Puawui – Dr Sama Banya: Sierra Leone Telegraph: 15 November 2019:
Social media is currently agog with different opinions culminating from a communication addressed to the Chief Minister Prof. David Francis, on whether or not a bribe of $1.5 million was paid into his account by a mining company that had refused to pay a fee of one million Leones to the government.
That was the story, or the alleged investigative question put by an a supposedly innocent journalist to the minister. The chief minister seeing the real motive behind the question, could smell attempted blackmail or political smear and quite rightly in my opinion, immediately informed both the Criminal Investigations Department and the Anti-Corruption Commission.
Many supporters of the journalist Sallieu-Jalloh (Photo) are of the opinion that he was merely seeking information that would enable him to complete a story which in his words was almost complete. If that was the case, he must already have assumed the veracity of the story and merely wanted a yes or no from the Chief Minister.
In late 2006 former President Tejan-Kabbah sent me as a Special Envoy to his friend and brother the Libyan leader Colonel Muhammar Gaddafi to remind the latter about the request that he President Tejan Kabbah had previously made for assistance with rice and support with transportation and health related projects. In my presentation, I stated that the President was being ridiculed by his detractors in the West because his so-called friend had let him down over a simple request.
Gaddafi almost went through the roof with rage; he said that whatever transaction there was between African brothers was no business of the imperialist West and that he would therefore not succumb to subtle black mail.
Fortunately, Alhaji Mohamed Samura our Envoy to Libya, who knew Gaddafi well, soothed his rage and we continued our discussion in a calm atmosphere before we left him.
Early the following morning we were invited to the Libyan Technical Cooperative offices of the Jamahiriya where we were asked to make a list of our requirements. We added the much-needed rice at the time.
A few months after my visit, a large consignment of assorted vehicles arrived from Tripoli and President Tejan-Kabbah (Photo) invited special guests and the Sierra Leone press to go and view the gifts which were assembled at the military headquarters in Cockrill.
Most of the leading newspapers, radio and TV stations were present, led by the then President of the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ) Alhajie Ibrahim Ben Kargbo; Some of them boarded one of the new buses and admired the variety of items which also included refuse collection trucks and water bowsers.
Some weeks after the arrival of that consignment, a ship load of Libyan donated rice arrived at the Queen Elizabeth quay. While the rice was been offloaded, I made a request to the Libyan government through the Libyan Ambassador who was with me at the quayside, for the rice to be sold at concessionary prices to ordinary people rather than to wholesalers; and that the proceeds from the sale be used as ‘Seed money’ to kick start the government’s now very successful National Social Security and Insurance Trust (NASSIT) – to which the Libyan government readily agreed.
The distribution of the rice was discussed in Parliament under the chairmanship of the then APC opposition leader Hon. Ernest Bai Koroma, later President of Sierra Leone. The whole exercise was broadcast on radio and Television as well as in many of our newspapers. (Photo: Koroma – right and Charles Margai – left).
In 2007 and close to the Presidential and Parliamentary elections, the Libyan leader paid a state visit to Sierra Leone. At a rally at the National Stadium President Tejan-Kabbah again publicly thanked the Libyan leader for his wonderful gesture to Sierra Leone in her time of need.
On the morning after the rally the front page of the Standard Times Newspaper carried the following headline by its managing editor and owner Philip Neville; “IT IS ONLY DURING THS VISIT OF PRESIDENT GADDAFFI THAT THE PEOPLE OF SIERRA LEONE HAVE BEEN TOLD OF THE LYBIAN GIFT OF RICE.” Boom!! That was ammunition for both the APC and PMDC parties and their supporters. “WHERE IS OUR RICE?” became their campaign slogan throughout the country.
In Koindu in the Kailahun district the PMDC leader Charles Margai was alleged to have told his audience that the rice that was intended for the people of Sierra Leone had in fact been shipped and sold in Ghana by the SLPP government. When a young man in the audience shouted that it was a lie, Mr. Margai was reported to have threatened to have him arrested.
The disappointing, surprising and damaging aspect of Philip Neville’s propaganda front page headline was that not a single editor or journalist who was at Cockril along with President Tejan- Kabbah on inspection that morning, had the courage to say “No, it wasn’t so; the arrival of those gifts were published in our newspapers or on radio.” They all maintained a stoic silence.
It has recently been announced that Sierra Leone has passed the MCC test which qualifies governments for the United States government offer of assistance to African countries.
The Vice President Dr. Mohamed Juldeh Jalloh (Photo) is expected to leave shortly for Washington in order to receive the award. It may be recalled that the vigilance and success of the Anti-Corruption Commission under Francis Ben Kaifala played a prominent part in our earning the award.
The SLPP government of President Bio has continued to make success in other areas of good governance – all of which are earning commendations, with promises of development assistance from our international partners.
That must be a source of discomfiture to the opposition APC, many of whose leaders are now facing Commissions of Inquiry into corruption and unexplained wealth. What better way of throwing a spanner in the reputation of this government and its leaders than to tell the world that “all that glitters is not gold” and that there is corruption at the highest level within the SLPP.
The Chief Minister Professor David Francis was the chairman of the taskforce that initially uncovered the massive corruption practice of the previous APC government. By discrediting him the APC would have put a pin through the pomposity of the SLPP.
And who better to do it than APC’s agents; correspondents from both the Standards Times and Sierra Express newspapers have been mentioned as associates of Sallieu-Jalloh. A Mariatu Kamara who works with the Financial Intelligence Unit FIU) is also being mentioned in the conspiracy.
Like the Standard Times newspaper in 2007, like the Sierra Leone Times newspaper in 2019! Is Sallieu-Jalloh the innocent investigative journalist that his peers would like us to believe? In the meantime he has partly achieved his objective of keeping the name of the Chief Minister in the news for the wrong reasons.
But thank God, the man can and has lifted his head high and as much as told them that where corruption is concerned, they could go jump in the Atlantic Ocean. If on the other hand their hope is that the invented story of corruption scandal would lead to a reversal of the MCC award to this government, then they should have another think.
DÉJÀ VU – yes, we have been through this before.