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NEWS : Politics  

SPEECH BY JOHN OPONJO BENJAMIN, NATIONAL LEADER & CHAIRMAN AT THE FORMAL OPENING OF SLPP NATIONAL HEADQUARTERS AFTER ITS REHABILITATION
By John O. Benjamin
Aug 6, 2010, 17:17
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AUGUST 2010

 

Founding Members of this our great party, our Past Leaders, Ex-President Alhaji Ahmed Tejan Kabbah and Ex-Vice President Solomon E. Berewa, Past Chairmen, Dr. Sama Banya, Alhaji U.N.S. Jah, Past Members of Parliament and Councillors, Past Ministers and Ambassadors, Past Executive members, National Executive members, District and Constituency Executive Members, Hon. Members of Parliament, All members of our green party (SLPP), Members of the Diplomatic Corp., Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen, Good morning.

 

It is a big privilege for me to welcome you to this simple but very significant ceremony of formally reopening our National Headquarters after it has been refurbished using funds provided by the United Nations. Following two systematic attacks on our Headquarters building in less than a week, on Friday 13th (Black Friday) and Monday 16th March 2009, UNIPSIL got the APC and our party to sign a Peace Communiqu in a bid to forestall recurrence of such barbaric acts and subsequently provided us with funds to rehabilitate our building amounting to US$65,000.00 from the United Nations Peace Building Fund.  Our estimate for the work after the massive destruction, well exceeded US$100,000.00 but we are thankful to our contractor, Agal Construction Company, owned by a woman of substance by the name of Madam Agnes Hidjazi who worked very hard to bring our building to this level that is now conducive for us to work.  Special thanks to Mr. McCarthy whose company supervised the whole project free of cost.

 

When the destruction happened, the Executive Representative of the UN Secretary-General, Michael Schulenburg of UNIPSIL was one of the first visitors to see the devastation.  Please stand up and let us publicly recognise that effort on your part at that crucial time.  Indeed the American Ambassador Madam June Carter-Perry was one of those who also visited our vandalized Headquarters.  We really wish she was here in person so that publicly we will acknowledge her laudable efforts in putting this madness behind us.  However, wherever she might be today, let her please be informed that the SLPP remains eternally grateful to her for her prompt, commendable and humane response to the plight of our members at that time; especially our female members. That was a typical American response.

 

We bear no ill-will for those perpetrators of violence and destruction of our Headquarters which resulted in our women who sought refuge within the building being physically and sexually abused.  The perpetrators have their conscience to live with.  But this is a challenge to all of us to ensure that henceforth we create an environment that will never allow one political party to attack the offices of another political party be it red, green, or yellow party.

 

Indeed if we have peace, stability and democracy today, we owe it to our international partners and our neighbours in our sub region who made a lot of sacrifices financially and physically in terms of making the supreme sacrifice with the loss of hundreds of lives. It is duty bound on us all to translate this support into real development and growth for our country. Britain and Nigeria have led the way and they continue to be there to ensure that we do not move from post-conflict to a pre-conflict situation. Of course we again appeal to our international partners and our neighbours not to standby watching whilst this APC government destroys democracy itself because of the non-observance of rules and regulations and their blatant interference in the operations of independent institutions like the Judiciary, NEC, IMC, ACC, PPRC and several other institutions which were all rebuilt after the war by the SLPP party when we were in Government.  

 

Today we are here to take over our party headquarters thanks to UNIPSIL but it is far from what it should be. It is now the responsibility of all members of our party to play their own role to develop our National Headquarters to the level befitting that of the oldest party in our region. Our Multi-party system without an effective opposition supported properly by opposition members and our development partners will collapse.

