From Awareness Times Newspaper in Freetown

By By Sulaiman Banja Tejan-Sie
Mar 5, 2010, 18:17

As part of its agenda 2012 aimed at regaining political power to raise Sierra Leone from the doldrums of its socio-economic affliction; the Sierra Leone Peopleís Party at its just concluded Bo Party Conference has commenced the process of establishing the structures and laying down the guidelines for a modern-day political party that is sensitive to gender mainstreaming, disciplined and accountable to the people.


The starting point in this ingenious endeavour was to revisit both the extant 1995 SLPP constitution and the revised 2009 constitution to reach a common ground on the diverse views held by different sections of the party, all protecting their interests and expressing their concerns. After a heated but healthy debate, typical of discussions on constitutional issues; the delegates to the 2010 Party Conference by consensus resolved to continue applying the existing 1995 Constitution with amendments that expands the Electoral College to make the institution more democratic and inclusive, bestows political leadership on the Chairman of the party rather than the Presidential hopeful and allows all qualified members of the Party with the exception of the Chairman who desire to run for the Presidential ticket to do so.


In addition to resolving the above outstanding constitutional issue, the Conference which is mandated to consider and determine the broad principles, policies and programmes of the party under its constitution, authorised the national executive to finalise and adopt the following documents that were presented and approved namely; the new Gender Policy and Action Plan that increases the participation and status of women in politics, the Disciplinary Code of Conduct for all members of the party and the Rules and Regulations for the election of a Presidential Candidate for the 2012 elections.


As I had mentioned earlier the amendments made to the 1995 Constitution first and foremost expands the Electoral College and brings the grassroots membership into the decision making organ of the party notably the Party Conference. The amendments provide for the inclusion as delegates to future Party Conferences Councillors from both SLPP controlled and none SLPP controlled councils, all Regional Secretaries, District Women Leaders, District Young Generation Leaders and District Secretaries. Constituency delegates to future Party Conferences are increased from 2 (two) to 3 (three) which should include the constituency Chairperson, the Young Generation Leader and the Womenís Leader. Also included as delegates are four representatives from the Elders Council representing each region and one student representative from each tertiary institution with a functional SLPP branch.


Diaspora members were also incorporated in this revision exercise as the amendments increased their representation to future Party Conferences by including as delegates one (1) person for every 50 registered and fully paid up members from all SLPP chapters in the Diaspora.


Another major amendment transfers political leadership of the Party from the Presidential Candidate to the Chairman who now doubles as administrative and political head of the institution. This amendment decision fills the vacuum created under the constitution when the party is in opposition and strengthens the partyís oversight control over both the Executive and the Legislature on policy issues when the Party is in or out of Government.


Contrary to the provisions of the revised 2009 Constitution which sought to exclude all national officers from contesting the flag bearer position, the 1995 Constitution as amended allows for all members of the national executive with the exception of the Chairman to contest for that position provided they resign at least six months prior to the date fixed for the election of the Presidential candidate. This amendment is in line with both the Partyís 1995 Constitution which out rightly excludes the Chairman from contesting for the Presidency and the national Constitution which guarantees the right of every qualified citizen to run for the highest office.


In preparation for the next Presidential and Parliamentary elections slated for 2012 in which the party is expected to field in a Presidential and Vice Presidential candidate; the party has put in place an open, transparent and democratic process for the election of its flag bearer¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† and running mate for the forthcoming elections. These are contained in the Rules and Regulations for the election of the partyís Presidential hopeful that was approved at the just concluded Bo Party Conference. A special unifying feature of the new rules is the setting up of an autonomous Special Committee tasked with carrying out an independent and transparent interview of all candidates; and discusses their eligibility and preparedness to accept the short list of candidates for Flag Bearer and the subsequent verdict of the party Conference.


Against the current background of rampant graft in the corridors of power, in addition to the lack of tolerance and violent tendencies of our young men and women; the party has adopted a Disciplinary Code of Conduct for members of the Party. This document sets out both the basic code of conduct of Party members and conduct warranting party discipline in addition to disciplinary measures including expulsion, suspension and removal from office for extreme cases of indiscipline and impropriety.


The Party in adopting a new gender mainstreaming policy, in addition to the Women Empowerment Campaign Fund that in the 2007 elections funded and supported female candidates for both the primaries and the elections, has consistently demonstrated its commitment to promoting the equal participation and representation of men and women in the political and democratic process.


51% of Sierra Leoneís population are women and today the nation can only boast of 17 Members of Parliament out of a¬† total of 112 elected MPís, with only 18.9% councillors in local government. There are only two female Ministers out of a total of 24 and 4 deputies out of the same number, while we barely have one female ambassador and only five state institutions are headed by women.


The purpose of the new gender policy therefore is to correct this imbalance by putting in place concrete strategies aimed at increasing the participation of our women folk in the administration of the party at all levels and in enhancing their chances to contest and win in both Parliamentary and Local Government elections.


In conclusion the 2010 SLPP Convention was a resounding success that witnessed the reinvention and continued modernisation of the party to meet the complex and varied challenges of our time and one that prepares it as a Government in waiting to successfully tackle the challenges of accountability, corruption and the global economic meltdown that has left the majority of our people impoverished with no solution in sight.


© Copyright 2005, Freetown, Sierra Leone.