Those who fight against corruption should be clean themselves

Abdulai Mansaray: Sierra Leone Telegraph: 18 November 2019:.

The recent corruption scandal involving Sierra Leone’s Chief Minister Professor David Francis and journalist Sallieu Tejan Jalloh remains leeringly unresolved in the background. President Maada Bio has made the fight against corruption a major signature of his government.

There is no need to remind ourselves of the contagion called corruption. Any attempt to tackle corruption head on is a viable road map for Sierra Leone’s recovery.

The setting up of the Commission of Inquiry (COI), though not new to the long suffering masses, was a brave act, although some thought that Bio was making a rod for his own back. Many pessimists concluded that Bio would also face such enquiries when he leaves office one day; let him who is without sin cast the first stone.

Bio always warned that in the fight against corruption, corruption will fight back. And it is not surprising that the whole fight has been discredited by many as a witch-hunt, harassment, revenge and so on. Was that corruption fighting back?

With the debacle between the Chief Minister and Mr Jalloh, the die of corruption has been cast, and the spectre of accusations has been flying left, right and centre. But in an ideal world where your side, my side, and then the truth matter, it is becoming increasingly imperative to get to the truth.

There are those who sympathise with the Minister, that because of his commitment to promote a new direction in this “New Direction”, he has earned himself enemies who want to destroy his hard earned reputation. On the other side of the Rubicon, sympathisers of the 4th Estate believe that an innocent victim has been victimised for ethically going about his lawful business.

The dichotomy of opinions is palpable, and we cannot run away from the fact that most are politically marinated – depending on their political persuasion.

The facts are yet to be proven, but that has not deterred many from delivering verdicts from several media pulpits. But where does the burden of proof lies, and who has the burden of proof?

Chief Minister David Francis (Photo) has not only denied the allegations, but has also insinuated from his press release that he has been a victim of harassment, extortion and by implication blackmail.

On the other hand, reports indicated that Jalloh had “planned to publish full details of the bribery transactions” The text goes on that “We are already concluding our investigation and we would therefore need your own side of the story before publications. Thanks and we look forward to hearing from you.”

Many will struggle to see what’s wrong with such a request. In a follow up interview released in a voice clip on social media, Mr Jalloh described how unknown persons attempted to hoodwink him in for questioning.

If his version is true, such an attempt can only be described as clandestine. Why was Mr Jalloh not just invited to the CID for questioning? Even at that, an allegation of a crime must have been committed for him to require such an attendance. Except if a complaint had been filed for harassment, extortion etc., asking another party to verify an allegation or to give their own side of a story; in the interest of impartiality and fairness hardly qualifies as criminal. Was that an attempt to muzzle a watchdog?

Meanwhile, Patrick Sandi, director of public education and outreach department, Anti-Corruption Commission, stated in a press release that “the Chief Minister, acting in accordance with Section 77 of the Anti-Corruption Act 2008, which imposes a duty on all public officers to report where a corruption offence has been committed; or is about to be committed, accordingly informed the Commission” (sierraleonetelgraph.com/13/11/19). Does this mean or confirm a criminal element to Mr Jalloh’s request from the minister?

At the time of writing, the ACC stated that Mr Jalloh has refused to comply with its request to help with information for its investigation. Sounds like an orgy of refusals of request for information here.

With the stench of corruption filling the social and political atmosphere, there is no doubt that this matter needs to be resolved as soon as possible. But who has the burden of proof?

In a normal situation, the burden of proof lies with Mr Jalloh, who reportedly claimed “we are already concluding our investigation”. Mr Jalloh does not need to reveal his source/s, but would do well to present the facts or proofs. He has been described as a corrupt journalist, hence putting his credibility at risk. But with Ecobank and S.L Mining profusely denying the allegation, don’t hold your breath.

However, the allegation is that the “FIU discovered the sum of USD1.5 million which was paid on diverse dates in your account at the ECOBANK”. So now that we have heard from Ecobank and SL Mining, can we have a shout out from the FIU that was quoted by Mr Jalloh?

In a normal situation, the Chief Minister does not need to prove his innocence; because he is innocent until proven guilty. But this is not a normal situation. However, if Mr Jalloh cannot prove his allegations, it is unusually incumbent on the Chief Minister to prove his innocence in this case here.

Firstly, he is the primus inter pares in the Bio government; a government that prides itself in its commitment to fight corruption in Sierra Leone. If such a high ranking official is fumigated with the whiff of corruption, it puts the whole fight against corruption into disrepute. Meanwhile, social media specialists have wasted no time in flooding platforms with an old video clip of the First Minister, implicitly giving his blessings to corruption; albeit at 1%.