 

We fought hard to bring peace, stability and democracy to our country after APC had turned our country into a failed state. Therefore we now have the moral duty to ensure that we stop them from making a mockery of the fight to contain corruption, ensure transparency and accountability. Dishonest democracy and violence are things that we know the APC government is notorious for over the years past and continuing to date. I however want to appeal to all of us to be determined in stopping them from destroying our hard won democracy.  SLPP as the main opposition party will ensure that we fully support and cooperate with the governing APC party so that we keep our country on the path of growth and development. Our party as an opposition party has a legitimate role to play and should not be criminalised and harassed by police officers fighting to get undue promotions in the Police Force. We assure all police officers that as our slogan depicts, come 2012 at sharp twelve, our party will be voted back to power and they should prepare to join us at that time to serve the people of this country.

 

In Sierra Leone today there is no denying the daily hardship that we are all facing regardless of the dishonest propaganda deafening our ears while our stomachs are gripping for food.  Feeding ourselves, our children, keeping our jobs simply because we are not members of the APC Party or we do not come from special areas like Bombali now poses a big challenge to a lot of people.  We are in real sympathy with our youths who are struggling everyday to find work and our women who are putting up so much effort to get their families to survive for just another day.

 

Sierra Leone is all that we have and we should all work together to create an environment that will provide jobs and opportunities using the goodwill of our development partners to promote Trade and Investment that will generate growth now that we have peace and stability.  When we as a Nation were busy fighting and destroying our country for 11 years, we depended on foreign aid of all types for our survival.  With the current peace and stability, let us take advantage of the peaceful atmosphere to generate wealth and move our country out of an encircling poverty trap.  This government can count on our support to do so.  We shall be their whistle blowers so that the free health care provided by the British Government is not derailed.  We shall alert them when Mining Companies like London Mining mislead them into signing a lease that is in conflict with our Mines and Minerals Acts.  Indeed the promises by this APC Government are many but much has not happened.  When our party was first attacked in September 2007, no less a person than the Vice President took the responsibility to promise that they will make good the damage done by their partys thugs, but nothing happened.  When again this same office was attacked in March last year, the President himself Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma promised that he will contribute towards the refurbishment.  We are yet to receive his contribution.

 

When the APC failed to govern well during their last inning under Siaka Stevens and Joseph Momoh, we ended up with 11 years of senseless war.  We, the SLPP, as a party in governance, ended the war and set up institutions like the Truth & Reconciliation Commission (TRC) to ensure that we have permanent peace. According to the TRC report, one of their findings about the SLPP led Government stated in paragraphs 262 and 263 of Volume II as follows:

                    TRC 262 The SLPP government of the conflict era was a government under siege.  It came to power amidst a bloody civil war and consumed with defending the people from attack and finding ways to end the war.

                    TRC 263 The actions of the SLPP government were meant to bring the war to an end.  However some of its actions were ill-conceived and thereby led to violations and abuses of the right of Sierra Leoneans.

 

Furthermore, the TRC made certain key recommendations as follows in paragraphs 197 and 318 of Volume II:

                    TRC 197 The commission recommends that individuals, groups, bodies and organizations who bear any responsibility for the violations committed during the war be encouraged to apologise publicly.

                    TRC 318 The Commission calls on the Leadership of all political parties to acknowledge the harm suffered by women and girls during the conflict in Sierra Leone and to offer an unequivocal apology to them on behalf of their particular political party.

 

Today on behalf of all our membership now and leadership at that time, I publicly apologise for any suffering encountered by the people of Sierra Leone in terms of violations and abuses of their rights during the period of the war when the SLPP was in Governance.  More specifically as Leader of the SLPP, I want to acknowledge the harm suffered by Women and Girls during the conflict and on behalf of the SLPP, I want to unequivocally apologise to Women and Girls who suffered any act of violence during the 11 years of conflict.

 

It now gives me great pleasure to acknowledge the immense positive role that was played during the conflict and which continues to be played by our noble journalists as members of the Fourth Estate. I also once again thank and acknowledge all members of the opposition; the international community, the Government of Sierra Leone and all Sierra Leoneans for their support in the actualization of our dreams as the countrys oldest political party; the most nationalistic political party and the most patriotic political party with an enviable record of achievements that we will continue to build upon come 2012 when we are re-elected back into service.

 

I hereby officially declare this refurbished building open.

 

I thank you all for your attention.


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