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NOTICES & DOCUMENTS  

JOINT PRESS STATEMENT BY THE SIERRA LEONE PEOPLES PARTY (SLPP), PEOPLEíS MOVEMENT FOR DEMOCRATIC CHANGE (PMDC) AND NATIONAL DEMOCRATIC ALLIANCE (NDA)
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Oct 7, 2011, 17:24
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JOINT PRESS STATEMENT BY THE SIERRA LEONE PEOPLES PARTY

(SLPP), PEOPLEíS MOVEMENT FOR DEMOCRATIC CHANGE (PMDC) AND NATIONAL DEMOCRATIC ALLIANCE (NDA)

 

ASSAULT ON DEMOCRACY:

 

POLITICAL VIOLENCE, POLICE BAN ON POLITICAL ACTIVITIES AND THE
NON-IMPLEMENTATION OF REPORTS OF COMMISSIONS OF INQUIRY

 

The Public is aware of the mounting incidence of violence since the ruling All Peoples Congress assumed power in 2007. The violence started with the attack on the Sierra Leone Peopleís Party offices around the country. It continued with intimidation and thuggery at various bye-elections around the country. It has now culminated in the violent attack on the SLPP Flagbearer, the death of a bike rider, gunshot injuries to over 20 people and the subsequent burning of three premises including the offices of the APC in Bo.

 

Following the violent incident in Bo, the Inspector General of Police on Wednesday 21st September 2011, assumed unconstitutional powers to impose a blanket and indefinite ban on all political processions, rallies and public meetings.  Despite several assurances that the ban was limited to a month which will be reflected in a subsequent Press Statement that is still pending; the Inspector General extended the ban to processions organized by Members of Parliament for the State Opening of Parliament.

 

The Constitution of Sierra Leone 1991 makes provision in Chapter IX for the appointment of Commissions of Inquiry. It empowers the President to appoint such a Commission on any matter of public interest. Where a Commission is appointed to inquire into a matter, it is enjoined by the Constitution to make a report in writing to the President who shall then cause it to be published together with a Government White Paper thereon within six months of the date of submission of the report.

 

Under these provisions, many Commissions of Inquiry have been appointed, including the Commission appointed by the President on 10th  December 2009, chaired by E.E.C. Shears-Moses Esq. This Commission was charged with the mandate to investigate the incidents of political violence and intolerance that occurred in Gendema Town in the Pujehun District, Freetown and Kenema in March 2009.

 

The decision to appoint the Shears-Moses Commission emanated from the Joint Communiquť dated 2nd¬†April 2009, signed between the All Peoples Congress (APC) and the Sierra Leone Peopleís Party (SLPP). Recognising that both democracy and the fundamental human rights and freedoms enshrined in our National Constitution were under attack by way of rising tension and the escalating incidence of political violence and intolerance, the Shears-Moses Commission was mandated not only to determine the circumstances and facts relating to those incidents but also to determine the respective roles and responsibilities of political parties and law enforcement agencies, as well as make recommendations for preventing the recurrence of such incidents in the future and for eradicating the incidence of political violence from our body politic. To further underscore these points, the PMDC made written submissions to the Commission even though it was not a party to the Joint Communiquť.

  

The Shears-Moses Commission submitted its Report to the President about a year ago. Contrary to the constitutional prescription that a Commissionís Report should be published within six months of receipt, this stipulation has simply not been adhered to. Despite persistent demands for publication, the Government has either deliberately ignored the Report or has just let it gather dust on its shelves. We consider such misfeasance utterly repugnant and unacceptable in a civilised society, for it creates the impression that ill-motivated elements so inclined can perpetrate acts of political violence and intolerance anywhere anytime with absolute impunity. Equally so, it is difficult for our Parties and the public in general to understand why a Government that lays claim to being responsible and a respecter of the rule of law and human rights would allow this to happen in the full knowledge that the appointment of the Commission was necessitated by the need to ascertain the root causes of intolerance and political violence in the country and the urgency of taking adequate measures to prevent its recurrence in future.¬†

 

In contrast to this uncaring attitude of the Government of President Ernest Bai Koroma towards the Shears-Moses Commission Report, we observe the extraordinarily hasty response of his Government to the Investigation Panelís Reports on the disturbances in Kono and Bo. Incidents of political violence within the APC in Kono and between the APC and SLPP in Bo occurred on the 3rd¬†and 9th¬† September 2011, respectively. Whilst for the Kono incident President Koroma directed the Police to investigate, for the Bo incident he constituted on the very day a broad-based Investigation Panel headed by Mr. Kelvin Lewis of the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ) to look into the stoning of the SLPP Presidential Flag Bearer, Rtd. Brig. Julius Maada Bio, the burning down of houses and the shooting and injuries sustained by several persons. This Panel submitted its Report three weeks later, on 30th¬†September 2011. On 5th¬†October 2011, less than one week after its receipt, the Government described the Report of the Panel as ďgoodĒ, accepted its findings and recommendations, assured the general public that they would be fully implemented and declared that ďover 40 personsĒ would soon be charged to court.

 

The promptitude with which President Koromaís Government acted on the Kelvin Lewis Panel Report clearly demonstrates a capacity to act speedily if his Government is so minded. It also portrays a double standard of behaviour: one standard for the Shears-Moses Report and another for the Kelvin Lewis Panel Report.

 

In these circumstances, therefore, and bearing in mind the vital importance of preserving fully our countryís hard won peace and democracy, we demand from the APC Government of President Ernest Bai Koroma full and immediate implementation of the findings and recommendations of the Shears-Moses Commission Report. We also demand the immediate lifting of the ban by the Police on political processions, rallies and public meetings. Unless and until these are done, the Political Parties (SLPP, PMDC and NDA), reserve the right to withdraw their co-operation and participation from the Government. To begin with, the Partiesí National Executives hereby direct that all Members of Parliament belonging to their Parties shall forthwith withhold their participation from Parliament until further notice and that all their members and supporters shall refrain from participating in any consultations and deliberations relating to the proposed Sierra Leone Conference 2011.

 

In addition, there are several recommendations in the Joint Communiquť of 2nd¬†April 2009 still awaiting implementation. Again, we call upon the Government to implement these outstanding recommendations without further delay. In this connection, we are of the view that the United Nations and the other moral guarantors of our countryís peace have a continuing role to play.

 

We are also concerned about the effect that the arrest of over 40 party stalwarts might cause in a large city like Bo. Meanwhile the Parties are calling on all their members and supporters to remain calm and to be law abiding. 

 

Done in Freetown this 6th day of October 2011

 

_____________________

John Oponjo Benjamin

Chairman/Leader SLPP

 

_____________________

Charles Francis Margai

Leader PMDC

 

_____________________

Alex Brihim Matthew KaiKai

Information Secretary- NDA

 


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