Salone News

John Leigh Blasts SLPP Aspirants

24 August 2005 at 20:43 | 605 views

The Patriotic Vanguard recently had a blockbuster of an interview with feisty SLPP leadership aspirant John Ernest Leigh in which he described his opponents in the SLPP leadership race as "local despots" who have very limited knowledge of democracy, good governance and industrial development.John Leigh is fast emerging as a man that cuts across all the political groupings in the country due mainly to his ’telling-it-as-it is’ disposition that is clearly demonstrated in this interview. Read below the interview in which Leigh wrestled with the Vanguard’s questions blow by blow:

The Patriotic Vanguard: A huge problem in Sierra Leonean politics is the ethnic factor or ethnic loyalties and the buying of votes. What are your views on this matter?

John Leigh: There is some tribal voting in SL but this is diminishing. The country’s hard living condition is encouraging our people to vote sensibly. I expect to benefit from this trend as I am the only candidate with a written biography and detailed manifesto.

Vote buying is another serious problem. Again our country’s harsh living condition is compelling change. Some candidates do not campaign on issues at all or do so superficially. These candidates depend on giving money to delegates in exchange for their votes. This is utterly wrong but harsh living conditions leave delegates with no choice but to take the money.

My advice is simple: Take the money but Vote your conscience. The money is yours, stolen from the government. Vote for the most qualified person to Lead. This way there will be development in our country.

TPV: How do you plan to deal with the problem of corruption in Sierra Leone if elected SLPP leader and if you subsequently become president of Sierra Leone?

JL: I will use a combination of management, accounting, auditing, legal, political-economy and diplomatic approaches to deal with this very serious problem.

TPV: What do you intend to do ,if elected president, about the huge unemployment problems in the country?

JL: Create jobs; build a national economy, organize youths, mechanize agriculture, develop capitalists, redirect the budget to the grassroots, borrow from the World Bank. Redo tourism by basing it on culture, geography, history, natural resources and the environment rather than partying at Lumbley Beach.

TPV: What are your views about press freedom and general freedom of expression?

JL: Press Freedom is insufficient in SL. The 1965 Act dealing with sedition, etc. must be reviewed with a view of repealing it. The press in SL is very poor, even destitute. Economic development approaches must brought to bear on the press for their own economic survival and even prosperity.

Elements of the press are corrupt, irresponsible and/or reckless. Elements are also underdeveloped. These are important issues that I will address.

TPV: In what areas do you think the laws of Sierra Leone need urgent reforms?

JL: Many areas. Legal reforms will warrant my close personal attention if elected. The judiciary also needs better management.

TPV:In what ways do you think agriculture, the mainstay of our economy, can be improved?

JL: Farmers need help - financial and technical. Farmers should not be charged for ploughing their land. Mechanization of agriculture must start with ploughing the rice bolilands in January, February and March 2006.

TPV: As you know, Sierra Leone is at present a very divided country. What could you do about national reconciliation?

JL: This question is too complex ....but economic development and a just social, administrative and judicial systems must be created and maintained.

TPV: What are your present views about the Special Court for Sierra Leone, the prosecution of Charles Taylor and the Sierra Leonean indictees especially Chief Hinga Norman?

JL: The SC will not achieve its objective of teaching Africans true justice because it is politically tainted. It is also paying witnesses for their testimony. With Bush and Gen. Obasanjo of Nigeria protecting Taylor - the chief culprit - the entire system lacks credibility. The SL Government should stand behind the Lome Amnesties and encourage the West to convert the SC to a full fledged War Crimes Court based in Freetown for prospective trials.

TPV: Please comment on the state of health services, national security, education and other sectors under the Kabbah administration and what you would do to improve them if you become president.

JL: Expensive, inadequate, primitive. Must be worked on.

TPV: You are on record as saying you are the most qualified of the present candidates for the SLPP leadership. Why do you think so? What makes you different?

JL: I have been in economic/commercial development for 35 years. The others? = zero. They are local lawyers whose profession has rendered the judiciary ineffective and of low public esteem. I am the most generous party member. I have donated over Le 135,000,000 to the SLPP in 1995/6 alone. Given more since. I am a GIVER. The Others are TAKERS. The military man promoted himself from Assist Lieutenant to Brigadier General in 2 and-a-half years. His NPRC executed 28 people arbitrarily. No one has apologized or (been) punished. Nor has compensation been paid to the survivors who are also suffering poverty while he buys votes.

