Presidential Aspirants, Leaders and Chairmen of opposition political parties in Sierra Leone on Thursday 12th July 2012 seemingly boycotted the opening of the Book of Condolence and Civic Laying-Out Ceremony for the mother of His Excellency President Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma, the late Mrs. Alice Rosaline Koroma at the Miatta Conference Hall in Freetown. However, investigations by this medium indicates the absences were not so much a boycott as they were as a result of poor protocol arrangements on the part of the organisers of the Civic event.
These opposition political leaders include members of the Sierra Leone Peoples Part (SLPP), the Peoples Movement for Democratic Change (PMDC) ,the United Democratic Movement(UDM) and the National Democratic Alliance(NDA).
According to the Order of Service, the Chairman of SLPP, Mr. John Oponjo Benjamin, was supposed to sign the book of condolence on behalf of his party to be followed by Mr. Charles Francis Margai for the PMDC, Mr. Mohamed Bangura for the UDM and Mr. Alhaji Amadu Jalloh for the NDA respectively.
The Master of Ceremony (MC) announced the names of the parties for their Chairmen to come forward and sign the book of condolence on behalf of their political parties but none of them was present in the hall.
However, after repeated announcements of the names of the chairmen, two people came forward to represent the SLPP and the PMDC. For the NDA and the UDM, there was a total absence as they were totally unrepresented.
There were moments of murmuring in the jam-parked hall when the Chairmen were called upon to sign the book and none of them was present in the hall, especially for those who were totally unrepresented, UDM and NDA. It was clear that the gathering did not appreciate the absence of the chairmen from the funerals.
When contacted, the Official Spokesman for the NDA, Mr. Chernor Bah, said neither his Party Chairmen nor the NDA party was aware of the ceremony. He said they were not invited and that none of the organizers communicated about the ceremony to them. Mr. Bah said it was only when he was watching the ceremony live on national television in his office, that he heard the M.C. calling on the NDA to sign the book of condolence.
According to him, on Wednesday 11th July 2012, his party led a delegation to the house of the bereaved family at Hill Station and extended their condolences to the President and his family.
UDM’s National Spokesman, Mr. Editayo George Temple told this press that, indeed an invitation was sent to the UDM from the Freetown City Council, for the Chairman to attend the ceremony but it was delivered at about 6:00pm on Wednesday July 11. According to him, by that time, management was off duty. He said he personally received the letter in the morning of Thursday July 12 when he reported for work.
Mr. Temple stated that the UDM however managed to assign a representative to the ceremony. However, by the time the representative could arrive, he met H.E. the President had already entered the hall and as Sierra Leone protocol demands, the representative was not allowed to enter the hall after that time.
He said the UDM on Wednesday 11th July led a delegation to State Lodge and sympathized with the President and the bereaved family, adding that it was in no way a willful act to boycott the ceremony.
Neither the Chairman of the SLPP or the PMDC could be reached for their direct comments. Similarly, the official spokespersons could also not be reached for the parties’ official responses. However, a senior member of the SLPP National Executive told Awareness Times that the party did not receive their invitations on time.
It is a fact that both the SLPP and the PMDC had already led high powered delegations to the bereaved families to extend condolences.
It is therefore clear from investigations by this medium that the absences were not due to deliberate acts of boycotts but were as a result of poor protocol arrangements on the part of the organisers of the Civic Funeral, which was the Freetown City Council.
© Copyright by Awareness Times
Newspaper in Freetown, Sierra Leone.