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Tribute to the late SAJ Pratt

24 January 2018 at 22:54 | 2332 views

Tribute to the late senior comrade Honourable Solomon Athanasius Jolliboy Pratt (pictured) by the All People Congress (APC) delivered by Ambassador Alhaji Dr. Osman F.Yansaneh, National Secretary General of the APC.

Mr. Chairman,
Your Excellency the Chairman & Leader of the All Peoples Congress, President Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma,
The Honourable Vice President Dr. Victor Bockarie Foh,
The Outgoing Deputy Speaker Hon. Chernor Bah,
The Honourable Chief Justice Abdulai Charm,
The Outgoing Minority Leader Dr. Bernadette Lahai,
Cabinet Ministers,
Members of the outgone 4th Parliament of the Second Republic,
Ambassador of the Peoples Republic of China to Sierra Leone,
Members of the Diplomatic Corps,
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

The All Peoples Congress (APC) is very proud to boast that we had in our ranks for over 50 continuous years, one of the greatest sons of the soil of Sierra Leone, Professor Solomon Athanasius Jolliboy James Pratt, whom we are all gathered to pay tribute to this afternoon.

Senior Comrade Solomon Pratt formally joined the APC just a few months to the pivotal 1967 elections which outcome saw for the very first time in Africa, an Opposition party democratically sweep a ruling party out of governance. He was introduced to the then APC Leader Dr. Siaka Stevens by one of his son-in-laws the late Edward Babatunde Blyden. The leadership warmly embraced Pratt who was already nationally noted as a formidable brain.

It is no gainsaying that despite he only joined the APC few months to the crucial 1967 elections, the role played by Senior Comrade Pratt was significant and so monumental that one cannot easily say the APC could have won the 1967 elections without Senior Comrade Solomon Pratt.

It was Senior Comrade Solomon Pratt who helped the Leader Siaka Stevens to overcome the obstacle of not having an Elections Manifesto when he not only swiftly put one together but used his connections in the Creole community to have the manifesto secretly printed when the ruling SLPP had threatened and intimidated most printing houses to not have anything to do with the opposition APC.

Again, when on the eve of the 1967 elections, the ruling SLPP dominated Parliament, hiked up the cost of Nomination Fees deposits from 100 (one hundred pounds sterling) to 250 (two hundred and fifty pounds sterling), it was Senior Comrade Solomon Pratt who took from his then lucrative savings and paid the nomination fees for dozens of APC candidates who just could not afford to raise the astronomical amounts at that last moment. Not only did Senior Comrade Solomon Pratt help pay for the candidates contesting in seats the APC was most likely to win but he also paid for candidates in even the ruling party stronghold because, as he then said, when a party can field candidates all over the country, it was a confidence booster and helped to convince the electorate that such a party was serious to take over national governance. Indeed the results of 32 candidates for the APC to 28 candidates for the SLPP could not have been possible without the financial support from Senior Comrade S.A.J. Pratt to enable all APC candidates to be successfully nominated.

Despite the clean victory of the APC in those elections with 32 seats over the ruling party’s 28 seats, enemies of a democratic transition sent the military to usurp the transition of power from the SLPP to the newly elected APC in March 1967. So it was that Comrade Solomon Pratt, Comrade D.F. Shears and other proposed members of the new Stevens Cabinet were put under gunpoint alongside the APC Leader on March 21st 1967 and martial law was declared, the Constitution was suspended and soldiers in support of the SLPP took over government. Then followed a series of military events that saw the democratically elected APC of Siaka Stevens in disarray with the democratically elected Prime Minister Siaka Stevens forced to run away into exile for a period of over one year until 1968.

Again in 1968, Comrade Solomon Pratt’s astuteness assisted from behind the scenes as he coordinated the overthrow of the Juxon Smith military regime and the re-instatement of the democratically elected APC led by Siaka Stevens. On Page 185 to 187 of his Autobiography book, Comrade Solomon Pratt explains in gripping detail how he coordinated the other ranks soldiers to not only overthrow the Juxon-Smith military regime but he ensured that Siaka Stevens was brought back safely. In his words as he recounted the dangerous mission he was a part of, he said and I quote: “I was the only APC politician at large whom they would trust. They already had formulated their plan for what to do. They wanted my views and approval, whether to carry on or not.” And indeed Comrade Solomon Pratt gave his approval and guidance and then proceeded to fast and pray for the success of the overthrow of the military and the re-instatement of the APC and Siaka Stevens. He explains how in the middle of the night after the successful operation, the soldiers drove straight to his house at Regent with his wife so scared that she ran to hide herself in tears. Comrade Pratt had to reassure his wife that the soldiers who had just overthrown the illegal military regime were friends of democracy and working with Comrade Pratt to restore the APC and Siaka Stevens back into governance away from the military who had usurped power from the APC.

