From Awareness Times Newspaper in Freetown

S.A.J. Pratt, First Attorney-General of the Republic to Launch his Autobiography
Aug 23, 2010, 12:10

The anticipated autobiography of 89 years old retired politician, Solomon Athanasius Jolliboy Pratt will be launched in London on September 12th 2010 and later here in Freetown on Christmas Day at Regent Village. Pratt, who was the First Attorney-General of the Republic  of Sierra Leone was the lawyer who authored the first National Constitution of the Republic of Sierra Leone.

The Book entitled as “JOLLIBOY – A most un-ordinary African Boy – From Street Starch Hawker to United Nations Debate Champion” has a foreword by the former President of Sierra Leone, Alhaji Dr. Ahmad Tejan Kabbah.

tells of the life and times of the man nicknamed as the ‘Doyen of Creole Politicians’. It covers from his birth in The Gambia to his youthful days in Freetown’s mountain villages, his sojourn as an international civil servant, his period as a top Adviser to the SLPP Governments of both Sir Milton Margai and Sir Albert Margai on to his prominence to national heights under Siaka Stevens led APC.

Front Cover of the Book to be Launched Next Month

S.A.J. Pratt’s Memoires also give hitherto unknown highlights of some of the events that shaped our Nation’s History such as his pivotal role around the restoration of the Stevens APC Government in 1968 as well as how he, as Sierra Leone’s Foreign Minister in October 1971, was able to use his debating skills and highly acclaimed IQ to beat America’s George Bush at one of the hottest ever United Nations Debate; a debate which led to People’s Republic of China taking over their seat at the U.N. from Taiwan.

S.A.J. Pratt’s Book which was compiled and is being published by Dr. Prince Hycy Bull, a Sierra Leonean Educationist in USA, will be launched in London at 4:00pm in the afternoon on 12 September, 2010 at a ceremony to be chaired by no less a person than the Sierra Leone High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, H.E. Edward M. Turay. The High Commissioner, one of the political protégés of S.A.J. Pratt, will be introduced at the event by the Publisher of this newspaper, Dr. Sylvia Olayinka Blyden who is the grand-daughter of S.A.J. Pratt.

Meanwhile, extracts from the Book has been published below today’s edition. It includes the effort by Pratt to debunk the politically motivated but longstanding false allegation against him that he was the one who sold the Sierra Leone Railway. Details of how and where the book can be ordered, upon its launching, will be announced later.

"A Most Un-ordinary African Boy"
An Autobiography by Solomon A.J. Pratt

Some time early in 1964, Government received an Invitation to attend the First UNCTAD Conference in Geneva, Switzerland. It would appear that Ministers and their Civil Servants then had little or no inkling what the UNCTAD (United Nations Conference on Trade and Development) was all about. The background documents mentioned something about Education on Trade and Development, and Cabinet decided that the Sierra Leone contingent should be led by the then Minister for Education, the Honourable Salia Jusu Sheriff, with his Permanent Secretary, Ahmed Tejan Kabbah. As the Conference was to be held in Geneva, Prime Minister Sir Milton Margai directed that Solomon Pratt, ex I.L.O. Geneva, should be included the Delegation.


It was while we were on this International UNCTAD Exercise in Geneva that news reached us of the sudden death of Prime Minister, Sir Milton Margai, on 28th April, 1964. We decided immediately to fly back to Sierra Leone, and we arrived in Freetown on the day of the Funeral.


The following week, Minister the Honourable Salia Jusu Sheriff, Mr. Ahmad Tejan Kabbah and myself presented to the new Prime Minister our Report on our participation at the First UNCTAD Meeting in Geneva.


