Bank official sacked in Sierra Leone after harmless banter with wife of the president

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 14 February 2021:

The Sierra Leone Telegraph has joined very loud calls in and outside of Sierra Leone for the reinstatement of a Union Trust Bank (UTB) employee – Mr. Garvyn Cole (Photo above), who was instantly dismissed last Thursday, after posting a message on the Facebook page of the wife of the President of Sierra Leone, calling for her to be more transparent and open in accounting for public funds.

According to many in Sierra Leone who are now calling for the reinstatement or compensation for the unfair dismissal of Mr Cole by the UTB, “this is an example of the climate of repression existing in the country today. This should tell us why many citizens in Sierra Leone are afraid to freely speak out on issues affecting their lives. We must defend Mr. Cole’s right to employment and free speech. His comment has nothing to do with his job.”

Mrs Fatima Bio – the wife of the president, has come under immense pressure from the public and media to give account for millions of dollars she is alleged to have received from the government to support her projects.

She is being accused of grotesque levels of corruption, using proxies and middlemen in the business sector and within the government to conceal her corruption.

Last week, the country’s Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) announced that it has commenced investigations into those allegations.

But many in Sierra Leone, including civil society are unconvinced about the political independence, honesty and commitment of the ACC to investigate the wife of the president, who is said to have a close relationship with the head of the ACC – Francis Ben Kaifala.

Commenting on his sacking, Garvyn Cole said: “Following my sacking by the CEO of UTB this morning, I have seen several views on social media on the issue and to my surprise, some people are even justifying my sacking by saying that my exchanges with the First Lady were political and violated the Bank’s policy. In light of such misconceptions, I find it necessary to make the following clarification:

“Firstly, I want to make it very clear that I did not contravene any of the Bank’s policy or code of ethics by my social media engagement with the First Lady (see below).  The exchanges with the First Lady were not insulting or disrespectful and did not even take place on her Facebook page.  I engaged her on an issue of accountability which being a tax paying citizen, I believe I am entitled to.

“None of my messages had anything to do with politics or campaigning or political party etc. It is very sad that it’s only in Sierra Leone that people view accountability issues as political, just because it had to do with a political figure. I challenge anyone to show me which bank policy I violated. The quoted Article 24 of our staff handbook merely provides for 1 month notice.

“I am extremely distressed that after diligently serving the bank for 6 years the CEO of the bank treated me like thrash and terminated my services without even affording me the dignity of an opportunity to be heard. But what is most shocking is the fact that he called me into his office this morning and this is what transpired:

MD: Na u dae argue with First Lady eh…

Me: Please mek ar explain Sir

MD: No need…Ar don see say me en u nor dae see wan sai pa political views, so you nor go continue for woke for me…you can leave my office now…

“The MD has done his own but this is not the end of my life. I am a qualified young man and have my life ahead of me, I won’t eat grass. I know he took that decision to use me as a scapegoat for his political interest. I have my political views but don’t let it interfere with my work ethics. I also know I have a right to freely express myself on national issues bordering on accountability, transparency and good governance and that is very different from politics. I feel victimized but as a young man, I don’t have what it takes to fight him in court, as a God-fearing person, I leave my case to God, let God be the judge between us.”

Many in Sierra Leone, including civil society groups have condemned Mr. Sampha Koroma – Managing Director of the Union Trust Bank for sacking Garvyn Cole, for what is now described as “politically motivated sacking by the Bank”.

Last Friday, Mr. Sampha Koroma happily hosted President Bio at his Bank in Makeni, just twenty-fours after sacking Mr Cole for chatting back at the wife of president Bio on Facebook, an act described by Mrs Bio as “out of order”.

President Bio and Sampha Koroma last Friday cut the ribbon at the opening of a new Union Trust Bank branch in Makeni, northern Sierra Leone.

Reacting to the sacking of Mr Cole after exercising his constitutional right to free speech, this is what the civil society group – Citizens Advocacy Network said:

“The Citizens Advocacy Network (hereinafter referred to as CAN) notes with concern, the recent sacking of Mr Garvyn Cole, an Employee of the Union Trust Bank Limited (UTB Ltd). Our investigations show that he was sacked on the 10th February, 2021 for merely expressing his opinion on Facebook on the much-talked-about allegations of CORRUPTION against the First Lady of the Republic of Sierra Leone, Madam Fatima Jabbie Maada Bio.

“It is the considered opinion of CAN that the decision to terminate the employment contract of an employee for expressing his opinion as a PRIVATE CITIZEN on such a crucially important national subject is a blatant violation of his fundamental human rights guaranteed by our sacred Constitution, Act No.6 of 1991; and other subordinate laws (both local and international).

