaper in Freetown, Sierra Leone.

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