A few days later Sir Albert sent for me. He thanked me for all I had been doing unofficially for Sierra Leone during his late brother’s regime. He disclosed that he wanted to make my services much more effective, and he proposed my official appointment as Economic Adviser to the SLPP-led Government. (By then the Country’s Official Economic Adviser, Dr David Carney, had resigned and taken an international post). I may add that a few days later, he divulged that the Sierra Leone Railway was proving a headache to Government, depending on ever mounting subsidies to sustain its existence. International Investors’ feeling was then overwhelmingly in favour of closing the Railway, and improving the Roads network. Sir Albert stressed that he nevertheless wanted a son of the soil objectively to look into the problem, and to advise Government about the proper or the best course of action to pursue. His colleagues in the Cabinet were unanimous that I was such a desired personality. He was therefore also offering me the additional appointment as General Manager of the Sierra Leone Railway. The salary for each of these two appointments would be the same, but I would be drawing only one salary.


All the studies which were undertaken during my team of Office as General Manager of the Sierra Leone Railway underscored the necessity for the continuance and improvement of the Railway, and all those Reports were made available to the World Bank Consultants. Further, depending on an expected favourable Report by the World Bank, a number of Governments indicated that they would favourably consider requests for financial and technical assistance for the improvement and development of the Railway. These included the British Government, the Canadian Government, the Government of the Federal Republic of Germany, and the French Government Financial Institution of COFACE.


I prepared a draft for a Cabinet Paper (My Second Report) embodying all these proposals and passed the draft to the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Transport and Communications for processing and submission to Cabinet. I could not finalise or transmit a Cabinet Paper to Cabinet- this was the duty of the Ministry of Transport and communications. Weeks passed by, and I heard nothing. Enquiries revealed that no Paper had been prepared or submitted to Cabinet. I further got to know that while I was busy doing all these exercises, there was an Expatriate so-called Economist from a certain large United States Motor Vehicle Construction Company who had advised Government (without any reference to me) that the Sierra Leone Railway would never become economical, that it should be phased out, that Government should rather concentrate attention to improving road facilities, and that a particular Overseas Road Vehicle Manufacturing company stood ready to give material assistance in this direction.


Without even waiting for the Italconsultant’s Report to the World Bank, certain Senior Members of the Government started pursuing activities which were a direct threat to the future existence of the Railway. They assisted and participated in the promotion of a Road Transportation Company-O.A.U. Transport Company "-to start taking over traffic from the Railway", and even certain Senior Civil Servants (including some at the Ministry of Transport & Communications) got finances from God-knows-where to purchase and operate fleets of Road Tankers.


I was livid, and went straight to see the Prime Minister, Sir Albert, to appraise him of the information I had received, and to find out whether it was correct. All he would say was that he had never seen my Second Report detailing recommendations about the development and improvement of the Railway, that no Paper had been submitted to Cabinet, and that, as Prime Minister, he could not accept responsibility for what was no function of his.


I interpreted the non submission of my Railway Development Proposals to Cabinet as direct sabotage of all the work I had been doing, and I had no alternative but to offer my immediate resignation both as General Manager of the Railway and as Economic Adviser to the SLPP-led Government of Sir Albert Margai. This, I immediately notified Sir Albert. I added that after resignation I would enter Politics and contest the next General Elections and that any S.L.P.P. Candidate standing against me would surely lose his deposit.


After my resignation, I was succeeded by at least three General Managers Mr. P.S. Terry, Mr. A.E. Griffin, and Mr. R.W.R. Norman. It was under the last named General Manager that a decision was taken by the N.R.C. (the National Reformation Council Military Government) to close down the Railway. The final decision to close down the System and dispose of the assets was taken after a properly timed Cabinet re-shuffle when I was ousted from Membership of the Cabinet! At that re-shuffle President Siaka Stevens had bluntly told me "It is in your interest and the interest of the country that you should not be a Member of the Cabinet!" And yet, even in mid-2007 there was an internet besmearing and battle slinging campaign against a grand-daughter of mine; one of her antagonists brought me within the journalistic attacking ring: "What else do you expect?" he asked. "Her grand-father was the person responsible to close down the Railway, and sell all the Railway’s assets as scrap!"


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