“CAN therefore, calls on the Management of UTB Ltd to immediately review such an ill-advised decision and reinstate Mr Garvyn Cole. No institution’s policy shall contravene or be inconsistent with the “grund norm” of the country. All regulations, policies or rules must sync with the supreme laws of the land pursuant to section 171(15) of the Constitution of Sierra Leone, Act No.6.

“Note, however, that, should the Management of UTB Ltd fail to reinstate Mr Cole, CAN shall use all remedies within the confines of the laws to seek redress for and on behalf of same. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere!”

Signed:  Thomas Moore Conteh Executive Director, Citizens Advocacy Network Executive Director

A concerned citizen wrote: “The vindictive and reckless dismissal of Mr. Garvyn Cole by Union Trust Bank because he expressed his opinion is a violation of his constitutional right to free speech which is enshrined in Section 3 (25) (1) (2) of the Constitution of Sierra Leone – the most superior law of the land.

“Section 3 (25) (1) guarantees such expression while Section 3 (25) (2) dismisses any law that tries to stifle such rights  including t Article 24 of Union Trust Bank Terms and Conditions of service.

“I advise Garvyn to reject the sacking letter and sue Union Trust Bank for violating his right to free speech and wrongful dismissal. The case has a clear path, and the court will order the bank to pay huge compensation. The Save Salone Campaign has been in touch with relevant persons working on bringing the lawsuit to expose the recklessness of Union Trust Bank.”

In the meantime, friends of Mr Cole and concerned citizens have set up a Go fund me appeal to help support Mr Cole at this very difficult time without an income.

Please donate generously by following this link:

Read more here https://www.gofundme.com/f/helping-garvyn-cole?utm_source=whatsapp-visit&utm_medium=chat&utm_campaign=p_cp+share-sheet

Forward this message to your contacts to help this campaign reach its goal!

https://gofund.me/c461f22a

 

18 Comments

  1. Special Agent Young4na – those links you have generously provided us above on this glorious forum are appreciable reminders of what it means to be a classy First Lady that handles her responsibilities with humility, dignity and nobility – who doesn’t know that a gentle, harmless, unobtrusive APC dove is something completely different from a flesh-eating, predatory show-boating SLPP vulture? The former first lady Mrs. Sia Koroma was incomparable, unparalleled and totally in a league of her own. Word.

  2. This happens when dictators, tyrants and the likes, disguise themselves under the garb of “so-called leadership”.We claimed to be free citizens, but I am afraid we’re not!!!!

  3. Mr. G. Cole, you are fired period, this is the only bragging critics are eager to talk about today, putting behind themselves what the previous administration APC was doing, they assessed that as legal. Yes, nobody is against taking care of accountability and responsibility in any management you are assigned to. I believed that Mr. Cole didn’t act alone, someone is behind him, giving authorization to go ahead. APC setting up all thugs to spy on Bio SLPP gov’t. Going all out to find something they can hang on to come 2023, but I think they are takingthe wrong route.

    A friend of mine forwarded me a video clip today which so troubling. Dr. Samura Kamara’s thugs chasing, Chief Sam Sumana, according to the unknown voice in the video clip saying” Samura Kamara wanted to kill Samsumana!”. APC, you get too many problems to solve, but you won’t see nobody commenting about that here. No one is talking about the former first lady here “Mrs. Koroma”, we all knew what was going on in the country when she was there, folks. Sierra Leone will never go forward if we don’t stop this bogus hate in the country. Mrs. Koroma opened the dialysis clinic here in Freetown and another well educated Sierra Leonean lady came to open another, but she was not allowed to do so. Who amongst you came out and criticize dher? The answer is, nobody. But even if Mrs. Bio coughs in her bathroom, they want to know and leak it out. This is not human. APC is confused right now, because they do not yet have a candidate for 2023; you have my sympathy.

  4. Folks. in dealing with the facts, contrary to what brainwashed, delusional, PAOPA propagandist will like you to believe, when it comes to women issues, especially that of child marriage and teenage pregnancy, the previous administration legislated a host of policies in an effort to mitigate this menace in our society. Worth taking note of is, the SEXUAL OFFENCES ACT of 2012 passed by the previous regime. The Act makes provision for various categories of sexual offences and covers persons with mental disabilities, children and married women. It prohibits forced sex in marital relationships. It protects children, especially the girl child, from abuse by teachers, religious and traditional leaders. The law introduces stiff minimum sentences for offenders, raising minimum jail sentences from two years to between five and fifteen years.