Then followed a series of delicate legal and constitutional steps to re-instate constitutionality inside Sierra Leone. Fortunately for the APC, Comrade Pratt was a brilliant lawyer and he swiftly ensured the steps which Her Majesty the Queen needed to do were all done. So it was that on 26th April 1968, just a little over a week since the Juxon Smith military regime was overthrown on 18th April 1968, that Comrade Siaka Stevens rode triumphantly from exile straight to State House as the legitimate and constitutional Prime Minister of Sierra Leone.

Then followed 50 years of dedicated service to Sierra Leone and the ruling APC by Comrade Solomon Pratt which saw him serve as Cabinet Minister for many ministries including Foreign Affairs, Economic Development & Planning, Trade & Industry, Internal Affairs & Local Government and also emerged as the very first Attorney General of the Republic of Sierra Leone.

Senior Comrade Solomon Pratt did not just use his legal prowess in helping our party but in terms of social mobilisation skills, Comrade Pratt was very skillful in luring members of his Creole community over to support our great party so much so that he became fondly dubbed as the DOYEN OF CREOLE POLITICS.

Senior Comrade Solomon Pratt, a gifted musician, was also very helpful in fine-tuning the words of the APC Victory Song to not only rhyme but to fit into the beautiful musical chords. He is to be credited with the sweetness of the APC party song that flows so sweet to the ears of our own people.

When I and some Comrades visited him in November last year in his sick bed where he was under oxygen in a London hospital, he gave us a 30-minute lecture concentrated mostly on his activities in the APC. But he told me one thing that in this APC victory song, we never mentioned GOD BLESS SIERRA LEONE. He insisted that we should mention GOD in at least one of the stanzas. I told his Excellency the President and the third stanza of our party song will now reflect the word GOD.

Comrade Solomon Pratt retired from active politics in 1982 but continued to serve as a valuable adviser to the next generation of APC politicians whom he had trained and continued to mentor especially within the legal profession such as two great Comrades in persons of Comrade Eddie Turay and Comrade Serry Kamal.

In 1995 when the APC was trying to be re-registered under the NPRC military regime which had overthrown it in 1992, there was a problem which emerged with the Electoral Commission insisting that they could not register the APC as a party since that APC no longer existed. It was the late Comrade Solomon Pratt whom we turned to as a party for assistance. We went to him in order to ask for his help to save the party. The current Hon. Vice President Dr. Victor Bockarie Foh recounts how at his wits’ end with the deadline for parties to be recognised looming nigh, he ran to Solomon Pratt and though Pratt was now at the ripe age of 75 years, he immediately recognised the legal issues and drafted the words of the LEGAL PREAMBLE which made it impossible for the Elections Commission to refuse to recognise and re-register the political party with the name ALL PEOPLES CONGRESS.

So once again, in 1995 at the age of 75 years, just like in 1967 and just like in 1968, Senior Comrade Solomon Pratt ensured the continuity of the APC. The legal words written at the front of our APC Constitution were drafted by Comrade Solomon Pratt. So every time we open our APC party constitution, we are first met with the words written down for us by our dear late Comrade.

To conclude, let me reiterate that since he joined the APC party in early 1967 until he passed on in late 2017, Senior Comrade Solomon Pratt never wavered in his support for the APC and through thick and thin, he has stood by the APC. In his later years, he relocated to reside permanently in the United Kingdom. Out there, despite his advanced age, he remained a fully-paid up member of the APC branch in the United Kingdom and Ireland and according to the APC Executive out there, the late Comrade Solomon Pratt was always one of the first to pay his monthly subscription dues to the APC.

For all the above and many more, the APC therefore remains eternally grateful to Comrade Pratt and we want to assure his family members that the APC is their home and will always be the home of any member of the Solomon Pratt family. Let me on behalf of His Excellency the Chairman & Leader of our party and the entire membership of the APC, once again extend our sincerest condolence to the family of our late Comrade.

May his soul rest in perfect peace. Amen.

Alhaji Dr. Osman Foday Yansaneh

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