As if on cue, the First Lady was in London when the corruption fiasco broke out. In her speech during a function, Mrs Fatima Bio said that “not everybody that has a PHD is a politician. Some PHD holders dem fool bad”. Some pundits are left wondering who such PHD holders could be. Don’t answer that.

It is a fact that traditional journalism, where reporters deliver information in a balanced and unbiased fashion, is rapidly fading into obscurity.

However, if it’s true that nothing is more potent than an idea, then those who control the media can direct minds en masse.

Already, an idea or perception has been created. Perception and reality are two different things. One man’s perception may not be another’s reality.

Unfortunately, there is hardly any truth in the world we live in today; only “alternative truths” and perceptions.  People only see what they look for. Although perceptions do not reflect the truth, they can be 1 millionth of 1% of reality. This issue should not be reduced to a battle for the hearts and minds of the electorate. It is far too serious for that.

So there we have it. In his fight against corruption, President Bio and his government have made friends and foes along the way. With the COI going into 2nd gear and requesting asset declarations, the perception of the High Priest caught in a corruption scandal can be costly.

There has been a lot of gas lighting from both sides in this case. The credibility and moral authority of the SLPP government to fight corruption is at stake here. There is therefore a compelling need for the Chief Minister, and Bio’s government by association, to get to the bottom and truth of this scandal. Bio’s government could lose the moral authority to fight corruption, if the sword of corruption is swirling around the head of his High Priest. Let him who is without sin cast the first stone.

But in order to succeed in the fight against corruption, there should be no impunity; because Impunity serves as the foundation on which systems of corruption are built. If impunity is not demolished, all efforts to fight corruption by this government will be in vain.

If leadership by example is the most contagious style of leadership, should corruption be widespread? Corruption is a disease, and transparency should be an essential part of its treatment.

The hope is that Sierra Leone will be corruption free one day. Which tense is that? Future impossible tense?

Don’t forget to turn the lights off when you leave the room.

13 Comments

  1. No offense taken Jane. I value the opinion of others, even if I may not agree with them. We have a right to express our views and we must all aspire to protect those rights. If we can’t protect the rights to free speech here, how can we get our communities to do so? By way, I enjoyed the legal lesson though. More of that when we meet up. Stay blessed and stay tuned. God bless.

  2. Thanks for your response Mr. Mansaray. I will like to confess to you that I’m personally hurting because you have been the genius in this newspaper in stimulating comments and to see a former Corrupt Minister who was sacked by his boss for allegedly stealing $12 million that was allegedly donated by the international community to help eradicate Female Genital Mutation ( FGM ) in our country and also withdrew her security . YES $12 MILLION which allegedly should have been used to build schools and hospitals.

    Now she has decided to use this credible newspaper to act as false priest by asking God Almighty to forgive our well respected and credible Chief Minister that gave all the APC thieves a last opportunity to prove their innocence. The comments from her propaganda article that was dominated by diehard NGC supporters and wannabe lawyers was unbelievable and I personally believe that your article was more credible and balanced and you perfectly laid the foundation for both parties for fruitful discussion.
    Please stay the course.

  3. “I told you about the three sides to a story. Now that we know the two sides, don’t you think we need to know the truth?” Abdulai Mansaray

    Mr. Abdulai Mansaray,

    With all due respect, we have heard from journalist, Sallieu Tejan-Jalloh, we have heard from Professor David Francis, and we have heard from the CID, ECOBANK, and the ACC. Pray tell me what is this THIRD side that you are waiting to hear from? This is why I stated in my earlier comments that you are breathing life into a dying case for purely partisan reasons. Do you have an agenda, my good friend?

    • Thanks Bilal. We have the two sides from the Minister and the journalist respectively. Those are the two sides. Both are accusatory of the other. Both claim to be victims at the hands of the other. Brother Bilal, the third side is the TRUTH. We can only get that through due process of the law. But just for the record, I don’t have any political leanings to any of our political parties. It is not always humanly possible to come across as neutral. I don’t aspire to be neutral. I aspire where humanly possible, to be objective. I know that it’s difficult. Because of this, I will always displease people, irrespective of where I stand on issues.

      I would like to think that when I write things that are not politically palatable to some, they take umbrage for that. I expect and understand that. Being human, I have never professed to be right every time and all the time. The last time I checked, I have a pulse. Sorry if we don’t see this issue the same way. But that’s what we need to move our country forward; alternative opinions. But I think that you are in the minority to accuse me of having a political affiliation or an agenda.

