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NEWS : Politics  

That Strong SLPP Presence at Pratt Funeral
By Abdul Fonti & Bampia Bundu
Sep 28, 2009, 16:52
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Mrs. Victoria Pratt, the late wife of the famous Sierra Leonean politician, legal luminary and intellectual genius, Professor S.A.J. Pratt was last Friday September 25th 2009, laid to rest in the hilly village of Regent following a Funeral Service that was overflowing with hundreds of mourners.

S.A.J. Pratt is known in contemporary times more as a long time stalwart of the Siaka Stevens led APC regime than anything else and thus it was not a surprise to see a strong presence of both old and current ruling APC party stalwarts who provided support for the funeral including buses to transport mourners to and from Regent village.

However, in addition to the APC politicos, the funeral itself saw a very strong representation from the opposition Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP) in the persons of former SLPP Leader and Head of State, Dr. Ahmad Tejan Kabbah, former SLPP Chairman Dr. Sama Banya and the current SLPP Chairman/Leader John Oponjo Benjamin amongst others.

Many observers might have believed that the strong SLPP presence at the funeral was as a result of the SLPP Leaders friendship with Pratts grand-daughter, the popular news publisher and civil activist, Dr. Sylvia O. Blyden.

However, as revealed to Awareness Times last Friday by former President Kabbah and confirmed by S.A.J. Pratt himself to this newspaper yesterday, long before S.A.J. Pratt became an APC strongman, he was one of the trusted advisers to not only Sir Milton Margai but also to Sir Albert Margai, the two SLPP Heads of Goverment who ran Sierra Leone back in the sixties. Pratts legacy therefore within SLPP created many deep friendships for him with numerous SLPP figures.

The photograph on this page which was made available to this newspaper by former President Kabbah himself, shows the late Guinean President Sekou Toure flanked by a youthful S.A.J. Pratt and a very youthful Ahmad Tejan Kabbah; the latter was by then a newly appointed Permanent Secretary. Pratt and Kabbah were on a special assignment to Sekou Toure on behalf of Sir Margai who sent them both to the Guinean capital to start the process of establishing what was to be known as the WEST AFRICAN FREE TRADE AREA (now known as the Mano River Union).

Front Row Ahmed Tejan Kabbah, President Ahmed Shekou Toure & Solomon A.J. Pratt Back Rows: Eya Mbayo (with sunshades), Mahmoud Ahmed (First Sierra Leone Ambassador to Guinea), James Cole, Bob Strasser-King, Donald E. George and immediately behind S.A.J. Pratt, Mange Gadiri Kamara (First Guinean Ambassador to Sierra Leone). This historic Photograph was taken after initial meeting to establish the WEST AFRICAN FREE TRADE AREA (now known as Mano River Union). Delegation was sent by the SLPP Government of Sir Margai; S.A.J. Pratt was one of the top Advisers to that SLPP Government.

In his soon-to-be-published Memoirs, S.A.J. Pratt reveals his days as the appointed Economic Adviser to Sir Milton Margai for which he demanded and got paid the token sum of only 1. Margais confidence in S.A.J. Pratt led to Pratt proposing and caretaking until they passed, some of the lofty economic policies that saw the Milton Margai tenure remain to be one of the best economic times of post-independent Sierra Leone. In the book, Pratt explains how helpful the young Ahmad Tejan Kabbah had been to him during discussions with Sekou Toure. He reveals how Kabbahs fluency in Susu and Mandingo greatly helped him communicate with Sekou Toure whose grasp of English was limited.

Also in the book, S.A.J. Pratt reveals how his closeness with the two SLPP Margai regimes even led to him assisting with the preparation of SLPP National Conventions such as one that was held in Bo in which he injects some humourous anecdotes.

Pratts Memoirs, which is already billed as a potential Sierra Leonean blockbuster, also extensively handles the issue of the controversial allegations that were thrown at him during his later heydays as an APC strongman when he was wrongly accused of having been the one who sold the Sierra Leone Railway.

The reality, as will be revealed when the book is published, is that it was the exact opposite. It was S.A.J. Pratt who had been vehemently against the selling of the railway whilst a member of the Stevens Cabinet; having been a General Manager of the Railway several years prior. The truth of the matter, including detailed timelines, when compared to the vicious allegations, shows to the reader just how a poor Creole boy from Freetown was demonised.

However, a very senior politician of that period, once confessed to Awareness Times that the campaign of calumny against Solomon A.J. Pratt was a quite deliberate ploy by some politicians who greatly feared Pratts prowess.

"We knew Pratt was quite innocent of the allegation of selling the railway as scrap but we had worked closely with him when he was Sir Milton Margais primary economic adviser and we knew the amount of brain power he was gifted with. When he became an APC strongman for Siaka Stevens, demonising him was a deliberate strategy to frustrate him and at the same time demean him in the eyes of the populace," the retired politician asserted adding "There was no way we would have complacently sat by and allowed Pratt to be allowed to do his politics unhindered. His popularity would have shot sky-high. The entire fabrication was deliberate. Pratt never sold the railways. It was just that; A political fabrication by his detractors."

The S.A.J. Pratt Memoirs which cover his days from a schoolboy at Regent to his time as an international Diplomat in Geneva, to his days as the official Economic Adviser to Sir Milton Margai at State House, to his eventual sojourn with Siaka Stevens that saw him arrested with Stevens under gunpoint by Hinga Norman on that infamous March 1967 day, continues to his role in the 1968 restoration of democracy, his appointment as Sierra Leones first Attorney-General of the Republic as well as his concerns over the later addition of the title Minister of Justice by his A/G successors; his herculean efforts as Development Minister to start what was supposed to have been a 1600MW Bumbuna Hydroelectric Dam funded by Tito of Yugoslavia but which is today launched by President Koroma, 30 years on as comparatively minuscule 20MW throughput.

The book also covers his spectacular efforts as Sierra Leones Foreign Minister; a period during which he has been singularly accredited with cleverly ensuring and masterminding the U.N. Security Council recognition of China over Taiwan.

The book also culminates with Pratts self-advised decision to retire from active politics after he won the 1978 elections which became his last elections contested in his political life.

As stated before, his reflections during his latter years are expected to make educative reading for current and future generations.

The book is currently undergoing the final proof-reading by a distinguished Sierra Leonean Professor in America before it will be published & released, hopefully by December 2009.

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

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