It is well for the heart to be naïve and the mind not to be

Abdulai Mansaray: Sierra Leone Telegraph: 15 September 2018:

A video clip making the rounds on social media and especially Facebook has shown Neil Coyle, the British Labour Party MP for Southwark in London, speaking about recent political developments in Sierra Leone.

In the video, he is seen wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with “#SALONE LIVES MATTER”. In his video, Neil states that his constituency in London has a “strong, vibrant Sierra Leonean community”.

MP Neil says he is echoing the concerns of his constituents, about what is going on in Sierra Leone; that is – the alleged attacks and politically motivated attacks that he says are undermining democracy in Sierra Leone.

Neil promised to “continue to raise questions about what’s going on in Sierra Leone, and continue to press the UK government, to put more pressure on the sierra Leonean authorities to make sure that democracy is upheld, and that all Sierra Leone lives matter”.

There can hardly be a more vociferous gesture in support of our embryonic democracy. Any well-meaning Sierra Leonean would heartily welcome such a bold and brilliant support any day.

Unfortunately, Neil has reportedly come under some attack for his “philanthropic” attempt to ensure that our democracy remains unadulterated.

Some have reportedly accused him of being paid to lend his support to the “suffering masses” in Bermondsey and Southwark areas of London. In spite of what many see as his well-meaning intentions, he now stands accused of acting as a paid voice in the cause of the struggle.

It is a common fact that when it comes to the rule of law in most African countries, it is the cuff from the political sphygmomanometer of the international communities that has been the biggest drivers of political change.

We know that our African leaders have a propensity to be a law on to themselves, and in most cases, can fidget the laws of the land at a drop of the hat. So, the Labour MP Neil Coyle’s intervention in this matter could not only be timely but necessary.

Notwithstanding the fact that he is now facing accusations of being a paid voice, such conclusions have been described as preposterous.

In the video, Neil promised to get his solicitors involved, if those making such accusations against him can supply their names and addresses. In that case, I hasten to submit that I do not subscribe to that accusation at all; and I am not on speaking terms with my solicitor. However, that should not stop some of us to ask some simple questions here.

Firstly, it is a given fact not all sitting governments have a 100% support from its electorates. As a multi-party democracy, it goes without saying that there will always be opposition, which if healthy could only be a good thing for any country.

Sometimes, opposition makes good friends. With that said, it is an expectation that like any other country, government, or political party, there will be dissenting voices and opposition.

One of the reasons why some people may have expressed alternative opinions about Mr Coyle’s concerns is that, he referenced ‘the concerns’ raised by his constituents, supposedly as the source for ‘his concerns’. It is not known at this point, whether Mr Coyle had other sources, or whether he had cross referenced the information or concerns that his constituents had expressed.

To all intents and purposes, many people would have expected Mr Coyle to add other sources to his concerns.

Many would want to know if Mr Coyle had actually visited the country to get first-hand information for himself. Many would also assume that with the British government presence by way of its High Commission in Sierra Leone, Mr Coyle would have garnered some information from that source to buttress the concerns of his constituents.

For all we know, he may have but this is not mentioned in his video. What many people would have seen is Mr Coyle quoting the concerns of his constituents.

The intention of Mr Coyle is not at question here. Like I mentioned earlier, any well-meaning Sierra Leonean would welcome such contributions to our democratic road map. But citing only the voices of his “concerned” constituents could open questions about the intent of those same voices. Others may even question this as a partisan effort, in spite of any credibility these concerns may carry.

But this is not an attempt to trash or ignore those concerns. No one is proclaiming that the current SLPP government is made up of muftis and saints. There is no doubt that the current government has been embroiled in situations where its dedication to democracy has been questioned.

We are all too aware that during the run up to the elections, President Maada Bio’s democratic DNA credentials were put under the spotlight. His role in the deaths of 29 people was a major election topic and a seeming Achilles heel for him.

The SLPP government has been criticised for replacing some members of the opposition APC party in top civil service positions.