I fought the hardest to bring back the SLPP government from exile. I spent $150,000. of my family savings to fight the AFRC.

I am the only aspirant sentenced to DEATH by (the) Johnny Paul coup regime because of my effectiveness in fighting his brutal coup.

I am the only aspirant deeply experienced in the practice of genuine democracy as I have lived in industrial democratic countries for over 40 years. All others are local despots who are yet to understand and appreciate true democracy.

I am the only aspirant who has written down my biography setting forth my family background, my education, training, achievements for my party, country and myself and what I am all about. The others have refused to do so.

TPV: Please give us a personal assessment of the Kabbah administration so far (1996-2005).

JL: The second term was a huge disappointment. Party members were marginalized. The country’s international standing was degraded by corruption, inefficiency, mal- administration, cronyism, nepotism, and favoritism. Poverty is endemic.

Photo: John Ernest Leigh
Credit: Cocorioko newspaper


Bio-data of John Ernest Leigh

Mr. John Leigh was born in Bo, Southern Province in the Republic of Sierra Leone and grew up in Freetown, the capital. He received his primary schooling in Freetown, Cline Town and at Yonibana, Tonkolili District, Northern Province. Mr. Leigh attended secondary school at the Albert Academy in Freetown where he obtained his West African School Certificate. Eighteen months later and as a private candidate, he earned 3 “A” Levels - Economics, Economic History & British Constitution - before proceeding on scholarship to the United States for further education. The first SLPP post-Independence Administration, headed by Sir Milton Margai, awarded the said scholarship to qualified Sierra Leoneans through a genuinely competitive and transparent process.

In the USA, Mr. Leigh studied economics, banking and finance at New York University, obtaining both a Bachelor of Science and a Master of Business Administration degree. Later, Mr. Leigh studied law and obtained a Juris Doctor degree, Cum Laude, from Suffolk University Law School in Boston.

Mr. Leigh served as Sierra Leone’s Ambassador to the United States and High Commissioner to Canada for six years. The assignment terminated at the end of September 2002. As Sierra Leone’s representative in North America, Mr. Leigh successfully persuaded African and the industrial democratic countries of the World to remove the AFRC/RUF junta from power and to re-instate the duly elected parliament and government of President Ahmed Tejan Kabbah to its rightful place.

Later, Mr. Leigh persuaded both the American and Canadian governments to intervene in Sierra Leone in order to end the terrible war against civilians there that erupted following the re-instatement in the summer of ’98 of the RUF/AFRC war to regain power. Appearing on CNN, BBC-TV & Radio, Radio France, the Voice of America and South African TV-& Radio, Leigh correctly identified President Charles Taylor - the then president of Liberia - as the key instigator, orchestrator and profiteer of the war in Sierra Leone and asked the World to intervene and call Charles Taylor into account for his war crimes and crimes against humanity in Sierra Leone.

Prior to relocating from Washington to Boston, Mr. Leigh completed work reforming the international trade in diamonds that resulted in the Kimberly Regulations - regulations that today cover the worldwide export trade in rough and uncut diamonds.

Before Mr. Leigh’s went to work in Washington and Ottawa for Sierra Leone, he was a practicing attorney in Boston, a profession he has since resumed. Mr. Leigh’s earlier career included positions in such varied organizations as the Chase Manhattan Bank and Xerox Corporation in the United States, Bank of Sierra Leone in Freetown and African Universities Press in Nigeria.

In Nigeria as the Managing Director of African Universities Press, Mr. Leigh was the exclusive agent in English-speaking West African countries for several British Educational publishing companies.

Presently, Mr. Leigh is serving as President of Bunce Island Preservation, Inc., (BIPI) a private charity group seeking to restore for posterity the Bunce Island Slave Fort in the Sierra Leone River where, for over a century, thousands of captured Sierra Leone rice farmers were held prior to shipment to Charleston and Savannah to develop and enrich the United States.

The story of Bunce Island is the intertwined history of three countries: UK, USA and Sierra Leone as well as that of France and other European countries. Through BIPI, Mr. Leigh intends to foster a new kind of mutually beneficial relationships between the people of those countries and Sierra Leoneans.

Mr. Leigh is married and has three adult children. He and his wife live in the United States but he will relocate to Freetown and Bo shortly. Additional particulars are set forth below.

Phone: USA 978 371 2197 <> SL 076 809 296

Photo: John Leigh