SLPP may not hold delegates’ confab as scheduled

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September 5, 2017 By Patrick Jaiah Kamara

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SLPP Benjamin challenges legitimacy of NEC

One of the key figures in the flag bearer race of the Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP), John Oponjo Benjamin, yesterday told Concord Times in an exclusive interview at his No. 79 Campbell Street office that, he hadn’t registered against the deadline of today, 5th September, 2017, because the National Executive Council (NEC) hadn’t the mandate to conduct the flagbearer election.

While the party prepares its national delegates’ conference scheduled to take place in Kenema on 15, 16 and 17 September, discordant tunes continue to trail the preparation, as stakeholders disagree with one anothers’ views on a number of issues.

According to John Benjamin: “The mandate of the current executive has expired two years ago and we are now working on their exit. As far as I am concern their business is to ensure that they get an independent body to make rules and regulation for their exit. They have no business talking about flagbearer at this point in time. It is the new NEC that would conduct elections for flag bearers,” he said.

The former Chairman and Leader of the SLPP said the current NEC officials have no business to collect monies from flag bearer aspirants as their mandate has expired two years ago.

He said they have failed to uphold the constitution of the party and that they should allow an independent body to conduct elections for their exit.

But Chief Kapen has stated in a letter addressed to the Political Parties Registration Commission (PPRC) that the party cannot conduct two elections separately as they were constrained of ‘time and finance’ and that the Independent Election Monitoring and Oversight has already been established under clause 9 of the gazetted rules and regulations.

However, when quizzed that the Chairman and Leader of the SLPP, Chief Sumanoh Kapen and his executive have decided in a meeting last week that, they would go ahead with the convention, JOB says “This is a lawful country.  We will go by the law. If they don’t have the legal mandate to conduct the election, it should not be held. I can assure you of that. They do not have the right to do what they are doing and we have challenged it.”

He said NEC has violated the SLPP Constitution by not holding any annual conference to explain the financial position of the party since their four years stay in office.

“Our constitution is very clear that every year whatever you do at NEC you have to report to your people. In your capacity as a national executive officer, you must have an annual meeting where you disclose the financial status of the party. Four years now they have not held one. They have not accounted for their past activities to the party,” he said.

Mr. Benjamin said the party has several issues that have to be ironed in-house before they go to the conference, as there were two delegate lists signed separately by the Chairman and the Secretary General.

“Everything is in a form of disarray. So, we are trying to resolve it in-house. We held meeting today with PPRC and we have brought our concerns to them. Am sure by the end of the week we will find a way forward. But be rest assured this party does not belong to a small group of people who have forgotten what our constitution says. We are not going to allow few people to mess us up. We have a big opportunity to go back in governance and if we don’t play it right, believe me, we will miss out,” he said.

SLPP has been in opposition for almost ten years and it is no surprise that the battle to lead the party in the March 2018 elections keeps taking different shapes and forms by the day, as flag bearer aspirants have held on tightly onto one and others’ throat.

The party has gazetted a Le100 million fees per candidate for the flag bearer position. According to the party’s Secretary General, Alie Badara Kamara, only two aspirants- Julius Maada Bio and Ambassador Bon Wurrie, out of the over ten aspirants have honoured their payment.

Dr. Jonathan Tengbeh has also done part payment and registered to contest in the Kenema polls.

Friday, September 1st, was the initial deadline for the registration of aspirants, but was given a week extension to allow ‘people in the Diaspora’ to register, according to the National Publicity Secretary, Lahai Lawrence Leema.

The SLPP Publicity Secretary, Lahai Lawrence Leema, had earlier told this medium that, Mr. Benjamin’s claim to delegitimize NEC contravened the Supreme Court order of 15 December 2015 in the matter between Alie Issa Bangura versus Chief Kapen and 27 others.

He stated that Mr. Benjamin was misleading the public as Clause 4, paragraph B, subparagraph 5(i) of the SLPP Constitution gives the national officers the mandate to extend tenure of office or take decision depending on the exigencies or the political circumstances available to the party.

“So it is that clause that NEC clings on to extend the mandate of the national officers. And also the Supreme Court order said that the national executive council is legitimately seated to organise the election for national officers,” he said.