Sierra Leone is notoriously known for its high position on the corruption Richter scale in Africa. Even when the government embarked on mounting a commission of enquiry to address and redress, in an attempt to tackle corruption, it has come in for serious criticisms and allegations of partisan politics.

For God’s sake, even the Free Education programme, which is not without its teething problems has been criticised by some people.

It therefore stands to reason, that such concerns from Mr Coyle’s constituents don’t come as a surprise to some people. And for all we know, they have very good reasons to share those concerns.

But what many would have expected was for Mr Coyle to have carried out a rain check, so as to substantiate with figures, incidents etc to add more meat to the bone.

Some would say that the concerns that have been echoed by Mr Coyle are the kind of concerns you could hear on a busy Saturday afternoon along Peckham High Street and even beyond.

Sierra Leoneans would be heartened to know that Mr Coyle had further expressed his concerns in the British parliament recently. This is all well and good and would be very much appreciated.

Expressing concerns is one thing. Substantiating them is another, and the sources quoted may attract some raised eyebrows.

There are those who have even accused Mr Coyle of seeking cheap popularity, in order to shore up his support among the Sierra Leonean community for election purposes. That could be a cheap accusation.

Others have questioned where was Mr Coyle when similar accusations were levied against the erstwhile APC government, as if to say that by putting out the light in others, you brighten yours.

And in his defence, Mr Coyle could say that no one had brought that to his attention before, even though human rights abuses are a signature mark for the majority of many African countries.

What makes this issue topical is the fact that during a reported recent raid by law enforcement officers in Mile 91 last week, someone lost his life. According to official sources, the raid was in response to the growing menace (pardon the pun) of cannabis in the area.

There have been conflicting reports about what went on down there. Sadly, a life was lost, and that was one life too many. Unfortunately, many people, thanks to social media have given zillions of versions of what happened. The majority of these are armchair reporters and commentators like me.

It is an open secret that some of our law enforcement officers can be trigger happy. Some of us can still recall the tragedy that befell youths when they protested in Kabala during president Koroma’s presidency (Photo).

We know how people were corralled to stop or prevented from protesting.

We know how peaceful protests ended up as violent clashes with law enforcement officers. This is an unacceptable behaviour by any standards.

Unfortunately, not many people will be interested in finding out what really happened at Mile 91.

The focus will be and rightly so, on the regrettable loss of life. Some may want to know if the officers shot in self-defence, while others would want to know whether it was an unprovoked response that led to the death.

Some of us would like to know if the death was avoidable, preventable, etc., or whether the situation could have been handled differently.

As well-meaning Sierra Leoneans, I would like to think that I speak for many when I say that we welcome every little help to promote, maintain and sustain our democracy and its democratic principles. I am sure that the majority will support Mr Coyle’s effort to ““continue to raise questions about what’s going on in Sierra Leone, and continue to press the UK government, to put more pressure on the sierra Leonean authorities to make sure that democracy is upheld, and that all Sierra Leone lives matter”.

Unfortunately, echoing concerns alone from constituents, whom many may have erroneously described as disgruntled opposition party loyalists may just dent the image of a good job undertaken. Keep up the good work Mr Coyle; for every little helps. Only the naivest of questions are truly serious, because every true genius is bound to be naive.

Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about the things that matter (M. L. King).

Watch Neil Coyle speaking here:

16 Comments

  1. I just noticed that Mr coleman did not even realise that I was CRTICISING the people who opposed Bio for sacking or replacing some civil servants. That says it all.

  2. Thankfully, this article has got all of us talking. but it will be more fruitful if we discuss the issues rather than personality. As for Bilal, I am struggling to dignify your views with any further response. One thing is clear though, we should try and accommodate alternative views.

    We are all entitled to our opinions but not to the facts. But I must confess that I struggle to resist the urge to reply. Let me make it simple here. I stated the facts about what Neil Coyle said. I tried to interpret how some people may view the whole issue. This is a case of looking at it from various angles, irrespective of people’s political loyalties ( which I am allergic to).

