SIERRA LEONE PEOPLE’S PARTY (SLPP)
27-11-2010 NATIONAL EXECUTIVE COUNCIL MEETING
OPENING STATEMENTS BY THE NATIONAL CHAIRMAN AND LEADER, JOHN OPONJO BENJAMIN
Founding members of this great party,
Past Leaders, Ex-President, Alhaji Ahmad Tejan Kabba and Ex- Vice President Solomon Ekuma Berewa
Past Chairmen Alhaji U.N.S. Jah, Dr. Sama S. Banya
Past National Secretary General, Dr. Prince Harding
Past Members of Parliament and Councilors
Past Ministers and Ambassadors
Past Executive Members
Deputy National Chairman and other Executive Members
District and Constituency Executive Members,
Hon. Members of Parliament,
Chairmen, Mayors, Chief Patrons, Patrons and ordinary Members,
International Diplomats present,
Esteemed Journalists of the Fourth Estate,
Our Distinguished Invited Guests,
I wish to welcome you all yet to another National Executive Council (NEC) Meeting here in this beautiful city of Makeni. Before I make any statement I entreat you all to please rise and pray silently for a peaceful repose of the souls of our departed party faithfuls since we last met as a council.
Fellow party members, it could be recalled that the last NEC meeting we had in Freetown was specifically to address the contentions some had over portions of our party constitution relating to the legibility of the National Executive Members to contest for the position of the party flag-bearer ahead of the 2012 National Presidential election. Fellow party members you would agree with me that was a testing moment for us in the Sierra Leone People’s Party. Tempers flared, voices were raised at each other and many outsiders misinterpreted this to mean that we were going to break each other’s neck. However, our fervent belief in the principles of democracy, our show and practical display of maturity and high level of responsibility guided us in resolving the matter using the valuable guides we got from our party elders. Truly, when we came back from a two days party’s conference in Bo, as was invoked by that NEC Meeting, we were better united than before.
The most serious test to my executive, fellow party members came immediately after the March 2009 party convention in Kenema and we as an executive were able to identify lots of other related challenges from that single matter. For instance, we then saw the urgent need for us to reconcile with all those who were not voted into various offices. It became a call for the national executive to sit up and be fully prepared for the challenges ahead of us as a party. I am therefore extremely pleased to inform you that our response to that issue has equipped this executive enough. We are making very serious strides on a daily basis, slow though it may appear but suffice it to note that the strides are certainly very crucial to the success we so desire in 2012.
In spite of all of this we still have a lot more to grapple with, there are still pockets of resistance from some party members in giving this executive their total support which we so need to run the affairs of our dear party. I again would want to appeal to all for their total support and cooperation that is required to take our party to State House in 2012.
Fellow party members, it could be recalled that in the last NEC meeting, I promised that this executive shall ensure that NEC does not only meet to plan for Party Conferences but also ensure that NEC provides a unique opportunity to engage in policy discussions, create cohesion and reconcile our differences as a party. I am therefore pleased to inform you that we are not here in Makeni today purely to plan for the next Party Conference but to also talk frankly as a family.
Fellow party members, the theme for this morning is ONE COUNTRY ONE PEOPLE which is so appropriate and timely. Our 2012 success which we are so sure of, can only be realized, if and only if, we are united as one people and be prepared to exhibit that the moment we elect our flag bearer.
Fellow party members though both the National Secretary General and the regional Chairmen shall be giving some details of our achievements, I however wish to highlight a few of them.
- Through methods like our Monthly Press Briefings, this executive continues to rekindle the confidence of the general membership of the party that come 2012, the party shall bounce back to power.
- This is exemplified in the 23 applications we have received from our membership for one of them to lead us as flag bearer in 2012. All 23 of them are serious men and women of stature with admirable credentials whom have been auspiciously presented to the Nation.
- We have maintained Unity Newspaper the party’s only mouthpiece since the Government closed our radio station. However I wish to remind you all that the matter of the unity radio is still in court.
- There is now an increased dialogue and cooperation between the national executive and other organs of the party including MPs, Councilors, District Chairmen, Mayors and members out of the country.
- We continue to increase revenue collection through party membership drive, enabling us to respond to diverse needs of the party.
- We have developed and continue to upgrade database records of our membership and put in place effective systems for transparency and accountability.
- We have re-established and continue to build on the relationship between the party and development partners.
- We have strongly repositioned ourselves as a credible and reliable government in waiting which, in the light of our recent past and the Truth & Reconciliation Commission report, believes in a non-violent approach to governance.
