Sierra Leone Telegraph: 20 June 2012:
Sierra Leone’s main opposition party – the Sierra Leone Peoples’ Party, has today spoken about the series of police shootings, which have had fatal consequences and the worsening security situation in the country.
Speaking at the party’s monthly press briefing at their head office in central Freetown, the emphasis was on the growing anxiety over the government’s inability to stem the spate of armed robbery in the country.
But the poor state of the economy and the gloomy prospects, were not spared either.
This is what the SLPP party told the media:
“We invited you here today to present to you our position as a party regarding a couple of issues which are of concern to all of us. We will share with you our thought and position about these issues not just because we are a Political Party but we believe they are matters that concern us all as Sierra Leoneans.
Let me start with violence and what appears to be an escalation of lawlessness across the country, issues which have been in the headlines of newspapers for some time now.
We in the SLPP believe these are perhaps the most challenging issue affecting us today as a nation since the end of the 11 year rebel war in 2002. How can anyone go about his or her daily chores of life without the guarantee of security and peace?
We have spoken about this issue of violence many times before. The last time was in September 2011 when we catalogued to you the series of unprovoked bloody state sponsored violence across the country.
Apart from paying lip service this government has done little to arrest this situation; the spate of violence in our country has merely escalated to the extent that armed robbery has become widespread and taken over our streets at night.
As a responsible opposition party, the SLPP will not relent but will continue to draw the attention of government to the threat this spate of violence and armed robbery pose to the peace and security of our country.
There are two aspects to this issue of violence.
Firstly, it is an historical fact that the APC party has always been associated with violence and ruled in an atmosphere of intimidation and lawlessness. So for many of us here what is happening in our country today is nothing new as long as the APC was in power.
APC notorious hypocrisy
The hypocrisy of this government of President Koroma about violence is well documented. Their public statements often contradict sharply with their very public behaviour.
Take the incidence in Bo of our Flag bearer when he was stoned and one Okada rider shot dead by Police during the same period.
Curiously all President Koroma was interested in was how to intimidate and victimize political opponents. An SLPP MP and several of our supporters were arrested and arraigned before the courts.
Those who planned and executed the attack on Rtd. Brigadier Maada Bio were spared or ignored and treated with what I call kids gloves. Nor did the government take any interest in the young man who was killed by the police.
This is a manifestation of the President’s lack of care or respect for a Sierra Leonean life. Such wanton disregard for life breeds lawlessness.
Take also what happened more recently at Bumbuna when police killed a hapless woman trying to calm down striking workers. No inquest, nothing was done about her death. Then in quick succession, there was the incidence at Wellington and Lumley.
In the case of Wellington, the area youth became so angry that they decided to take the dead body to see the President at State House as a desperate act to prick his conscience.
Sensing that this had a greater voter ramification, President Koroma finally decided to act to save his government from further political embarrassment. Hundreds of people heard him on a local radio live on the phone to the mourners at Wellington.
At the end, the Coroner’s Inquest he announced was not so much to demonstrate genuine care for the lives lost but it became something of an afterthought or a political gesture by the President to protect votes for his desperate bid for re-election which he does not deserve. Is this fair? Is this responsible leadership?
Politicizing the police
What we are witnessing today since this Government came into power is increased police involvement in politics. You remember shortly after results of the run-off presidential elections were announced in 2007, police hoodlums took to the streets in uniform in open celebrations.
In some parts of the country they beat and harassed many of our supporters. As if that was not enough media evidence show that the police along with hundreds of APC thugs descended on the SLPP Headquarters to comprehensively loot and vandalize it.
More recently wives of police officers have reportedly gone to State House to pledge allegiance and support for President Koroma. What does this say for police impartiality?
Does this give you and I the confidence to rely on the police come November 17?
When the SLPP raised the red flag after the police imported $4.5 million dangerous assault weapons, we were accused of being alarmists and told the weapons were normal police business.
But it was not long when one of the Government own Senior Ministers, Musa Tarawallie announced on local radio that the arms were in fact intended to be used against former NPRC members who he said were members of the SLPP.