    Sadly, you have regrettably lied about me. You don’t need to know me, but those who do, know that I do not belong to or support any party in Sierra leone. I only support any party that works for the people of Sierra leone.

    If you should know my political affiliation, I am a Democrat with a hint of socialism. I would be very grateful if you would remind me or quote where I said that I support APC. I was hoping that you read the article again as part of my prescription for you.

    As for your accusation that I am biased, I believe that you are in the minority. You may not like what or how I write. I respect that. But please defend my right to express my opinion; for I will die defending your right to freedom of expression. We just need to avoid industrial and agricultural language against personalities.

    Let us stick to the issues, and by so doing, Paopa, Salone go betteh yaa. By the way Mr. coleman, I am so happy to know that you finished HIGH SCHOOL LONG AGO. Unfortunately, some of us did not have such a privilege. I take my hat off to you. That is one reason I wish I was in Sierra leone to take advantage of the Free Education Programme by Bio’s government.

    I would ask you to read the article again. Some good things come in threes. You never know, you might just see the wood for the trees. Trust me, miracles still do happen.

    Mr. Coleman, at this point, I would like to suggest you take a quick look at all my previous articles. Maybe, just maybe, it would give you a picture or hint of my views on other issues. You can try the following sources:
    critiqueecho.com
    sierraexpressemedia.com
    thisissierraleone.com
    binkongo newspaper

    Or better still; google my name. Have a good day bro. Paopa salone go betteh – ma.

    Like I said, I am happy that this article has generated such a response. It will only mean one thing: good job. keep the faith.

  3. Mr. Abdulai Mansaray,

    Only sore losers of your ilk will embrace an ignorant neo-colonial hegemonist by the name of Neil Coyle in his sorry attempts to tarnish the image of Sierra Leone internationally.

    And you have the courage to complain about Maada Bio sacking civil servants? Look, anytime you accept a political appointment in Sierra Leone, it must be clear to you that your party losing the presidential elections endangers your job situation. Do you expect Bio to retain political hacks who had openly campaigned for the APC in the last elections?

    For your information, I live and work in Sierra Leone and can brag that there is no country in Africa that is more peaceful or safer than Sierra Leone. So keep on fanning the flames of tribalism and joining forces with neo-colonialists in their pathetic attempts to defame Sierra Leone. Well meaning Sierra Leoneans believe that President Bio will continue to rebuild the country that your APC nation wreckers destroyed.

    • I am not sure which article you read Mr Bilal Coleman, but I get the impression that you need to take advantage of president Maada Bio’s Free Education Programme, as you have demonstrated your fundamental inability to read and understand the English language. I advise that you read the article again, this time with the blinkers removed.

      It is so disappointing that you fail to even grasp simple english. Put the tribalism aside and lets all work for Sierra Leone. I don’t belong to any political party. I am a Liberal democrat. But still, keep reading. I am sure there are other readers out there who may have seen your error. never mind, just re-read the article and maybe, just maybe, you would get my drift.

    • Mr. Mansaray,

      I don’t have to take advantage of president Bio’s free education program. I have long finished with high school. Besides, I don’t even live in Sierra Leone.

      It is pathetic that you do not even have the courage to defend what you write. Instead, you take refuge under innuendoes and subtle personal attacks while denying your political affiliation. Didn’t you once state in a response to someone on this forum that you belonged to the APC? Why are you rejecting the APC now?

      Look, your objectivity stinks to high heavens. It is clear in your article that you are celebrating that ignorant neo-colonist Neil Coyle’s attacks on president Bio and the government of Sierra Leone. I bet if you are a resident of London, you may be one of the APC surrogates feeding Mr. Coyle with fodder to defame Sierra Leone. But as I have said earlier, president Bio is there to rebuild what APC folks like you destroyed. Paopa Salone for betteh.

    • Bilal, it’s really pathetic when you come out openly to attack a writer because you dont like what he writes. I can understand your partisan here, but let me just slow you down a little bit if I may by telling you that first of all, your accuracy is at stake here.

