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Page added on March 31, 2012
Former Sierra Leonean ambassador to the United States of America, John Leigh (in photo) said he failed to see reason why he should follow and support the candidature of Julius Maada Bio, a man who he said has blood stains in his hands.
John Leigh was responding to interview questions Sierra Express Media posed to him on his recent decision to lean over his support to the ruling All People’s Congress (APC).
He said he gave the issue a final thought following a four month period of lull on his losing the flagbearer contest in the Sierra Leone People’s Party’s (SLPP) last delegates’ conference held in July of last year.
John Leigh said he was clear on such a stance from the beginning that he was not going to support a flag bearer whose past records are blemished.
He said his special take on the SLPP is that of tribalism and regionalism which he said is a cancer in the dynasty of that party that is hard to heal.
As to why he failed to impress a vote cast in his last two flag bearer bids, he said being a Creole in the SLPP has cost him much as he has always met stiff resistance in getting to the top.
Read his interview verbatim below.
Mr. John Leigh, your recent visit to Sierra Leone has been a cause of major news headlines. We at SEM also understand that you are decamping from the SLPP to the APC. Can you take us through the journey resulting to this decision?
Well I would like to thank you for the question and I will try to answer it as accurately as I can. I am not decamping from the SLPP to the APC. I went through a three stage phase. In the first phase, I thought about the whole experience in the SLPP going backward. I did that for four and a half months, from the end of the convention in July to November; then on December 15th, 2011 I officially resigned. After which I did nothing else but observed all the political parties and reviewed all their records and then I decided to recognize and support President Koroma because I looked at all the other candidates and I came to the conclusion that President Koroma’s records and personality are far superior to any one of them. So it was then that I decided to apply for the APC. Yesterday I was admitted into the membership of the APC, and I am delighted to show you my registration card.
Your resignation and transfer of allegiance from the SLPP is considered as a breach of confidence as you signed a communiqué which committed your future in that party. You contested and you didn’t win?
There was no agreement by any group or party or memorandum saying that you cannot resign from the party. What we agreed on is that the losers should support the winners. There were several other clauses in the agreement pointing that the flag bearer contest should be held on a level playing field; that the ugly malpractices which occurred in the Makeni convention will certainly not happen again. They will allow anybody to present this case and at the end of the day, they will go and vote freely and fairly and we would pick a winner. One of the candidates had lied about their record; he lied to his people, so under such circumstances we consider it a breach.
Who is that candidate?
I prefer not to mention any names right now, but what I am saying is that this candidate had blatantly lied about the bad record he had and he was acting like a new born angel and the party failed to correct him. As a result of this, I had to consider the agreement breached. In any agreement, there is an assumption of good faith and fair dealing. If you are dishonest or lack integrity, then the agreement is null and void. I actually never opposed him; all I did was wait until December before I tendered my resignation. After I recontemplated the ten years I spent at the SLPP, I noticed that there was marginalization, exclusion and discrimination, and I chose not to be part of it all. Rather than supporting someone with a bad record, I decided to peacefully leave the party.
Mr. John Leigh as you may be aware; you are not the first person to have left the SLPP. Very high profiled members of the SLPP have already done what you are now doing. Can you tell us why this is so, or you do share the same reasons.
Well I have not spoken to all of them; I can only speak for myself on why I left. My own record is a very different record. I did all kinds of work for the SLPP: I travelled the length and the breath of the country for the past 15 to 16 years. There is a feeling in the SLPP that if you are not Kpa Mende it is almost impossible for you to be given positions such as the flag bearer. I mean they made a few exceptions back then with former president Kabba, but that was only because there was no viable southerner to fill that void at the time. Now they think Bio is a candidate, Bio is from Benguma that’s where he went to college. If they think Bio is competitive, then I have nothing to do but laugh on their faces because I know who Maada Bio is.
Mr. Leigh, it seems as if you are indicting the SLPP in an unwholesome way.
Oh no, I’m not indicting the SLPP, I’m trying to educate the voting public on my experiences at the SLPP and the type of candidate they have projected, I think that is something the nation deserves to know. Most of the SLPP followers do not want to say anything about their candidate. This is fact, if you say there is evidence that their candidate dented the national coffers before President Kabba came in, they will be upset. It’s the truth but they dislike it when you say that. They don’t want the public to know Bio’s real records. I think it is wrong for democracy. Democracy means you vote and collect information so to enable you to make informed choices.
Is the defection of people from major political parties reversing the gains of the country’s multi-party democracy?
