In a democracy like ours marred with so many challenges, upholding the Rule of Law and Constitutionality must not be sacrificed on an altar. At a time when under the APC, there are greater threats to the very principles of the Rule of Law and flagrant disregard of our sacred constitution, the SLPP must show the moral authority that the Party will and can abide by the law, the constitution and above all show deference to the court.
But with the recent High Court ruling and the ongoing peace process, the SLPP faces a serious test. Some in the Alliance have said that the party should disregard the high court ruling, disenfranchise hundreds of SLPP members in 39 constituencies and cancel the elections of those who have been legitimately elected and vindicated by the court in the 39 constituencies otherwise they will not cooperate with the peace process.
It is ironic that members of the Alliance who have argued for months after months that SLPP should conform to the Rule of Law, that no member of the party should be disenfranchised and that the lower level elections must be conducted according to law are now eroding on their principles. In a way, it gives credence to the claim of Dr Tengbeh, the sole architect of the Alliance, who said certain members have deviated from the core principles of the Alliance and it is being hijacked by a new coalition. Mr John Benjamin was more brutal describing the Alliance as corrupt and its elections flawed.
But despite the seeming implosion of the Alliance, every genuine SLPP must now focus on consolidating peace and every flagbearer Aspirant has a moral obligation to do the same. To do so we must all be honest with the peace process, respect the Rule of Law and don’t deliberately skew facts. Few Aspirants of the Alliance who have called for the Party to disregard the court ruling and redo the 39 constituencies have argued that that was what contained in the Joint Communique signed by all flagbearer Aspirants signed on 8th February 2017.
However, what the members of the Alliance have also deliberately failed to state was that there were three important issues fundamental to the Joint Communique: first, that the plaintiffs should withdraw all matters from the court; second, the signed Joint Communique should be adopted by an Emergency NEC Meeting to have any legitimacy and third a Special Peace Committee should work on a framework for sustainable peace.
In the Emergency SLPP NEC Meeting held on the Tuesday 14th February 2017 majority of the flagbearer aspirants and/or their representatives, National Officers, MPs, other NEC members and various stakeholders met and discussed the various proposals from the Joint Communique. It is important to note that at the Emergency NEC Meeting the issue of the 39 constituencies arose again and very specifically in para 5 (ii) of the NEC Resolution the Special Peace Committee headed by Dr Alie Kabbah was given the task to re-examine the situation IN LIGHT OF the court ruling which was due on the Wednesday 15th February 2017. The NEC Resolution even went further to state that in the re-examination of the 39 constituencies WHERE NECESSARY elections will be held on certain dates. Yes, only WHERE NECESSARY.
The obvious question now is: why in that Emergency NEC Meeting the Aspirants of the Alliance and their supporters who attended the NEC meeting did not raise the red flag before the NEC Resolution was adopted that the earlier signed Joint Communique contained a proposal for the 39 constituencies to be redone? Interestingly, the Aspirants of the Alliance and their supporters who are NEC members all agreed and adopted the NEC Resolution that the Special Peace Committee should re-examine the 39 constituencies IN LIGHT OF the court ruling.
It is also important to note that immediately after the Joint Communique was signed on 8th February 2017 and before the Emergency NEC Meeting the three Plaintiffs for the 39 constituencies who are also members of the Alliance issued a Press Release stating among other things that they were not parties to the Joint Communique and they wanted the court to give judgement on their matter. There was at no point in which Aspirants in the Alliance disassociated themselves from the position of the plaintiffs. Before the Emergency NEC Meeting the plaintiffs then pursued that strong position undermining the Joint Communique in a meeting with the Special Peace Committee.
Therefore, it would appear in a bid to incorporate the views from all sides, not least the protest by the three plaintiffs, who are also members of the Alliance when NEC met it was resolved that the 39 constituencies would be re-examined in the light of the court ruling. And one reason why the Aspirants in the Alliance would not have condemned the plaintiffs even when their demands were contrary to the Joint Communique was because they all must have thought that the Alliance had a good case before the Judge and as such the ruling would go in their favour. So the plaintiffs failed to withdraw the matter and as the report of the Peace Committee highlighted the plaintiffs and their lawyers showed no good faith.
In a dramatic u-turn for the Plaintiffs and the Alliance, now that the court judgement had not gone in their favour, they want to go back to the Joint Communique which was subsequently adopted and agreed in the Emergency NEC meeting attended by the very Aspirants that the 39 constituencies will be re-examined in light of the court judgement. Also, to show the further inconsistent approach by members of the Alliance, according to the Report of the Special Peace Committee we now know that when their views were sought after the Court Ruling they again changed their position from redoing the 39 constituencies to ignore the court ruling and cancel (not redo) the elections in the 39 constituencies.
And for those who say that those elections in the 39 constituencies should be cancelled or redone (depending on whether you belong to Hard Alliance or Soft Alliance) the question for them is: what if all those elected party members in the 39 constituencies take the party to court for denying them their rights which have been granted by the high court to serve in their various 39 constituencies after validating their elections?
We will be putting the Party at the risk of endless court cases for which the Party will never extricate itself in a court of law. The Party can simply not defend its action to cancel or redo elections validated by the court by saying in a court of law “We have denied the rights granted by a high court ruling to elected members in 39 constituencies because few other members threaten the peace of the Party”. We cannot also afford to start looking inwards and to reopen the same old conversation about lower level elections and petitions when we must now focus our energies on a very important election issue – voter registration.
And to our brothers and sisters in the Alliance who continue to point fingers about parallel lists, maybe they should read page 24 of the high court ruling where the Learned Judge made it very clear that because it was the gazetted Rules and Regulations which were applicable for the conduct of the elections, those who apply the other rules – Rules and Regulations as amended – it is they who have created the parallel lists. “In a situation where such rules were used and all of a sudden you apply the other rules to wit, ‘the Rules and Regulations as amended’ to suit yourselves, the said party as supported by the 3 plaintiffs herein will be wrong to say that parallel lists were created by the defendants. It is the otherside rather that have created the parallel lists,” the Learned Judge stated.
However, while we have also learnt that the plaintiffs have filed an appeal on the High Court Ruling at the Court of Appeal undermining the Peace Process, we must nevertheless continue to promote and consolidate peace within the Party as the APC must have opened the money vault for the political transfer market. And With the recent APC “signing”, this is how I put it: every football player may have his value but as those who watch the English Premier League will know if Sunderland FC were now to sign Mikel Obi from Chelsea FC and organise a big welcome for the fringe player then you know Sunderland FC is fighting a relegation battle.
As I end this piece, I entreat all well-meaning SLPP members to commend Dr Alie Kabbah and his team which included members from all sides for their unbiased and pragmatic report which has been submitted to the National Executive Council especially the proposal for NEC to uphold the court ruling with a commitment to inclusive, fair and transparent engagement of all factions and stakeholders in order to deepen trust and faith in the Party. Put simply, respect for the Rule of Law and promoting peace must go together in SLPP.