      Look, you told us that you live and work in Sierra Leone..and in your other response piece you said you do not live in Sierra Leone. This level of rhetoric really needs to be seriously vetted to get clear facts, especially facts coming from someone like you. You can juxtapose all you want but the fact of the matter is, you have to stick to your facts.

      Moreover, every individual has the right to belong to a party if they choose to – ok? And for you to come and vehemently accuse the writer for being an APC supporter without proof, is like Neil Coyle getting his information from Sierra Leoneans in his constituency, who have no clue about what is going on on the ground in SL except by hearsay.

      Let me slow you down here for quick seconds if I may. We all can agree to disagree but it should be done in a very Intelligent way. The writer is giving you a clear picture of what Neil said, and how some have viewed it…especially the SL gov’t officials on one hand and the opposition on the other hand.

      So, it’s up to you to fathom out which side you want to defend…But not in an insulting manner or finger pointing – calling names etc, as you have clearly done here. The shadow you have cast about you living in sl or not has left us with nothing but to even wonder whether your input is viable, or just from a an angry and contradictory supporter.

    • Sulaiman Jalloh,

      I find it interesting that while you admonish Bilal Coleman over his response to Abdulai Mansaray, you reserve the liberty to go on and chastise Coleman. I do not hold briefs for Coleman. In fact I don’t even know who he is. But for any Sierra Leone to attempt to make any sense of the erratic rantings of MP Neil Coyle as Abdulai Mansaray does in his article, there must be a certain level of animus towards president Bio and the State of Sierra Leone.

      Do we have to make sense of accusations of human rights abuse in Sierra Leone? And do we have to use APC talking points of Maada Bio’s alleged role in the extra-judicial killings of 29 Sierra Leoneans in 1992 any time we write about our country?

      Wasn’t Bio just a lowly Secretary of Information in the NPRC at that time? Why have these charges never been thrown at Valentine Strasser? He is still alive. This reminds me of APC’s election time propaganda that if elected, Bio will never be allowed entry into the United States of America. Well, guess what? Bio is right now in New York City.

  4. There is no objectivity in this so called objective analysis. Surely your analysis is biased and baseless. Nobody can justify the killing of any innocent Sierra Leonean, but for a foreign MP fighting for a group of Sierra Leoneans who were sent there for settlement by the APC government is quite unfortunate.

    The same corrupt practices is what he has associated himself with for political gain. We understand what the APC thugs are capable of doing. They intend to demonstrate when the President will be in the USA but we are waiting to see. Is it only in Sierra Leone that the innocent are killed? Even the very so called Britain, the US, it is common, we are living there and we all know what is going on on a daily basis.

    The truth is that when the white man does it, it’s a style but when the black man does it, it’s a crime. Sierra Leone is rising up from the ashes where the APC left it, whether anybody likes it or not. We cannot ever remain begging. So let your British MP go to hell with all his irresponsible statements. Paopa Salone go better.

    • Thanks Mr. Nyuma jacob james. Can I suggest you take advantage of the Free education programme under maada Bio? Please read this article again.

    • Its a shame that you are saying this. When innocent civilians were being gunned down during the past government, was this the message you were sending then? You see, this level of hypocrisy – in other words double standards that you guys are displaying here, is what is getting into people’s nerves.

      And when the few out there rise up to tell the difference, behold satan is cast! Your question “is it only in SL that people are killed?” Left us with nothing but to believe that common sense is worthy than Book sense.

      As eve was made from the rib of man, so education was made from common sense. Whoever lacks common sense lacks everything. No wonder you guys are busy attacking the writer when you should have attacked your inner conscience. SHAME ON YOU….

  5. Revengeful? Because APC killed a teenager you should also do the same? You guys live in a different planet. These your two parties are not worth a pinch of salt to rule a household – let alone a country. You are similar and evil.

    • Papaani, it will be helpful to read the article again, minus the emotions. May be, just may be, you would get the gist of the piece. Who is partisan here? Keep reading.

    • Welcome Victor. Will try and remain as practically possible to remain objective. Just trying.

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