-John Oponjo Benjamin
February 10, 2017 By Alusine Sesay
After some media reports yesterday claimed that former Chairman and Leader of the main opposition Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP) refused to append his signature to a peace communique’ drafted by all flagbearer aspirants of the party, John Oponjo Benjamin has told Concord Times in a mobile phone interview that, “I was the first to see peace as a solution to the party, when they never realised that. I told them that without peace, the party would be in pieces.
All flagbearer aspirants of the party on Wednesday had an emergency meeting at the party’s headquarters on Wallace Johnson Street in Freetown, where they all discussed the way forward to peace and unity in a party which has had more than its fair share of disharmony.
Save Mr. Benjamin, a communiqué was signed by all the aspirants and stakeholders in which they agreed to revert to the 2013 executive structures and annul all suspensions and expulsions.
Speaking to Concord Times, John Benjamin noted that he left the meeting venue to dispatch a delegation that visited him and that “We all contributed to the content of the communique with all of winning and nobody losing.
He stated that they never called on him to sign the communique after he had left, “but they brought it to me this morning and I have signed it.
Meanwhile, it was also stated in the communiqué that all court actions be withdrawn with a consent judgment, and that lower level elections, including rules and regulations of May 11, 2016, and the ten man committee instituted by the Political Parties Registration Commission PPRC be reinstated.
“We want access to all SLPP party offices across the country and also to stop negative intervention in the media against party members. We have also agreed for an immediate NEC meeting to be held on Tuesday where NEC will certify these resolutions. We also agreed to have a general peace and reconciliation conference to be held shortly,” a release from the SLPP secretariat stated.
The release further stated that subsequent district and regional elections be conducted by a special committee, in adherence to rules and regulations of the party.
However, John Benjamin blamed the Political Parties Registration Commission (PPRC) and the National Electoral Commission (NEC) for what he referred to as “their failure to fairly handle impasse within the party.
“We would not have gone to court if they had not taken sides. We are praying that we would be resolving our issues henceforth without going to them anymore. We have found out that whenever we meet them, they would inflame the issues rather than resolve them,” he said.
He noted that for the sake of peace they have decided to put on hold the court action they brought against the PPRC, “but that should be a strong warning to them that they should not be interfering into our party affairs. There are certain state institutions that have strong hands in our impasse and want to always see us in chaos.
It could be recalled that immediately after the SLPP delegates conference in Bo, southern Sierra Leone, one of the aspirants for the position of Chairman and Leader, Alie Bangura, took the party to the Supreme Court on allegations of election irregularities. This, after he lost to Chief Sumanoh Kapen – who himself was recently ‘suspended’ as Chairman and Leader. Bangura was subsequently expelled from the party after the court ruling in 2014.
The party, until Wednesday’s détente, had splintered into two factions, with one executive led by Chairman Kapen, while another was being spearheaded by Kapen’s Deputy Chairman, Dr. Prince Harding.