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Dr. Abass Bundu Might Drag J.J. Saffa & Co. to Court
By Dr. Abass Bundu
Oct 2, 2009, 17:28
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7th September 2009

The Secretary-General
The Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP)
Dear Secretary-General:

It is a common practice amongst the membership of the Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP) to sit tight and turn a blind eye to unfortunate happenings within the Party. And, most times, they remain somewhat quiescent until things go terribly wrong and then decry Party officials for ineptitude. All this I know you know, I merely hasten to confirm. Now, with the Party in Opposition, I do not believe these are options available to our membership any longer, because the monumental task we all face is to chart a road map to electoral success for our Party in 2012. And, to achieve this, it is most necessary that all members accept as a bounden duty the primacy of the interests of the Party over self. This is the spirit underpinning this letter, which comes gratuitously to you and the rest of the National Executive.

Secretary-Generals Duty to the Party

Driven by this consideration above all else, my advice to you is that you, as Secretary-General, now perform your duty to the Party by forwarding to the Political Parties Registration Commission (PPRC) without further delay the SLPP Constitution 2009. Save for purely editorial and cosmetic changes, no substantive change is permissible and the 2009 Constitution must be forwarded, both in form and content, as adopted by the National Delegates Conference held at Kenema in March this year. This obligation is enjoined by the combined effect of the Partys Constitution and the Political Parties Registration Act.

I am sure you are aware that more than five months have passed since the Constitution was adopted. Whatever might have been the justification for its non-submission to the PPRC up until now, it is a matter of grave doubt whether that justification can continue to avail. On the contrary, it is my humble submission that your inaction in this regard is liable to be construed as a culpable dereliction of duty. The Conference, by adopting the 2009 Constitution, signified a mandate that all perfunctory administrative acts necessary to bring the Constitution into force shall be carried out. To argue contrariwise is to render effete that very important decision. And being the supreme decision-making organ of the Party, any mandate by the Conference, be it express or implied, is sufficient authority for you to act in your capacity as the elected Head of the Secretariat of the Party. To contend that you require further instructions (which I hope you are not saying), apart from such mandate, is to suggest that in the hierarchical order of things there is an authority higher than the Conference. The fact of the matter is there is no such higher authority.

I have had the opportunity to read the submissions made by certain officers of the National Executive Committee as well as the opinion proffered by the Constitutional Review Committee on certain concerns raised after the Conference. I shall now address some of these concerns.

Election of Presidential, Vice-Presidential Nominee and Exclusion of Officers of National Executive Committee

The Party Constitution of 1995 declares that the holder of the office of Chairman of the Party is ineligible to contest for the position of Presidential or Vice-Presidential Nominee of the Party. There is no repertoire from which one can glean the reasons why such a decision was included in the Constitution of the Party. However, it is reasonable to surmise that the rationale must have been that the Party wanted as Chairman a person who would devote his time and energy genuinely, selflessly and exclusively in the service of the Party. No more, no less. The Party did not want as Chairman a person who would use or abuse the office to promote self rather than the Party; who would promote his private agenda for private gain rather than the interests of the Party; and who would use or abuse the office to obtain an undue advantage over other contenders for the position of Flag Bearer or Running Mate.

The drafters of the 2009 Constitution must have found the above rationale sufficiently persuasive to want it extended right across the Executive spectrum. They therefore asked the 2009 National Delegates Conference to extend the reach of the exclusion in the 1995 Constitution beyond the office of chairman; they specifically asked that the exclusion be extended to all those who, without exception, currently serve as officers of the National Executive. The National Conference agreed. Accordingly, it resolved by a majority vote to adopt a provision that not only excludes all serving officers of the National Executive from contesting but even when they resign their office they are still ineligible to contest in the election of Flag Bearer or Running Mate immediately following their resignation.

Thus seen, the majority of delegates at the National Conference took the view that whoever wishes to contest for office in the National Executive is absolutely free to do so. But once they are elected into office, they are not expected to exhibit any other motive than to serve the Party selflessly and genuinely in promoting and protecting its interests, and its interests alone. This is precisely why no officer is coerced into office nor any office foisted upon anyone. On the contrary, each and every officer seeks office voluntarily by way of democratic election and indeed at Kenema some offices were hotly contested by two or more aspirants. The assumption here must be that by voluntarily seeking to be elected to office, the successful candidate is signalling an ability and willingness to render selfless service to the Party as well as a readiness to devote the human resources required to change the fortunes of the Party for the better.

I understand that almost the entire opposition to this new provision in the 2009 Constitution has come mainly from officers who hail from the Northern Region. I know they are all dedicated loyalists, imbued with nothing but the best of intentions for the Party. However, considering that this new provision is the product of a democratic election by the highest decision-making organ of the Party, its opponents can be reasonably expected to follow in the best tradition of upholding the basic tenets and values of the Party. If they take pride in the SLPP being the Founder of democracy and constitutionalism in the country, then they, like every other member, are duty bound to ensure at all times that the Party is not only democratic but is seen to be democratic as well as being a great respecter of constitutionalism. No better way exists to demonstrate that commitment than by ensuring that internal democracy and respect for constitutionalism are not compromised by members of the Party.