The SLPP has continued to impress upon the ruling APC the importance of such a non-violent approach to governance. Following this month’s recent violent attack on the SLPP in Kono under the watchful eyes of the Sierra Leone Police, the matter was followed up in Parliament by our MPs for which they demanded a public condemnation from Government, failing which, they held in abeyance their participation in parliamentary proceedings. After a tussle, I am proud to inform you that yesterday the government issued a press release condemning the violence and yielding to our demands. I would want to commend our Hon. Members of Parliament for their foresight, show of maturity and their display of high sense of responsibility in handling this matter so far. I kindly ask that you stand up and give them a very big round of applause for making us so proud of them. Bravo! This recent impasse was resolved by Sierra Leoneans without a single input from the International Community. This is evidence that Sierra Leone is capable of internally resolving our national problems by ourselves.
The Monthly Press Briefings have been a tremendous success and has kept the SLPP closer to the hearts of the populace with the result being a swelling membership base. If elections are held today, the SLPP will be the next Government of Sierra Leone and this is why we are calling on the International Community to provide support for the SLPP to become even more strengthened as statistics show we currently have the largest support base in Sierra Leone today. There is another message I am going to try to transmit to our international diplomats with a careful choice of my words. What happened with the recent abrupt withdrawal of a fine and distinguished female diplomat, who stood firm for the truth in this country, should not be a deterrent to any diplomat serving in this country. The same values you hold so dear back home should be the same values you should maintain here whilst on duty. Egregious crimes against women and abuse of citizens’ human rights should be named and shamed for what they are despite the threat of being recalled for saying the truth. Posterity will be your judge.
To our journalists who have been covering our Monthly Press Briefings so excellently, please let me take this opportunity to once again reiterate the SLPP’s appreciation of you. Whilst we acknowledge a few problems here and there within the media landscape, the current vibrancy of local journalism makes us all proud as Sierra Leoneans. We owe special obligations to ensure safeguarding of lives and welfare of some of our journalists whom in spite of threats and intimidation, are refusing to let up on their constitutional fundamentals of keeping the world well informed. We urge the new Board and Management of SLBC to make as their mantra, the spirit of a level playing field and fair play. The SLPP is proud of our vibrant local journalists especially their fine investigative skills being showcased to the world. I urge all SLPP members to now stand and give a standing ovation to Sierra Leone’s vibrant journalists. Bravo!
To our investors, especially the Oil Exploration and Mining Companies, please understand that the SLPP will win the 2012 Elections and so our stances being taken are in the interest of what the majority of Sierra Leoneans desire; this is evidenced by the uprising on mining site in recent days that affected a major investor in Sierra Leone reminiscent of the uprising against Koidu Holdings of 2007. When SLPP criticizes bad Oil and Mining Lease Agreements, we are merely transmitting what our membership, the majority of Sierra Leoneans, believe to be the case. Let me reiterate that if elections are held today, the SLPP is the next Government of Sierra Leone and all investors should take note of this important fact and pay close attention to the contents of our Monthly Press Briefings.
Ladies and gentlemen, notwithstanding these successes that now make us the most attractive political party in Sierra Leone, I must state here that the road to success has not been smooth at all; SLPP continues to face several challenges some of which are:
- The challenges of standing up to the myriad of thuggery, injustices and misrule of the ruling APC.
- Mobilizing adequate resources for the implementation of party programmes and activities.
- We are faced the huge task of enhancing the capacities of our executives at all levels.
- Building Party Infrastructure.
- Strengthening intra-party and external communication.
- Nonchalant attitude of some elected executive members at all levels.
- We are still faced with the problem of keeping our Ireland/UK and USA Diaspora branches united.
- The Young Generation wing of the party is yet to become vibrant and show us that it the backbone of the party.
- Non-cooperation and show of double standards by some stake holders who currently occupy positions in the name of the party but are acting against the interests of the SLPP in a very alarming manner.
- Instilling discipline in the party especially at the Headquarters.
Ladies and Gentlemen as if all these problems I have mentioned are not enough we still continue to battle with our right to exist as a party. We are subjected to systematic attacks from the APC as if we are operating as foreigners in our own country.
We have come to witness increased crime rate with a recreation of scenes of perpetual fear and insecurity reminiscent only of the war years. Furthermore, the price of every commodity is rising day after day. The value of the Leone with respect to the US$ is now estimated at over Le4,300 to US$1 representing a massive depreciation from when we handed over power at Le2,900 to US$1. This is frightening. The economy is in free fall.