Nor have our fears been allayed since the arms were imported but taken a rather dangerous step further. Armed robbery on our streets has increased and police brutality and shootings of innocent civilians have become rampant in recent months.
Are these mere coincidences or deliberate attempt by President Ernest Bai Koroma and his Government to instil fear into an armless population which is facing crucial elections in just four months time?
After the war ended in 2002 the country was in complete ruin and devastation; there were arms all over the place but the SLPP as a Government in 1996 embarked on a sustained policy of demobilization.
We took all the arms off the streets and introduced policies to restore stability and the reintegration of all ex-combatants.
These were very challenging times but as a responsible government the SLPP had the resolve and determination to bring peace to our country. There was never a time we tried to politicize the work we were doing as this government does today.
The SLPP felt it was their duty to restore normalcy and peace because this was the confidence the people reposed on us when they elected us in 1996.
There was NEVER and I repeat NEVER a time when there was politically motivated violence, bloodshed or harassment of our political opponents until President Koroma and the APC took over power in 2007.
You would have thought lawlessness would be prevalent shortly after the war not this time
Independent Police Complaints Board
One of the conclusions we reached when we signed a communiqué with the Government in April 2009 after series of molestations and violent attacks on our supporters was the setting up of an Independent Police Complaints Board to address excesses and human rights abuses of the Sierra Leone Police.
After three good years the Government has made no efforts to address this issue leaving the police to continue to behave with a degree of impunity like cow boys in the Wild West.
You and I recall that events which triggered the 11 year brutal rebel war were the results of misguided policies carried out by succeeding APC governments from the 25 years dictatorship of Siaka Stevens to the policies of marginalization, human rights abuses, lawlessness and chronic corruption by the governments of the late Presidents Siaka Stevens and J.S. Momoh.
I think it is also fair to say under another APC Government of President Koroma those ill advised and misguided policies are still with us and actively in place; this will not surprise you because when President Koroma came into power he pledged to rule this country on the model of his late heroes Siaka Stevens and J.S. Momoh.
We take this opportunity again to call on Government to appoint an Independent Police Complaints Board without further delay to look into all the recent unwarranted loss of lives and shootings by the police.
Any police who has broken the law and found guilty must face the full penalties for their action. They cannot be above the law. The SLPP believes this action will go a long way to allay public fear and lack of confidence in the Police Force.
But for the Government to yet again talk about a Coroner’s Inquest to allow the police to investigate itself is further demonstration of a very incompetent government which lacks the moral courage to act decisively when faced with problems like nationwide lawlessness and the other insecurities now threatening the peace of our country.
We in the SLPP remain committed to non-violence and the maintenance of peace and stability in our country.
The SLPP has worked very hard to achieve peace in this country and therefore condemn all forms of violence and intimidation as means of achieving political objectives.
I take this opportunity on behalf of our Flag bearer, Retired Brigadier Julius Maada Bio, on my personal behalf and on behalf of the entire membership of the SLPP to extend our condolences to the families and friends of all those who recently lost their lives as a result of the spate of shootings and police violence in the country.
In the face of grinding poverty we in the SLPP maintain that the importation of dangerous arms into a country which faces no external or internal security threat and especially in a crucial election year was a misplaced priority by an irresponsible government.
As I mentioned when the SLPP was in Government we spent a lot of time introducing policies to consolidate the peace so that you and I were able to go about our normal business.
We built schools, feeder roads, community centres, houses and health centres even in the most remote part of the country.
We ensured the repatriation of hundreds of our people who had fled to neighbouring countries and living in camps.
Hundreds of others who had been misplaced internally or fled were able to return to their communities and resumed their work.
We trained the police to international standard to become more professional and accountable to the people they were paid to protect.
This was how the Sierra Leone Police became a “Force for Good”. It was not a coincidence but something they actually earned through hard work and professionalism.
Building institutions for development
We built institutions such as NASSIT, PPRC, NRA, NASCA etc because we in the SLPP like President Obama said recently believed that what Africa needs are very strong institutions to serve as the foundation for sustained growth and economic development.
