Monday April 15 , 2006
Some radical members of the Sierra Leone People’s Party ( SLPP)  have described Saturday’s election of the party’s North American Branch as a travesty of democracy. The members, who all live in the U.S ,  made the pronouncement when they complained to COCORIOKO  yesterday .
They said that the whole problem started when the Secretary General of the New Jersey Branch misinterpreted the meeting between the high-powered delegation from Sierra Leone and the NJ Chapter as a Convention.
They stated that Ambassador Joe Pemagbi immediately wrote Mr. Alpha to inform him that it was a meeting , not a convention. But the radicals complained yesterday that it seemed as if the delegation itself from Freetown, headed by National Secretary General, Mr. J.J.Saffa , came with a preconceived agenda to conduct elections and elect a North American Branch of the SLPP.
The problem, though, according to the group, was that the elections were not publicized at all. Also, the group complained that no guidelines or byelaws about the conduct of the elections were put in effect. The national party chapters in the U.S.  were also never notified to send delegates for an election. The group further charged that the National Secretary General, Mr. J.J.Saffa, did not write any of the chapters expressing his desire to conduct an election.
Majority of the members at the meeting, the group went on, came purposely to hear what the high-powered delegation had to say about the 2007 General Elections. To their dismay , however, they were confronted with the election of the North American SLPP Branch.
The complainants said that what was annoying was that Mr. Saffa had told Mr. Pemagbi that each chapter should send only 5 members to avoid overcrowding and to maintain structure and order . The surprising thing, however was that the Washington DC Chapter arrived at the metting in Somerset with 4 mini-vans packed with members, the group went on. . They complained that the Washington Chapter behaved this way because they had prior knowledge of the elections.
Continuing their complaint, the group said that J.J.Saffa  set the agenda of the meeting and asked members to vote on a referendum where they must decide whether the meeting should elect a permanent executive of the North American Branch or an interim one .
The Washington DC Chapter, with the largest delegation, got their way  in the referendum for a permanent executive to be elected. This, the complaining group concluded, was unfair,  because , according to them, there was unequal representation of the chapters at the meeting. The group alleged that Washington had 30 members , followed by Philadelphia with 12 , while New York had 5 and Atlanta too had 5 members , including the son of the Vice-President, Solomon Berewa jr. The other chapters either had the same number or less.
The group attributed the victory scored by the elected President , Matthew Margao, to the unequal representation in favor of the Washington DC Branch.

North America Secretary General Kalilu Totangi’s  Response

It is an unfortunate allegation. What could be more democratic than what took place in New Jersey? What would those so-called “radicals” prefer; a situation where there is a vacuum of leadership in the party’s most important branch in the Diaspora? Besides, I am not sure who these radicals are, but their approach cannot be called radical in any sense, if it is basically a call to maintain the status quo of inactivity. The members gathered at New Jersey voted soundly to reject that inertia. We are very pleased with the outcome, especially in so far as it pertains to the renewed momentum the Secretary General and his team has brought to our efforts. The more than 700 membership cards that the Secretary General brought from home were sold out by the end of the day. We were able to elect a vibrant and promising executive who will now set about with the task of mobilizing the human, technological and financial resources needed to put our party and our presidential candidate on top come 2007.


For the records, neither J.J. Saffa, nor any member of his delegation imposed anything on the New Jersey meeting. After two weeks of consultations across United States, a determination was made that there was a lot of goodwill towards the party in the U.S., but that there needed to be a structure to coordinate the affairs of the party if that goodwill is to translate into active support and membership. They were indifferent as to what form the structure would take and who would people it. The question to all then became should we have a duly elected body mandated under the constitution to carry on the work of the party or make an ad hoc arrangement to last through the year. These so-called radicals wanted an outcome that is not progressive by any means and they didn’t have the votes to prevail. It is a lie that Washington, DC influenced the outcome in any unfair way. There were two competing motions moved by the house and members voted across chapter lines on the motions. The majority decided that a duly constituted executive was in place, and we went ahead and elected one. Bear in mind that even the gentleman who moved the motion for an interim arrangement was a delegate and voted to elect the new executive.  It was the first time ever that as many chapters were represented at any branch election in North America. In the election of the now defunct Nallo executive, only three chapters voted, as compared to eight in this one. And contrary to what your anonymous complainants would want your readers to believe, all the chapters, including the largest in Washington, DC and the smallest from Milwaukee, got three delegate votes each. 


It is unfortunate that some of our members felt dissatisfied enough to take their complaints to the press. What I can assure you, however, is that their dissatisfaction notwithstanding, everyone of them still believe that our party is the only one that can provide the enlightened and disciplined leadership that is required to move our country forward.


I look forward to discussing some of those issues with you in the near future.



Related Posts