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"Paramount Chiefs are Politicians"-----SLPP Spokesman

By  | 13 August 2006 at 00:48 | 623 views

The National Publicity Secretary of the SLPP Mr. Victor Reider (photo) has told the Vanguard that contrary to conventional or traditional beliefs,paramount chiefs in the country are real politicians.

"These are people that are not selected, but elected to parliament. Twelve of them are in parliament, and they campaigned and did everything else politicians do to get into parliament, so what are we talking about?", he asked.

Reider, in an interview with Vanguard editor Gibril Koroma Saturday August 12 added that there is no law in the country’s law books preventing paramount chiefs from involving in politics.

"We should not disenfranchise them or take away their constitutional rights", he said.

Reider added that a lot of the chiefs in the north are now in the SLPP and that the support of those in the south and east are what he called "a foregone conclusion".

The SLPP spokesman also gave a brief lecture on SLPP history to buttress his points.He said the SLPP was basically founded by paramount chiefs and that Bai Farama Tass, a northern chief, would have have been the first SLPP leader but the position was later given to Sir Milton Margai, the first medical doctor born in the provinces.He also mentioned famous SLPP members like the late Paramount Chief Taplima Ngobeh and Paramount Chief Madam Ella Koblo Gulama.

On the criticism that paramount chiefs who declare for the ruling party would not create a level playing field for the oppostion parties, Reider said paramount chiefs are not only politicians but guardians of the peace and security of their chiefdoms.

"They will not allow for example a Foday Sankoh kind of person to come and seek the mandate of their people because if anything goes wrong, they will be some of the first victims", he explained.

On the political situation in Biriwa chiefdom,in the north of the country, Reider said it’s not true that the Local Government ministry tried to conduct that chieftaincy election but were told to back off by NEC head Christiana Thorpe, nor did any ministry official request election materials from her. He maintained that the SLPP government will always recognise and respect the directives of NEC as the body with the mandate to conduct elections. The Local Government ministry, he stressed, is only an overseer.

In what many observers consider a bold attempt to assert herself and stamp her authority on the conduct of elections in the country, the head of the National Electoral Commission of Sierra Leone, Miss Christiana Thorpe recently postponed a chieftaincy election in the north of the country and has advised in a recent press conference in Freetown that paramount chiefs should be neutral in politcs as the custodians of the sacred norms and traditons of the people.

The surprise move by Miss Thorpe to postpone the Biriwa chieftaincy election in an atmosphere of tension and lack of proper documentation while facing intense pressure from the ruling SLPP government has been lauded by many Sierra Leoneans at home and abroad.These Sierra Leoneans however stressed that she needs total support(when she does the right things) and severe criticism(when she does the wrong things)in order for the country to have free, transparent and fair elections in July 2007.

In addition to Christiana Thorpe, members of the main opposition parties have publicly and privately condemned what they called the "meddling" of the chiefs in national politics and the open support of some of them for the ruling party to the disadvantage or detriment of the opposition. Ernest Bai Koroma,the APC leader, urged them to change their attitude or face the consequences.

Paramount Chiefs, the most powerful traditional rulers in the country (a local aristocracy) were prime targets during the country’s brutal and savage civil war. Many were killed and their homes torched. Some relocated from their chiefdoms to Freetown, the capital and other major towns. Others simply fled the country.

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