From the Editor’s Keyboard

Christiana Thorpe Should Assert Herself

7 August 2006 at 02:49 | 384 views

"There is thus a perception that Miss Thorpe is losing the "command and control" of the electoral process and that she is merely now playing the role of figure head of NEC with hardly any say in the major decisions pertaining to the conduct of the elections. That the president and the government are gradually taking over NEC and the political destiny of the country while Miss Thorpe "pretends" to be in the driver’s seat."

Editorial

Many Sierra Leoneans at home and abroad have been expressing concern over recent events in the country with reference to the status,duties and obligations of the National Electoral Commission(NEC)headed by Miss Christiana Thorpe(photo).

Miss Thorpe, as far as the Vanguard is concerned, is a woman with enormous credibliity and respect among her compatriots and the international community. But we believe her credibilty and respect are gradually being eroded by what has been happening in the country over the last couple of weeks. Here is why we say that:

Miss Thorpe, as head of NEC,in June this year, practically shut down a much publicised debate for the leaders of the country’s major political parties when she announced,just before the debate was to kick off, that NEC had not yet announced the start of political campaigning and that the planned debate went against the rules and regulations of NEC. Consequently two of the country’s major political leaders, Solomon Berewa of the SLPP and Charles Margai of the PMDC decided to stay away from the debate, thus robbing Sierra Leoneans of a golden opportunity to hear their politcal leaders speak on matters of great importance to their lives and to evaluate and assess these leaders as the country prepares for the next elections.

Miss Thorpe’s injunction or ban would have carried some merit and eyebrows would not have been raised had her commission not allowed not too long ago at least one major political debate that was carried live on radio or had the commission not turned a blind eye to the open and blatant political campaigning being carried out by leaders of all the political parties in the country.We still wonder why Miss Thorpe had to prevent that particular debate among all the other debates and campaigns going on. We believe the rules should apply for all political events, not just one event.We warn that it’s bias like this that quickly damages one’s credibilty and reputation.

The next controversial decision by Miss Thorpe(at least from the viewpoint of the PMDC leadership) was to sign a recent decision or response by the Political Parties Registration Commission (PPRC)to a PMDC petition questioning the fact that the Vice President,Mr. Solomon Berewa,is both SLPP leader and Vice President of the country(thus possessing enormous political and financial resources to the detriment of his political rivals).The PPRC statement signed by Miss Thorpe and other members ruled that the Vice President is perfectly eligible and did not break any law.

Many people have called and written to us expressing concern that Miss Thorpe had to sign such a controversial document instead of the substantive PPRC chairman Justice Abdulai Timbo who was vacationing in London. Miss Thorpe, even though a member of the Commission, the critics say, should have stayed away from or avoided signing as chairperson to maintain, at least in the public eye, her neutrality and impartiality over such weighty political decisions.

The latest incident that has caused enormous anxiety for some Sierra Leoneans is the announcement of the date of the 2007 elections by president A. T. Kabbah. Many Sierra Leoneans feel the announcement should have been made by Miss Thorpe, and not the president, a man who is clearly a key player in the political process itself and who would not hesitate to manipulate the said process in favour of his party and flag bearer.

There is thus a perception that Miss Thorpe is losing the "command and control" of the electoral process and that she is merely now playing the role of figure head of NEC with hardly any say in the major decisions pertaining to the conduct of the elections. That the president and the government are gradually taking over NEC and the electoral destiny of the country while Miss Thorpe "pretends" to be in the driver’s seat.

These perceptions might easily be dismissed as nonsense if Sierra Leone were not a country where signs, gestures and symbols were not so important.To the average Sierra Leonean,however, if president Kabbah announces the date of the elections, it means it is he who is in full control of the conduct of the elections, not Christiana Thorpe. This alone is capable of affecting voting patterns.

There are also complaints about the fact that the polls have been slated for July 28, 2007. As most Sierra Leoneans know, July is one of the months with the heaviset rainfall in country. Many voters, it is believed, will be disenfranchised on that day because most of the bridges and roads will be flooded and full of mud during a month like that, thus making it difficult for most people to move from place to place to vote. APC leader Ernest Koroma has vigorously protested over the date selected; this means opposition politicians were not consulted over this important decision.

Of course members of the ruling SLPP government might consider these complaints as sour grapes and the product of a clueless, unfocussed and petty opposition with no clear positive agenda for the country.

However, we at the Patriotic Vanguard would like to suggest that it’s time for Miss Thorpe to assert herself by making sure everything having to do with the forthcoming elections should come from NEC and only NEC. And she should make sure Sierra Leoneans are adequately informed on whatever decision is taken by NEC.

A good place to start is for her to explain WHY July was chosen as election month and not May, as in the past. Over to you, Miss Thorpe.

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