Debate on non-partisan local Councils ends at Radisson Blu
In the midst of controversial public opinion over Government introduction of a non-partisan policy on the conduct of Local Council Elections, the Sierra Eye Magazine in collaboration with the Institute for Legal Research and Advocacy for Justice on Friday 12th February 2021 concluded a public debate of political stakeholders on the issue at the Radisson Blu, Mammy Yoko Hotel Aberdeen.
Debaters were drawn from different political parties including the ruling Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP), Unity Party (UP) and the National Grand Coalition (NGC). The ruling Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP) represented by their National Publicity Secretary and Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs, Lahai Lawrence Leema and Prince Coker were slated to speak in favour of the motion, while the NGC represented by their Chairman and Leader, Dr Denis Bright and UP represented by Madam Femi Caludius Cole, spoke against the motion.
In his opening, the moderator, BBC Umaru Fofanah disclosed that the policy instrument was already at the Law Officers Department on its way to t to Parliament for parliamentary debate. Laying the foundation for the debate, Fofanah dilated on the 2004 Local Government Act and referred to a statement issued by the National Elections Watch undermining the fact Sierra Leone is democratic State and that efforts must be made to build and nurture democracy through competitive multi elections at all levels.
Advancing his position for a non-partisan local Government election, Lahai Lawrence Leema argued that partisan politics at local government level would mitigate against development and deepen partisan divisions in communities. He anchored his position statistical surveys conducted before in which 11 of the 14 political districts surveyed favoured a no-party based local government elections.
On the other hand, the NGC Chair and Leader, Dr Denis Bright dismissed the previous speaker, describing the no-party notion as a non-starter that does not provide a solution to lack of community and disunity. He reiterated that political parties serve as a salvaging platform for disadvantaged individuals and minority groups who have a good will to serve at local government level.
On her part, Madam Femi Claudius Cole pointed out to the adverse effects of a no-political party system at local government, citing nepotism, bribery and tribalism that would creep into the body polity of the nation. “We will be in a situation where the winner takes all because they have the resources”, she noted. Both speakers (Dr Denis Bright and Madam Femi C. Cole) complained that they were not part of the consultations leading to the policy draft.
The Executive Director, Campaign for Good Governance, Marcella Samba Sesay, in her contribution, said that even though she took part in the consultations, she was not privy to the final document; and re- affirms the importance of political parties at all levels.
The Mayor, Freetown City Council, Yvonne Aki Sawyerr, pointed out that Government should provide the needed resources for local councils to operate effectively noting that her Council had been getting most of its support from donor partners. She referred to grass root set-ups such as market women organizations, where Chairladies and Mammy Queens are appointed along partisan politics.
Evalyn HH Cole
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