So when one listens to the APC Government boasts about development, development, you want to ask what exactly all this talk is about.
Is it about constructing sub-standard roads none of which have been completed after five years? Or is it about using road project money for APC campaign funds?
We in the SLPP have been there long time ago and know what real development is all about; we have strengthened and built new institutions across the country. We made sure our people are able to sleep at night again after the rebel war.
It may surprise you also that the SLPP Government under Pa Kabba appointed a number of leading APC members to the board of some of these public institutions.
The SLPP did not sack people because they were red or yellow or came from a particular part of the country. Our policy was not one of marginalization or nepotism.
The SLPP founding slogan is One Country One People and this is true today; it has become the guiding principle of our policies.
Unlike President Koroma and the APC there was never a time we tried to politicize our work to the people of this country. It was our duty as a responsible Government.
Plenty affordable food
When the SLPP was in power plenty money was in circulation, food was affordable and in abundance.
Let me also remind you that during the SLPP tenure in Government we ensured economic stability through prudent and effective financial management. We created a stable and enabling environment for economic growth.
The financial resourcefulness and resolve of our government, paved the way for the huge debt relief this country benefitted from up to the time we left office in 2007.
The economy grew on an average of 7 percent annually not this nonsense of a one off 35 percent projection which this government is making so much noise about.
As usual instead of explaining and putting into context what the IMF actually said, they are busy peddling untruths to the people about how fantastic the economy is doing.
The actual growth rate achieved so far in five years by this government is merely 5 per cent. This 35 per cent is a one off projection based on the performance of the mining sector by the IMF.
Facts and fictions
If they say our economy is the fastest growing in the World why isn’t it being felt by the average man on the street who is struggling everyday to have one full meal? The APC are notorious liars.
Poverty is everywhere; our people are suffering. Prices are increasing at an unacceptable level which is intensely felt in every household, firm and business.
There is excessive expenditure over and above the means of Government resources resulting in direct central bank borrowing (bank financing and vault financing) causing slippages in monetary objectives with ensuing high inflation and interest rates.
This economy is bankrupt to say the least. The little money that is available is being squandered by a tiny group of the President’s own sacred cows through official corruption.
Read the 2010 Audit Report of Government’s institutions and see the extent of corruption in this government including the office of the President (State House) where his staff literally steals tax payer’s money ‘fiti fatta’ (with reckless abandon).
Is this a President who deserves a second term? Remember, this was a man who threatened in 2007 to make this country ‘ungovernable’ if power was not handed to him.
Well power was handed to him but for goodness sake what difference has it made? This country remains more corrupt by a few people and more lawless than ever.
This country needs change and a new political direction. President Koroma is too weak to lead this country for another five miserable years.
Another issue I’d like to draw your attention to is the current APC propaganda about what it claims is SLPP defectors. We have said a lot about this issue so I won’t take much of your time. However there a couple of things I’d like to put into perspectives.
How the APC sought to destroy multi-party politics
During the time the SLPP were in government we witnessed people leaving the APC and wanting to join the SLPP. What did we do?
Former president Kabba actually begged these people to stay with their party because he wanted this country to remain democratic and to protect the fragile multi party system operating under a multi party constitution.
We did not make any propaganda out of it nor did we use money to ask them to join the SLPP. The SLPP and Pa Kabba in particular encouraged these political opportunists to remain with the APC.
Where there were disputes among their own members Pa Kabba used his good office to reconcile the then existing factions within the APC. He didn’t seek to split their party in order to strengthen the SLPP.
No! Unlike the APC which forced a One Party Constitution on our people. We in the SLPP believe in political pluralism and freedom of political choice.
So when President Ernest Bai Koroma goes about throwing tax payers’ money in a desperate attempt to seek re-election, it does not bother us as a Party.
We know the people of this country are fed up with the APC broken promises and cannot wait to vote them out of power come November 17.
“The Usu Boie saga is for us a complete distraction, and we shall ignore it with the contempt it deserves.”