In this connection, it is perhaps pertinent to recall that it was the Port Loko District Convention of the Party that first sought to introduce an amendment to the new provision, in terms that serving officers of the National Executive be permitted to contest in the election of Flag Bearer or Running Mate provided they resign their office at least six months prior to the election. This proposal was subsequently adopted as the position of the Northern Region at its own Convention at Makeni, just before the convening of the National Delegates Conference. At the Delegates Conference I was given the privilege of presenting the position of the Northern Region. I went beyond mere presentation: I lobbied the Chairman of another Region to support the Northern position. Initially he agreed but in the heat of the moment he reneged. As a result, despite all the lobbying, the Northern position became a minority position when the issue was put to a vote at the Conference.

It is significant to recall also that the Chairman of the Constitutional Review Committee not only put the entire Draft Constitution to the Conference for adoption, he took the unusual step of requesting that the Conference vote specifically for this new provision. He must have done this, acknowledging fully the importance and serious implications that the new clause carried.

Thus seen, this matter reached finality and thus became closed at the Kenema National Conference. For anyone to propose now either to re-open debate on it or to "re-present" it to another National Delegates Conference even before the ratified Constitution has been submitted to the PPRC as is required by law, is, with the greatest respect, tantamount to employing a procedure that is not recognized by the SLPP Constitution. It is no more than a ruse to bring about an amendment to the Constitution by a process that is not sanctioned by the Constitution. Therefore my advice to you is that you, as Secretary-General, studiously avoid going down this dangerous route.

District Councillors as Delegates to the National Delegates Conference

This is the second main concern of the same group of officers of the National Executive. At Kenema the National Delegates Conference introduced another new provision in the 2009 Constitution, making District Councillors of the Party automatic delegates to the National Delegates Conference.

Again, it may be useful to recall that at the time the drafters of the 2009 Constitution first proposed this clause in the Constitution, the SLPP had Councillors in the Western Area as well as in every District in the country, including in particular all the Districts in the North. This was so following the 2004 Local Government Elections. Only at the 2008 Local Government Elections did the Partys fortunes change disastrously, with only one elected Councillor in the Western Area and two in the entire North.

In other words, the draft of the new provision had come into being before the 2008 Local Government Elections. If today, in numerical terms, the North is severely disadvantaged, the fault lies neither in the new provision nor in the democratic process per se. In my view, we must look elsewhere for the fault lines: either in the dismal performance of the SLPP in the North and Western Area in the 2007 and 2008 Elections or in the devastating propaganda of the APC. To ascribe "bad faith" to the drafters of the Constitution as some are now wont to do, is, with respect, untenable. What, one might ask, would these opponents say if the SLPP had maintained or increased its numbers of elected Councillors in the North and the Western Area in the 2008 Election? Would they still object to the new provision?

Deliberations of the National Executive on the 2009 Constitution

I understand that from a recent meeting of the National Executive has come a proposal to "re-present" the 2009 Constitution to another National Delegates Conference later this year. It is significant to note that this decision is coming from a body the entire membership of which has been excluded from contesting for the position of Flag Bearer or Running Mate. Quite apart from that, there are still some within its ranks who question the validity of some provisions of the Constitution. This immediately raises the question whether the meetings of the National Executive constitute an appropriate forum. I do not know why it was thought that the National Executive could be an appropriate forum for discussions of the 2009 Constitution but I do know that the effect of making it such a forum would be to exclude from its deliberations, for example, members of the Policy Council who are not members of the National Executive.

That apart, the officers opposed to the two new provisions are the very people with Presidential or Vice-Presidential ambitions. Only few would doubt their credentials for the highest office in the land and nothing prevents them from aspiring to it. However, considering the fundamental precept barring any person from being a judge in his/her own cause, one may be forgiven for questioning whether the National Executive is a proper forum for consideration of the new provisions. Are such deliberations compatible with that fundamental principle? Can one not also question the participation of the Executive officers who are opposed to the new provisions in such deliberations? I think we can. I submit that a self-serving bias, or the mere possibility of such bias, is sufficient to vitiate the appropriateness of the National Executive as a forum or the participation of the affected officers in its deliberations on the matter.

In the circumstances, therefore, my fervent prayer is that you heed the advice contained herein. However, should you decide to ignore it, then be forewarned that there are other peaceful avenues of redress, not least being an application to the Courts for a Writ of Mandamus to compel you to submit the ratified 2009 SLPP Constitution to the PPRC. I know there are many who would want to join in such an application.

Finally, I hope you will agree, if only to avoid any misinterpretation of my intentions, that I make a copy of this letter available to the Press. I shall do so a few days after its dispatch.

With kind regards,

Yours Sincerely,

Abass Bundu (Grand Chief Patron & Member of the Policy Council of the SLPP

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

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