Thursday September 1, 2005
Just hours after the Supreme Court delivered Hinga Norman a stunning setback by throwing out his much-talked-about law suit against the SLPP, another high-profiled Presidential aspirant within the ruling party has protested openly against the hasty convening of the SLPP Leadership Convention on Saturday .
Mr.John Ernest Leigh is not only protesting that the convention was being rushed , but also that it was being done by former national officers whose term of office, he said, expired in March 2004. Yesterday, Mr.Leigh released a strong press statement in which he also raised serious questions of unlawfulness and unconstitutionality of the operation of the National Executive Committee of the SLPP.
Here is the press release sent to COCORIOKO and some other newspapers yesterday by the John Leigh Campaign Team :
RUSHING THE SLPP CONVENTION IS UNWISE!
PRESS STATEMENT BY:
JOHN E. LEIGH, SLPP CHIEF PATRON & PRESIDENTIAL ASPIRANT
The wholesale rush by SLPP bigwigs to stage a snap Nominating Convention in Makeni on barely three days’ Notice is bound to go down in the history of Sierra Leone as one of our country’s most ignominious, reckless and shameful power grab.
Hence the recent call for party unity and sentimental references to the good old days of genuine Party democracy by President Kabbah are unlikely to be fully requited or laughed at. The membership and the general public know fully well that the onward and indecent rush to an untimely convention; organized and/or directed and staged by former National Officers of the Party whose terms of office has long expired – ex-Party officers such as Sama Banya, Solomon Berewa and Tejan Kabbah, etc. portends possible trouble for the Sierra Leone Peoples Party in the weeks, months and years ahead.
First, the re-scheduled starting date of Saturday, September 3, 2005 was made official only on Wednesday, August 31. Thus, many legitimate delegates will not be able to attend and much chaos and large scale inconvenience awaits those who make it safely to Makeni for the Convention.
The reason given for the fantastic rush is that President Kabbah needs to travel overseas.
This is a very poor and insubstantial reason for rushing, amidst chaos, a most important event in the history of our country.
Certainly, the same Makeni convention could be held upon his return or he could even cancel an unnecessary junket to New York. The Makeni Convention is far more important for the stability of Sierra Leone and the unity of the SLPP than yet another boring but expensive speech at the United Nations.
At the UN, the President will probably be speaking to an empty or near-empty UN General Assembly Hall and his message is unlikely to have any lasting impact abroad or even resonate at home. On the other hand, the rush to Makeni is going to have an indelible impact upon the SLPP and thus our country. Therefore, the need for a proper convention should take precedence over the president’s superfluous overseas’ travel.
The September 2005 date for the impending Convention is itself much too premature. The earliest proper date for a genuine SLPP Convention which is to nominate the Party’s presidential candidate for the May 2007 presidential election cannot be justly set prior to January 2007.
Next, the Party bigwigs who are now rushing the Party to possible destruction have no lawful authority to set the date of the convention, or decide on a convention agenda or manage the said convention or parade themselves as National Officers of the Party because their two-year terms of office expired in March 2004 and no one has been re-elected to fill their vacant position since.
UNLAWFUL & UNCONSTITUTIONAL
The Party’s National Executive Council those same officials staged on July 8 & 9 in Freetown and where the decision to rush the convention was taken was also legally and constitutionally invalid because those who authorized and controlled the proceedings had no lawful or constitutional authority to authorize and take charge of the said National Executive Council meeting because their two-year terms of office had expired in March 2004 and had not right to exercise the authority of their former offices.
They also had no right to participate in the said NEC meeting as voting members as they were no longer in office.
Under the Party’s Constitution, Clause 1V (A, 3g), the Party Conference, popularly known as the Convention, elects the National Officers of the Party biannually as well as the Elected Members of the National Executive Council.
The National Officers of the Party are listed in Clause V, 1 of the Party’s Constitution.
The 34 National Officers of the SLPP are: The National Chairman, Deputy National Chairman, Leader-Presidential Nominee, Deputy Leader (Vice Presidential Nominee), Four Regional Vice Chairmen (one for each province and one for the Western Area), National Secretary General, Assistant National Secretary General, National Treasurer, Financial Secretary, National Organizing Secretary, Assistant National Organizing Secretary, Leader of the Women, Leader of the Young Generation, Publicity Secretary, Internal Auditor, Three Legal Advisers, Eight Trustees, two per region, Imam and Chaplain.
The above officers were last elected in March 2002. Under Clause 1V 3g, their terms of office expired in March 2004. Thus those among them still parading themselves as National officers of the Party and making decisions on behalf of the Party from are acting unlawfully.
SLPP PARLIAMENTARY COUNCIL MUST ACT
Those with the lawful and constitutional authority to fill vacancies occurring among the National Officers of the Party are those of its members of the National Executive Council whose terms of office have not expired. They include SLPP Members of Parliament and former members of Parliament. Since this group constitutes the quorum requirement of Clause 1V B4, the members should fill all existing vacancies and it is this lawfully constituted National Executive Council that should organize the Nomination Convention in proper time.
To do otherwise is to act unlawfully as well as set in motion practices which can only destroy our Party at some future point.
I intend to take the matter of the expired terms of office to the appropriate channels for a proper determination.
Thank you for your attention and cooperation.
– Dated: Thursday, September 1, 2005 in Freetown.