The embattled Minority Leader of Parliament, Hon. Dr. Bernadette Lahai, says she is amicable but principled, the reason she claims 26 out of 42 opposition MPs are bent on replacing her on allegations that she is pro-All Peoples Congress.
Hon. Dr. Lahai was speaking at a press conference held at her office in Parliament last Friday. She dismissed the 26 petitioners as “irrelevant and irresponsible” because they do not participate in proceedings in the House, as well as being inconsistent and irregular at proceedings.
The Minority Leader was speaking few days after majority of her opposition colleagues – who had signed a petition for her to step down or be removed – reiterated their position last week. The petition was endorsed by the highest decision making body of the opposition Sierra Leone Peoples Party, NEC.
However, Dr. Lahai still maintains in her current position, thanks to a hurriedly sought and obtained injunction which effectively blocked her anticipated removal as leader of the opposition in Parliament.
She revealed that since the matter is now in the hands of the Judiciary and because she believes in the rule of law, she was only following a court order by still remaining in her position as Minority Leader. She said the party should have heard her side of the story in the interest of natural justice before reaching a conclusion to replace her.
She said the act of staging a walk-out anytime she is given the chance to speak in Parliament was not helpful as the protesting MPs are only undermining their sacred duties as representatives of the people.
Twenty-six of the lawmakers who signed the petition have adopted a defiant way to protest the decision by the court to grant an injunction preventing the removal of Dr. Lahai, by walking out whenever she speaks in the House.
Also, the 26 opposition MPs have accused Dr. Lahai of selling out to the ruling party, citing her move to nominate the current Speaker during elections for a new Speaker, and her penchant to support the ruling party during crucial deliberations in the House. She was quick to dismiss the allegations though.
“The Presidential Address is not a party issue but a national issue that affects the lives of our constituents. But how things could work when they keep walking out during debates, and how can the problem faced by their constituents be heard without their representatives contributions?” she rhetorically asked, adding that the gesture was a disservice to the MPs’ constituents.
According to Dr. Lahai, justice must prevail and that the dispute should be addressed democratically with both sides given adequate time to state their case. She insisted that she is not thirsty for power or in search of fame, but believes in principles.
“If I lose the position of being Minority Leader, I will still be a party member as I have first lost the position of the party’s Women’s Leader in 2009 and did not leave the party; instead I focused on fighting for the party and advocating for women in politics and the nation as a whole,” stated Dr. Lahai. “It does not mean if I lose any position I will fail my party; I will pay all my contributions and will participate in all activities.”
Meanwhile, Hon. Sualiho M. Koroma said the 26 petitioners who walk-out during proceedings do not only hold the party to ransom but the people who voted them as representatives.
He said the purpose of impeaching the Minority Leader was not in the party’s interest, but borne out of malice.