Charles Margai’s Ploy to Take Over the SLPP by Vile Means

28 June 2006 at 21:11 | 573 views

"It is important that we do not allow these PMDC “Pawpaw lawyers” now looking to obfuscate their personal desire for power with constitutional legality to pervert our democracy through their bogus lawyering. It is in that regard that I consider it expedient to challenge the substance of their claims, while raising essential questions about their motivation."

By Kalilu I. Totangi

The letter from the Interim Secretary General of the People’s Movement for Democratic Change (PMDC) to the Political Parties Registration Commission is a testimonial to the daftness of the interim leadership of that party to the real issues the Sierra Leonean electorate want their leaders to address in the run-up to the 2007 election and the thereafter.

It has become apparent that the PMDC has nothing to contribute to the policy debate on the issues facing our nation. Instead, they have chosen to embark on diversionary tactics to cover-up for their lack of leadership. Close PMDC sources at home and abroad acknowledge that their “interim” candidate is seriously dogged by the ill-informed and egoistic political moves he has made since 1995. A very close Margaist concedes that the notoriety of the image of “yu dae ya, yu dae yanda” is hurting him very severely, as most of those that had declared for him earlier in the race are now turning to his opponent, Mr. Solomon Berewa. In response, he and his peg-boys in his law office are anxiously seeking to lawyer their way to the leadership of the Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP) and with it a shot at the benefactor’s life-long ambition - the Presidency.

Faced with looming defeat at the hands of a very well led and motivated SLPP campaign, the same sources reveal that Mr. Margai now wants the outcome of the last convention to be annulled so that he will return to the SLPP and contest for the leadership of the party. If this were true, it brings into sharp focus the credibility of the man whom some hoped would carry this nation forward. What is his conviction, one may wonder? Where was he when Hinga Norman raised the issue and challenged the party on it in court?

But while Chief Norman chose to stay within the party framework because he believes that people are bigger than individuals, this guy ran away and formed a “party” of his own because he cannot stand the democratic spirit within the SLPP. So when did the future of the SLPP become so important to him after all the negative things he has said about the party? Whatever happened to the alliance posturing with the APC? One can only presume; especially when faced with a political character that is not sure where he belongs, especially on matters of policy and principle.

It is important that we do not allow these PMDC “Pawpaw lawyers” now looking to obfuscate their personal desire for power with constitutional legality to pervert our democracy through their bogus lawyering. It is in that regard that I consider it expedient to challenge the substance of their claims, while raising essential questions about their motivation.

In his letter, my friend and brother, Mr. Ansu Lansana, selectively raised “constitutional” issues to support his desire to get Mr. Berewa out of the running for the presidency, so as to pave the way for his candidate, Mr. Margai, to return to the SLPP and contest its leadership in a fresh convention. The crux of his argument is shrouded in the selected provisions of the 1991 constitution that they now seek to interpret to suit their scheme.

I must admit that I am not a lawyer, and I will not pretend to be one. I will therefore refrain from preempting the court in this matter, and will as such leave the legal interpretation of those provisions to the appropriate body. What I will point out, however, is the ridiculous nature of the claim, especially coming from Mr. Margai and his law office; considering the fact that he is alleged to have openly declared that there was no merit to the case when Chief Norman and his supporters first challenged the SLPP leadership on the matter. He had hoped that he will win the leadership contest at the Makeni convention and as such saw no reason, in the words of some of his admirers, to “delay that outcome”. Now that he and his lawyers have found out that theirs was a pipe-dream, he has suddenly found new credit for that argument. Not so fast “Orlawyer”, our people are way too smart for that kind of capricious leadership.

Although I am very reluctant to engage in second-guessing the courts and by extension, undermining due process, I will be negligent if I failed to point out the rest of the argument that our lawyer brothers have hidden from us. Mr. Lansana touts the provisions in Section 35(4) which spell out that “No political party shall have as a leader a person who is not qualified to be elected as a Member of Parliament”. He also selectively snips out a line in the disqualification clause, 76 (1), “No person shall be qualified for election as a Member of Parliament”, and (h) “if he is for the time being the President, the Vice-President, a Minister or a Deputy Minister under the provisions of this Constitution”.What they didn’t tell us are the volumes of information that precede and follow their selected “sound bites”.

