Sierra Leone Telegraph: 22 May 2020:
Newly appointed Minister of Internal Affairs of Sierra Leone – David Panda Noah, was a guest at Radio Democracy in Freetown yesterday, where he spoke about his new job and the changes he is planning to make to policing in the country.
Responding to questions from the general public phoning the radio station, this is what he said:
“I’m in God’s hands. Every morning, when I pray, I ask God to lead me, direct me, give me wisdom and understanding on how to work with the people of Sierra Leone, to ensure their security and for the Almighty God to provide security for us – using us who his excellency has appointed.”
Lawlessness, cliques and gangs
“I’ll try to limit or work with them. They’re human beings. They’re Sierra Leoneans. We’ll reach out to them to find out firstly, what’s leading them to being in cliques and gangs – to see if we can provide alternatives – good things that they can do to occupy their time or away from the cliques and gangs. (Photo: Panda-Noah).
“Sometimes, it can be work. Sometimes, people are just lawless, but we’ll try to educate, teach and reach out, to ensure that we change that status quo. We have the law at our disposal to make sure that those who don’t comply, after reaching out, will face the full force of the law.”
Use of technology for law enforcement
“My deputy has big plans for a ‘smart city,’ which involves technology, wherein the police will be observing people and potential crimes and able to stop them and respond to those crimes. We can prevent those crimes from happening as well, when we use cameras, information, to deal with them.”
Welfare of the police and correctional services
“His excellency is very keen on welfare. That’s why he talks about the human capital, because the human capital involves welfare; people being trained, people being developed. Therefore, it is one of the key tenets of this government, so welfare is one that we’ll address and look into and maintain. It wouldn’t be for the short haul, it’ll be for the long term.”
Rights of the police and the security services
“It’ll be maintained. We’ll teach, explain and communicate…give people information on what police officers can do and how they can do it. The information will be out there to the public so they’ll be aware. If they apprehend you; if they accost you or stop you, what you’d expect them to do. Also, what we expect the citizens to do.”
Women and children
“That’s my own tenet. Most of the places I’ve worked…I had a nursery school and mostly females worked there. Most of the people I transport to church are older women and vulnerable people, so I have a passion for women. I love my mum so much. I love my sisters so much. I never want anything to happen to them. I’d love to see women and girls riding their bikes at the beach anytime they want without any fear. Even men, nowadays, have to secure their phones because it’s so dangerous.
“We’ll change that. We’ll ensure that the necessary tools are there to make sure that women’s rights are protected. That women, vulnerable and older people are protected. I have a passion for that particular area.
“When I see kids on bikes I get so angry. They’re our treasure, our future. We must protect them. Parents should protect them. Don’t put your child on a bike without a helmet. It starts from us as citizens to ensure the security and protect our kids, the vulnerable and elderly.”
Policing social media
“They made it for one thing – to be social. Now, it’s not social at all. If you see what people write, it’s not social. It’s anger, hate, and incitement. These are things we shouldn’t be doing. We’ll work with the necessary agencies – NATCOM – and companies, where there are persistent violence on social media, to apprehend, locate these people and caution them. If it’s extreme, do what the law permits us to do.”
Policing border crossings
“Very porous. We must equip the departments, immigration and border departments to be able to handle it. Recruit more people to be able to man the areas. Use technology to help man the borders. We have a lot of challenges but ‘a journey of a thousand mile, start but with a single step.”
Allegiance to Bio and how that will interfere with your work
“I took my oath to the people of this nation to say I’ll do my duty religiously and diligently for the benefit of the people of Sierra Leone. If I do wrong, his excellency is disciplined enough to punish me. I know that I have to work.
“I know him as a righteous man. When the righteous is in authority, the people rejoice. We’re supposed to be rejoicing because his excellency is there. With his excellency, you wouldn’t do anything which is not for the benefit or good of this nation.”
Orders from above
“When I was in SLRSA, he’s never called me for anything and I know that he leaves you to do what you know you should be able to do and what is right. That’s the kind of administration he runs, and I know that’s what he does. He does not interfere into what you have to do.
“Other people will tell you the same. He doesn’t interfere in any of these things. When he’s given you the position, he expects you to use your good office and intelligence, honesty and all of your virtues and values.”
With the appointment of a new internal affairs minister, president Bio is hoping for a big reduction in the rising lawlessness and crime in the country, mainly due to high youth unemplyment and joblessness, drug abuse and alcoholism.
With this in mind, it is important that the new internal affairs minister does not misunderstand or misdiagnose the causes of lawlessness in the country. Politicising the causes of youth violence and social disorder is not the answer, and could be both counter-intuitive and counter-productive. The minister needs to think and act very carefully.