    Now, as opposed to the current first lady, who’s clandestinely using women issues as a piggybank to stash away billions of monies needed in our nation to offshore accounts, the former first lady in her traditional role as the mother of the nation worked tirelessly in collaboration with the ministry of social welfare and our international partners to usher impactful measures to our vulnerable girls and women across the nation. Below are handful of projects supported by the former first lady.

    https://www.globalcitizen.org/en/content/trf-first-lady-sierra-leone-child-marriage/

    http://www.peacewomen.org/content/sierra-leone-sierra-leone-first-lady-explains-wish-project

    https://www.unaids.org/en/resources/presscentre/featurestories/2013/march/20130308sierraleonefl

    https://sierraexpressmedia.com/?p=71540

  5. I have always maintained that this President currently in State House is unfit to rule Sierra Leone. Is it right and proper for him to put the self-centered interests of his wife above the national concerns,aspirations and objectives of our fragile struggling nation? What they have done to Mr Cole comes straight from the textbooks of authoritarian rule – Silence them by any means possible if they don’t agree with you – Yup, that’s rule number 1.

    The MD of Union Trust Bank is a spineless coward, a fragile twig that bends to every wind that comes and goes on a whim – Folks, these are the enemies of the people, these men are the ones destroying our beloved Sierra Leone.

  6. If the APC were to come to power after Bio has gone and decide to come after him with corruption charges, that is when another civil war that we are all trying to avoid will take place. And it will be fought to the very end with no Victory for either side. Another senseless war indeed just like the previous one.

  7. This is the first lady in the history of Sierra Leone that has ever had the worst criticism. Why Sierra Leoneans hate good people with good feelings for the betterment of the nation. Her strides to get the country united and develop is well noted. Look at the Sanitary pad initiative for our girls. Who among the first ladies in Sierra Leone have ever thought of that. The hands off our girls campaign also has helped to save marriages at home, but little did people know about it. If ACC is to investigate the office of the first lady, its a novelty and we have to congratulate the President and his wife in the first place for allowing such to happen. Don’t you think that these personalities want the public to know how rotten this office used to run in the previous administration? If we are to note, when last did the SLPP party rule and how many years did its first lady serve?

    Party politics has no bearing to the investigation by the ACC, infact it has helped to show to the World how serious this government and the leadership position stands in the fight against corruption. I know the opposition party sympathizers and members are not curious to know the outcome, but remain afraid of what will be the outcry of the public if they come to realize that the APC first lady did far worse than expected. This is again going to add more votes for the SLPP party leadership come 2023. Mummy, let no one distract your attention. God dae with you, and God is going to see you through.

    Long live the leadership of Sierra Leone, Dr. Rtd. Brigadier Julius Maada Bio. As for me and my family, I will live to be loyal to you. You have saved so many oppressed souls, seen and unseen. Continue your good work. Before you became President, I posted that you are going to be one of the best Presidents that Sierra Leone has ever had and will be hard to get, so let the public vote for you. When you became the president, your prompt actions from citizens’ inputs have helped to save lives without delay. Sir, keep the good work, we are behind you. Till then I remain to be Marconi the retired.

  8. Mr Fallay, Yes we all know it is a private bank. But although you are a private business, you are still bound by the laws of the land you operate in. The same rules and regulations that apply to any corporation or entity, are the same laws that apply to both the public and private sector. Its no getting away from it. An employment law was broken and it has to be called out for what it is. No one hates Fatima Bio. She just needs to reduce her presence on social media. She should concentrate her energy in bringing our country together. If Bio is successful our country succeeds. But we are long way from Jerusalem.

    The laws of the land is uniform.For example, If someone walks with a gun into any bank in Sierra Leone, and attempts a robbery or is caught robbing a bank, the judge hearing such a case will not distinguish whether the entity is private or public. Hence such individual will be tried on our anti robbery laws. Once again as we strive to fight corruption and tribal differences in our country, it is the responsibility of every Sierra Leonean to stick with the facts. We cannot sit down and blame Bio and Ben Kaifala for widespread corruption in our country, without first acknowledging our country is polarised in ethnic and regional differences. Those are facts. Bio and his government, or any government before them are products of Sierra Leone. They grew up in the same Sierra Leone that we grew up in. So the question then is when did we start to see each other from different lens?

    Even in his recent launch of support for SMES in the North the President more than any one who understands our country’s problems, and to his credit said his government’s assistant has nothing to do with TRIBE OR RIGON. Common sense tells you we have a problem with those issues in our country. After all it came directly from the horse’s mouth. The president himself.

  9. I feel sorry for Mr Cole and others who may come to the same end for voicing their opinions. If the so called one time greatest democracy (US) is full of pitfalls, what do we think is going to happen to the weak third world countries whose leaders may try to emulate the actions of the super powers? Who are the people like Mr Cole going to turn to? This is no joke. The world is in a serious crisis mode.