For instance, the constitution Section 75 (a) through (d) stipulates eligibility for election to parliament thus:

Subject to the provisions of section 75, any person who-
a. is a citizen of Sierra Leone (otherwise than by naturalization); and
b. has attained the age of twenty-one years; and
c. is an elector whose name is on a register of electors under the Franchise
and Electoral Registration Act, 1961, or under any Act of Parliament
amending or replacing that Act; and
d. is able to speak and to read the English Language with a degree of
proficiency sufficient to enable him to take an active part in the
proceedings of shall be qualified for election as such a Member of

Then the exempt clause in this section which actually speaks to the “qualifications for parliament” follows:

“Provided that a person who becomes a citizen of Sierra Leone by registration by law shall not be qualified for election as such a Member of Parliament or of any Local Authority unless he shall have resided continuously in Sierra Leone for twenty-five years after such registration or shall have served in the Civil or Regular Armed Services of Sierra Leone for a continuous period of twenty-five years.”

I want my lawyer friends to tell the nation which of the clauses in that provision that Mr. Solomon Berewa fails to meet.

Let us look at the disqualification clauses in Section 76 (1) which the PMDC lawyers have mutilated to serve their purposes. Section 76 (1) (a) through (h) state as follows:

No person shall be qualified for election as a Member of Parliament-
a. if he is a naturalized citizen of Sierra Leone or is a citizen of a country
other than Sierra Leone having become such a citizen voluntarily or is
under a declaration of allegiance to such a country; or
b. if he is a member of any Commission established under this Constitution, or a member of the Armed Forces of the Republic, or a public officer, or an employee of a Public Corporation established by an
Act of Parliament, or has been such a member, officer or employee within twelve months prior to the date on which he seeks to be elected to Parliament; or
c. if under any law in force in Sierra Leone he is adjudged to be a lunatic or otherwise declared to be of unsound mind; or
d. if he has been convicted and sentenced for an offence which involves fraud or dishonesty; or
e. if he is under a sentence of death imposed on him by any court; or
f. if in the case of the election of such member as is referred to in paragraph (b) of subsection (1) of section 74, he is for the time being a Paramount Chief under any law; or
g. if being a person possessed of professional qualifications, he is disqualified (otherwise than at his own request) from practicing his profession in Sierra Leone by order of any competent authority made in respect of him personally within the immediately preceding five years of an election held in pursuance of section 87; or
h. if he is for the time being the President, the Vice-President, a Minister or a Deputy Minister under the provisions of this Constitution.

Now, I know that Mr. Berewa’s political enemies are often quick to jump on the (h) clause which precludes a member of the executive arm of government from being a member of parliament at one and the same time, and the reverse. What they fail to mention is that this clause merely seeks, in my opinion, to ensure separation of powers among the three organs of government. I am almost certain that Mr. Lansana and the other lawyers behind this extra-democratic plot are smart enough to conceive the “intent’ of that provision, but would rather skew it out of meaning because it serves their purposes better that way.

If we were to look at the eligibility clauses for election to the presidency as provided in Section 41 (a) through (d), one could clearly see that the detractors have not told us all we need to know to make an informed decision about the future of our country. Besides, where in the world is the sitting Vice President precluded from vying for the leadership of their political parties and the presidency of the country through that process?

Certainly George H.W. Bush was President Reagan’s Vice President and was elected by the Republican Party to lead them into the 1988 elections in the United States of America. He won that year and became the president of the greatest democracy in the world. Albert Gore was President Clinton’s Vice President. He ran for the leadership of the Democratic Party and won. He led the Democrats into the Presidential election in 2000. What kind of a democracy is Sierra Leone to bar a sitting Vice President from vying for the leadership of his party and the presidency simply because (s) he is the Vice President. That is plainly absurd.

In concluding, let me remind the PMDC and their APC allies that they are not going to win the next election by avoiding the debate on how they hope to better the things that they decry in the SLPP stewardship or by diverting attention to everything else but the issues which the voters are looking forward to hear their political leaders address. If you guys think our people should reject the peace and stability that they now enjoy under this government in favor of the historically violent and corrupt approach of the APC or the spineless and egoistic nothingness of the PMDC, you should be prepared to go to the people to explain yourself. Our democracy has been bought in lives and limbs, so we are not going to sit by and allow PMDC lawyers to lawyer their way to the presidency of our country. That is not going to happen, in case you needed any reassurance.

Photo: Kalilu Totangi.Kalilu is the Secretary General of the SLPP, North America branch.