The National Secretary General of Sierra Leone’s main opposition – the Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP), Mr. Sullaiman Banja Tejan Sie, spoke exclusively to the editor of the Sierra Leone Telegraph yesterday afternoon.
This interview comes in the wake of a renewed row, over the legality of Dr. Kandeh Yumkella’s membership of the SLPP party.
Just last week, during his meeting with SLPP executives at the party offices, Dr. Yumkella announced that he was upgrading his membership status from grand chief patron, which he said he had held since 2013, to that of distinguished grand chief patron, to the jubilation of many supporters of the party. He also paid his subscription for the next two years.
It seems however, there are some within the party chain of command that are not only continuing to question Yumkella’s membership status, but unofficially briefing the media – referring to evidence of Yumkella’s membership as fake.
But who in the party ought to know, whether Kandeh Yumkella is a legitimate registered member of the SLPP party, than its national secretary general.
Speaking to the editor of the Sierra Leone Telegraph yesterday, Mr. Sullaiman Banja Tejan Sie – National Secretary General of the Sierra Leone Peoples Party, unequivocally confirmed that, those questioning Dr. Yumkella’s membership of the party, are nothing but mischievous.
This is a transcript of the discussions with Mr. Sullaiman Banja Tejan Sie:
ART: Sierra Leoneans at home and abroad, were under the impression that the highly debated issue of Dr. Kandeh Yumkella’s status in the party, as a bona fide registered member, had been resolved. But according to latest media reports, there is still confusion. As the party Secretary General – What is the truth?
SBTS: The truth about the matter is as I have said and I will repeat it – Dr Kandeh Kolleh Yumkella is a bona fide member of the Sierra Leone Peoples’ Party having registered in at least four branches of the party, since 2013. I have documents, receipts of payment from the Bo office, especially from his mentor Dr. Yilla who he instructed to pay his registration fee and who also instructed to pay his dues from 2013.
Those documents are in my file. I also have a document – a letter from the Secretary General of the United Kingdom and Ireland branch, confirming that he registered in the UK and Ireland in one of its branches, and that he fully paid his dues in that regard and he was issued a card and a receipt to that effect. (Photo: SLPP Manchester UK Chapter Chairman, signing letter declaring Dr. Yumkella a paid-up member of the SLPP on 26 July 2015).
I also have in my custody a letter written by the Chairman of Continental Europe, also confirming that Kandeh Yumkella registered in their branch, paid all the dues regarding that registration, and was also issued with a receipt to that effect.
I have spoken to the chairman of the USA, and he has assured me that he will forward to me letters, receipts and documents confirming that Dr Kandeh Yumkella is a member of two chapters in the United States.
Taking all that into consideration, if that is not enough reason or acknowledgment of his membership, then I wonder what else will be.
I laid this issue to rest before I left Sierra Leone in a missive that I sent to the Coordinator of the KKY movement, who also happens to be a senior member of our party, and former ambassador – Daboh, in which I have categorically stated that he is a member of the party.
Those who continue to bring this to the fore, just want to bring the party into ridicule and disrepute. As a political party, we need numbers to win an election.
I have never seen this in my over thirty years of experience in politics. That we as a party will drive away potential members, when the values of our party are very apparent – we do not believe in exclusion and in any policy that excludes people from joining our party.
ART: But I think one of the issues raised by some of the local media in the last two days is that someone in the party executive or group of people within the executive, are questioning the legitimacy or authenticity of those registration documents that you refer to.
SBTS: I am a lawyer, and if I say something is authentic, I have done my research. Those people who are questioning this, need to look at the constitution of the SLPP and also the constitutions of the SLPP UK, USA and Continental Europe branches.
They will see that according to those constitutions, Dr. Kandeh Yumkella is a registered member of the SLPP. And I don’t know why this should be an issue, because there is nothing in our constitution that stops anybody from registering, or that stops anybody who has registered, from running for office within the party.
Let me give you a few examples: Retired Brigadier Julius Maada Bio joined the SLPP according to our records in 2005. In that same year, he ran for the office of leader and presidential candidate of our party, and nobody stopped him.
ART: And the constitution has not changed since then?
SBTS: The constitution has not changed since then. Also, the former chairman and leader of the party, John Opongo Benjamin, joined the party officially in 2004 and that same year, we made him candidate to run for Chairman of Kailahun District Council; and the following year in 2005, he was made a senior minister – Minister of Finance.
Ours is not a party that excludes people; ours is a party of opportunity. Anybody who can perform and who has all the necessary qualifications and experience is given an opportunity to perform for us – that has been the value and history of our party and nobody can change it.