    As in the US, these ruling classes remain in power by looking on and laughing while we the ordinary are risking our lives for them and their families’ benefit. Look around Freetown, Makeni, Bo, Kono, etc, you will find nearly all of those who do the fighting are at the bottom of the ladder. Wake up people.

  10. How does the founder and CEO of UTB Dr. J Sanpha Koroma justify, joining the bandwagon of Bio’s vendetta politics, by sacking Mr Cole for expressing his opinion. By your very action of sacking your staff member, you have unwittingly brought politics in what should be a private business. It doesn’t mean because I am employed by you, that I am beholden to you, or your political beliefs. How if Mr Cole had come out in his facebook postings and said, he believe former president Koroma should stand trial, that Bio should be life president, and Sierra Leone should be a one party state under the banner of the SLPP party. Would you have given him the sack or the highest accolade in UTB. Stop this political witch hunt. You are a a private company.

    According to our 1991 constitution, as amended in 2013, Employment rights and protection section 3 clearly states, The State Shall direct its policy towards ensuring that A, Every citizen, without discrimination on any GROUNDS WHATSOEVER Shall have the opportunity for securing adequate means of livelihoods as well adequate opportunities to secure suitable employment: B, Conditions of service and work are FAIR, just and humane and that there are adequate facilities for leisure and social, religious and cultural life: C, The health and safety and welfare of all persons in employment are SAFEGUARDED and not ENDANGERED or ABUSED.

    After reading this heart breaking story and abuse of power by the UTB bank CEO Mr Koroma working or trying to act as the human shield for our SOCIAL MEDIA FIRST LADY FATIMA BIO, my advice to Mr Garvyn Cole is to take legal action against his DISMISSAL. It seems Mr Koroma has swapped his job for a protection officer of the first lady. As you can see they have violated the employment Act. Today is your turn, tomorrow could be anyone. Tribalism and political witch hunt is what is driving our country backwards.

  11. Most private business institutions DO NOT entertain TRIBAL, RELIGIOUS and POLITICAL discussions by their employees. They can also HIRE or FIRE at WILL. As far as I’m concerned, this young man should have stick to his professionalism by respecting the policy of the bank. This is nothing PERSONAL but strictly BUSINESS. I personally believe that most of the social media participants in the diaspora don’t even have a penny investment in this bank but just making hateful statements about this BLESSED Fist Lady just to distract from the Government White Paper. Election has consequences, so the destructive APC party has to first of all get rid of their lifetime leader who is the biggest ARATA in the country .

    They should focus on organizing a free and fair election within instead of SELECTION before even remotely having any chance of winning the 2023 presidential election and launched their own Commission Of Inquiry. I wish the destructive APC party good luck as the social media party where most of the participants lived in the diaspora and most will not participate in the election process.

    The reality is, President Bio lost the social media war to the destructive APC party and the NGC party in 2018 , and in 2023 he will win overwhelmingly because of the current RAPID or ACCELERATED DEVELOPMENT programs. May the Almighty continue to bless our First “Iron” Lady because “Who the Almighty Blessed, No one Curse”.

    • To describe Mrs Bio as the ‘BLESSED First Lady’ sounds not only uncritical but downright blasphemous. What attributes – physical, moral, spiritual and intellectual – does she have to deserve such divine elevation and transfiguration? She is in my view nothing other than a mere mortal, who by blind chance happens to be the wife of our current leader, himself a mere mortal. They both have their weaknesses and strengths like the rest of us mere mortals.

      Were it not for the current roles they play in our national life, such strengths and weaknesses would be a matter for them alone and their loved ones. But because Mrs Bio’s public persona and status seem to be directly related to a young man losing his livelihood, there should be no holds barred in subjecting the persona and status to the glare – however harsh that may be – of public scrutiny. To my mind, hero worshipping a political figure and turning a blind eye to her/his frailties and inadequacies smack of being intellectually obtuse.

  12. What the hell is going on? Why is this Incompetent President so hell-bent on completely destroying not only our beloved country but the lives of ordinary hardworking citizens? Who is this GOLD DIGGER that everyone should be afraid of in a country that belongs to all of us? Since this President took over power this country has been in turmoil, distress, insecurities and anxieties. This president in State House is going to have a lot to answer for when he leaves that Public office he is currently holding.

    What the hell is wrong with the cowardly MD of Union Trust Bank? He lacks discretion and good judgment and is unfit to hold that esteemed position. He SHOULD RESIGN ASAP for his shameless display of cowardliness. Mr Cole should be handsomely compensated by the bank, but should no longer work for that PUNK even if he apologizes and tries to reinstate him – such a man cannot be trusted. Its about damn time someone tells that Potbelly dummy in State House to keep his out of control, erratic pet on a tight leash. Word!(lol)

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