Well if they do that it will reverse the situation. President Koroma was struggling by himself with only a few people in his team. Now if people with substantial international knowledge and experience decided to join the APC and work with him, I see nothing wrong with that. There are still a lot of members left in the SLPP who could still be a force to reckon with. I’m certain that the SLPP is not going bankrupt or emptied of quality members. I have joined the APC for two reasons; I respect President Koroma, he has done a good job; he has opened the country to development and I believe the APC cares more about its membership than the SLPP does. Only the high profiled people in the SLPP prosper, the ordinary member can work for the SLPP for 10 years and yet they would not be recognized. I was in Bo recently and I met a woman who was desecrated by some mobs. They beat her up and stabbed her and then removed her clothes in public. The APC took care of her, sent her to Ghana for treatment and she has come back. I wondered if the SLPP will ever do that. In recent cases people have been scared to come out and register or vote because they are afraid if there is violence, nobody will protect them.
What is your relationship with Usman Boie Kamara, a former colleague, you both contested for the flag bearer position in the SLPP?
Well our relationship is certainly correct but I won’t say we are friends. I never knew Boie before, I only knew him in 2010 when he joined the party. Apart from that, all that I will say is that our relationship is correct.
The November elections are approaching and there are signs following the whole situation would be chaotic, do you subscribe to this?
Well there are a lot of wild people in the SLPP, during the flag bearer convention there was violence in the streets. That was the main reason why I decided not to give my support to Bio. Some of the men I saw behind Bio are men I believe they have contributed to the uprisings that have occurred so far in the country, I certainly do not see those men anymore. I think President Koroma is doing a good job in trying to combat violence. The police force has been increased by 5,000 troops to an upgraded inventory. He has also invited the ICC as an international observer. I am seriously confident that, come the November elections there will be nothing to fret about. Why I also don’t like the flag bearer of the SLPP is that he went ahead campaigning and appealed to the base instincts of the people in the south that if he doesn’t get the presidency he will conduct a fight.
It seems like your reasons for leaving the SLPP are purely based on the candidacy of Maada Bio. Do you have anything personal against the party or is the matter all about Maada Bio?
My reason for leaving the SLPP is not mainly because of Maada Bio. For 10 years I was marginalized, excluded and was discriminated against. I was unhappy with the way the convention was handled. I had stayed that long because I wanted to be sure why I was leaving. I have done everything to be accommodated but I wasn’t wanted there. I do not belong there. The new SLPP is way worse than the old SLPP; and surprisingly the new APC has proven to be quite better than the previous one under the then leadership of Siaka Stevens which I didn’t like.
Do you think your presence at the APC will create a far better image of you than we are foreseeing.
There are a lot of misunderstandings about the APC; what I have seen so far is very impressive, members of the APC are loyal. I have been well received at the APC camp. If I can do anything to improve the outside image of the APC, then with no doubt I will do it, certainly. Because of the leadership APC has, I feel comfortable to say they are a far better organization than the SLPP.
How do you intend to help president Koroma?
I am going into the APC as a political refugee from the SLPP, I asked the APC for sanctuary and they have received me nicely. The APC owes me nothing. I asked them for a favour and they have responded kindly.
Mr. Leigh a few minutes ago you mentioned the ICC, which the president of course is asking for them to showcase in the upcoming elections. You mentioned again about violence. In President Koroma’s cabinet there is a particular minister by the name of Musa Tarawally who has been linked with perpetrating violence. What is your view on Musa?
There is a commissions report on the floor, the Shears Moses report on which the government has associated with the white paper report. The position of the SLPP is that the president should implement the recommendations on the face value because that is his duty. The commission of enquiry is not the court of law. You know President Koroma doesn’t rush to take any action or decision right away. As for Leather Boot he is currently facing the disciplinary committee. Musa Tarawallie is a political decision. The president will have to decide on him later on and as Yete Yete’s is a police council issue; the council will have to decide on his fate. When you are issuing justice, you must be deliberate. If you hurry you will end up being sorry. I have never seen the president angry, he is not the type.
Mr. Leigh as a lawyer yourself, should the president ask you for any advice regarding the Shears Moses report, what piece of it would you give to him?
He has never asked me before to advise him and I wouldn’t want to speculate on that. I will surely cross that bridge when we get there.
Well Sierra Express is now asking what your candid recommendations would be.
If I were him I would read the report thoroughly and understand it. I would also confirm it with my Attorney General and make sure that the appropriate measures are taken.
So what is your advice to the remaining loyal members of the SLPP?
I will say let them remain loyal. All I can add to it is that if they want this country to be developed, they must carefully review all the candidates’ records. I also want to urge Sierra Leoneans to join me and vote for President Koroma and work with him for our prosperity as a nation.
Any advice for the president?
Well all the president needs to do now is to maintain his steady hand, his loyalty to the people, and he should appeal to the people’s unity and harmony.
What lessons should the SLPP learn from all the defections?
Honestly the SLPP is not going to learn anything, not in my life time.
Thank you very much, Mr. John Leigh.
You are most welcome.
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