At this point, I want to touch on a personal issue. Three years ago, in November 2007, I gave an interview to the local media in which I strongly challenged the Ernest Bai Koroma led APC Government to cease telling lies about the economy they inherited from the Tejan Kabbah led SLPP Government. I fearlessly reduced the APC’s claims to be seen for the rubbish they were. Many of you now present in this room, I repeat, many many of you now inside this room today, contacted me back then to express fears for my safety given the record of the APC towards criticisms. I did not let up. I continued to challenge the APC at great risk to my financial business; to my personal welfare and even to my family! I was just an ordinary SLPP member back then but I made up my mind that I would sacrifice whatever it takes to ensure the democracy we had fought so hard to bring to this country, continues to take hold. With humility, I can safely say History will record my love for the SLPP and my sacrifices.
In spite of all this, I have to express deep personal frustrations today to you all that some still doubt my sincerity of purpose and these people, every single day make up stories about what they claim to be my real intent of serving this party. I have been insulted on public media by SLPP stalwarts from whom I least expected such public opprobrium.
One example of public humiliation and vilification that still leaves a bitter taste in my mouth is the case of the now-resigned Anti Corruption Commissioner who ignored SLPP’s November 2009 Letter about deep-rooted APC corruption only to travel with APC to London and give APC a blank check with which to fool the world about the fight against corruption. When myself and my Secretary-General refused to become tools to give credibility to an APC’s scapegoat exercise whilst the deep-rooted corruption continued, I was subjected to serious public embarrassment from right within this party on behalf of the ACC Boss who had ignored APC’s deep corrupt practices such as Indian Rice Scandal, the Wanza Gunboat scandal, the Income Electrix Scandal, the Multi-Million Euros Dysfunctional NASSIT Ferries, non-tendered Presidential Siblings Contracts, undue Million Dollars Tax Waivers, etc. etc. etc.
Another source of opprobrium is my strong refusal to support any of the 23 flag-bearer aspirants. All 23 of them are fine aspirants. I have provided a level playing field for all of them to feel secure enough to continue the contest and yet there are those members who believe that I should support their aspirant or be damned. My refusal to endorse their man or woman has resulted in deep animosity being directed at me from certain aspirants and their supporters.
If you want this SLPP Leadership to work for the SLPP, then you have to trust me. If you cannot trust me, then it makes no sense for me to be leading you. God knows how much I have had to sacrifice as SLPP Leader. The least you can give me in return is trust and respect. I am not running for the Presidency. I totally shelved my presidential ambitions from the day I took up the mantle to be your National Chairman and Leader. It is time to stop the rumours and tales; time to stop promoting mistrust within the membership over the issue of whom you want to become the flagbearer. Since we lost the 2007 Elections, I chose between serving myself and serving the SLPP and serving the SLPP won over serving myself. Whoever emerges as our flagbearer will instantly win my 100% support but he or she will not get my endorsement even one minute before that. I am determined to provide a very level playing field.
To the delegates, I urge you all to put the party’s 2012 chances first. Do not vote by tribe or region or monetary inducement but vote for the candidate who will most likely, first take the SLPP to State House and then take Sierra Leone to its rightful economic and social development place.
Finally, to lighter things. I want to assure you all that this SLPP mini-convention is being held without the corrupt recourse to any funds from the Fisheries Ministry Bank Account like the APC does in stealing money from Government to run their Conventions. No, this SLPP no to tiffman party! We are also not here to tell Lies to the world about our achievements in Kailahun or Pujehun. No, this SLPP no to lieman party! and finally, we all remember when the APC used to say ‘kaka we nor want yerri’ during the 2007 campaigns. Now, they are so deeply enmeshed in corruption and chopping and eating everything in sight that they are producing excess human excreta which they are now bailing around in buckets to dump at our offices and residences. But this is their specialty and so we should not be surprised. APC Lies, APC Steals and APC are k…..Bailers! So, APC must go!
SLPP nor dey lie; SLPP nor dey tiff; SLPP nor dey bail k….!
I wish you all a successful deliberation and a safe journey back home.
LONG LIVE THE SIERRA LEONE PEOPLE’S PARTY
LONG LIVE UNITY
SLPP! THE ONLY WAY OUT!
THE ONLY WAY FORWARD!
THE ONLY WAY THROUGH!
AND POWER TO THE PEOPLE!
I THANK YOU AND GOD BLESS YOU!
© Copyright by Awareness Times
Newspaper in Freetown, Sierra Leone.