Thursday September 1, 2005

Sierra Leonean political experts at home and abroad have expressed apprehension about the possibility of more law suits against the strife-torn ruling SLPP if the party goes ahead with its National Leadership Convention this weekend.

COCORIOKO  sampled the views of the experts by telephone and also monitored the opinions of Sierra Leoneans in various online discussion forums yesterday after the Supreme Court of Sierra Leone ruled that Chief Hinga Norman did not have locus standi to bring his much-discussed law suit against the SLPP ,thereby paving the way for the convention , which had infact been already scheduled for this weekend even before yesterday’s verdict from the highest court in the land. 

While emotions were mixed with some people hailing the verdict of the court, many others looked at the verdict from the perspective of the manner this weekend’s convention was rescheduled. The convention was originally postponed indefinitely , following the Hinga Norman law suit which was also an interlocutory injunction against the election of party officials and a presidential candidate in the same convention.

With the court decision slated for yesterday, and the verdict yet unknown, the SLPP had gone ahead and announced through its National Chairman , Mr. Sama Banya , that the party’s convention would be held this weekend. This development was astounding and puzzling to many neutralists and supporters of the various candidates challenging Vice-President Berewa for the SLPP Leadership and Presidential nomination. They could not understand how the SLPP could   have done that with the verdict still pending.

But supporters of Vice-President Berewa told COCORIOKO  that there was nothing wrong with the decision , in as much as the court had earlier ruled that the party could go on with the convention but elect no leader until after the verdict. Mr. Banya gave credence to this contention when he reportedly told the CONCORD TIMES  that the party was holding the convention on Saturday and would go on and elect officers. He however left out the issue of the election of leaders, adding however that if the court verdict allowed them to elect leaders also, then that would be done. Some supporters told COCORIOKO  that the SLPP , from Dr.Banya’s statement, had no plans to do anything  that the court had not ordered.

This explanation however did not address the questions being asked by supporters of other candidates why the convention was being rushed. Some people feel that the other candidates should have been given sufficient time to galvanize and bring together their delegates, many of whom were still abroad , having been compelled to stay put by the uncertainties around the convention due to the Hinga Norman law suit. They believe that if the convention went on under the present circumstances, Vice-President Berewa will be handed a clear advantage and this could create the possibility of more lawsuits by the other candidates.Already , the Charles Margai and John Leigh teams have protested against  the hasty convening of the convention.

A source in the  capital who did  not want to be named told this paper that the SLPP scheduled the convention this weekend for two reasons : Firstly, President Kabbah would be leaving Sierra Leone next week to attend the UN General Assembly in New York .The SLPP wanted the convention out of the way before the President’s trip. The source went on to state that Kabbah could use the opportunity to carry out his alleged plans for a much-earlier retirement which could also give Berewa a feel of the Presidency before the elections, should he win the nomination this weekend. The source said Kabbah was serious about his plans to retire early.

The second reason given by the source was that the party had come to the conclusion that some people just wanted to create chaos and hold back the convention , thereby creating the prospect for bigger chaos somewhere along the line. The SLPP,he went on, wanted to forestall this problem by getting the convention out of the way before the troublemakers executed their plan. The SLPP,  he said, understood that a long drawn-out conflict between its members  over leadership issues would not augur well for the party during the elections and thus it decided to take the bull by the horns and get done with the convention.

Whatever the outcome of this weekend’s convention, it does   not appear likely that it will lay to rest the rumbles within the grand, old party.

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