      If anything, my agenda, just like you, is to see the best for our country. I am sure that it is one of the confluences of thoughts we both share. Let’s keep the conversation going; if for nothing else, but for the good of Mama SALONE. Stay blessed brother.

  4. In my personal opinion, I believe that Mr. Abdulai Mansaray is one of the best journalist in this Forum because you have always tried your best to stay neutral. But unfortunately since the breaking news of this topic regarding the fake allegation against the Chief Minister it seems your neutral position is not having any traction within the comment section. I can justify my statement by referring to your article on November 13, 2019 which headline – When committing journalism becomes a crime. I personally believe that the participants in this forum have sent a subliminal message to you by not commenting , and now you have regrouped and change the headline to the above. I can’t judge if the non response to your first article touched your ego or pride.

    Your derogatory comment about “Zombies eat brains. But some are safe” should be clarified just to respect every participant in this respected forum where everyone’s freedom of expression and opinion should be respected. Finally, I believe that there is a similarity to our country and the ongoing violence situation in Ethiopia after their Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed won the Noble Peace Price for ending the 20 years long war between his country and Eritrea.

    Few weeks later some opposition within his own country plotted a demonstration where 67 people were shot dead just to undermine the credibility of his Noble Peace Price. Thanks to Almighty our nation is peaceful but I personally believe that the APC party is also plotting to undermine the successes in the fight against corruption that the New Direction has made.

  5. It is interesting that Mr. Abdulai Mansaray would attempt to breathe life into a frivolous and naturally dying case. The Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC), the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) and ECOBANK have all determined that the Chief Minister, Professor David Francis, does not have an account at ECOBANK. A necessary inference is that if the Chief Minister does not have an account at that bank, then the story about $ 1.5 million being deposited into the Chief Minister’s account has no legs to stand on. It is frivolous and fake.

    Yet the Honorable Abdulai Mansaray deems it fit to rub it in. Well, this does not surprise me since we live in a world where alternative facts are peddled on alternative false narratives for the sole purpose of fulfilling and promoting narrow, selfish partisan interests. The danger associated with such a diabolical exercise is that it does not serve the national good. One way the national good can be injured is when efforts designed to implicate an innocent political leader in a hoax distract attention from the ongoing Commissions of Inquiry, which are now entering their final phases with the declaration of assets by erstwhile ultra-corrupt APC ministers. Talk about corruption fighting back? You don’t need to go far to find out.

    • Thanks Mr. Bilal. This was no attempt to breathe life into a dead story. Like I always maintained in both pieces, I am not privy to all the facts. I told you about the three sides to a story. Now that we know the two sides, don’t you think we need to know the truth? My brother, politics is based on perception at times. Sometimes, it is not about facts or truth. I personally feel that we need to know whether the journalist was a rogue type or the minister was corrupt. That’s all.

      Unfortunately, we have to ask the difficult questions. The response about zombies was unfortunate, I admit. I just believe when we have differences of opinions as expected, we should deal with the opinions rather than attacking individuals. Someone described me as opionionated, as I didn’t want to dignify it with a response. Let’s keep the conversation going man.

  6. Based on my experience in the USA, an unwarranted or unwanted phone call from even a debt collector, investigator or even telemarketers can be classified as harassment and they can be sued or sometimes jailed if the call comes from a blackmailer, extortionist, pedophile Sex Offenders or Rapists. Every debt collector has the right to get a judgment from a judge to collect any money owned to them by the debtor instead of disturbing them psychologically ( during their jobs, meetings or leisure times) or by confronting them physically which will sometimes result to violence and death.

    Everyone purchase their phones and pay their bills and have the right to determine which calls or text is classified as harassment or friendly, and every honest person knows that the intention of that text was not on a friendly basis. If this so-called journalist can learn from the Washington Post or New York Times that anytime that they have credible destructive information about President Trump, they never call or text him but publish it and then give the opportunity for President Trump to defend the allegation.

    Finally by the grace of the Almighty, the APC conspirators will not succeed in bringing our nation back as the most corrupt nation in the Africa because we are now The LEAST CORRUPT COUNTRY in our region; and we will definitely receive the benefit from the MCC report card as a Christmas and New Years Gift.

    • So true Mr Fallay. I wish you read the first article on this issue. I believe that I questioned the nature of the SMS text as well. By the way, I am not responsible for the photos accompanying my articles. I just write and leave the rest to editorial licence. Have a good day Fallay.

    • “Thanks Bilal. We have the two sides from the Minister and the journalist respectively. Those are the two sides. Both are accusatory of the other. Both claim to be victims at the hands of the other. Brother Bilal, the third side is the TRUTH. We can only get that through due process of the law.” Abdulai Mansaray

      I will quote directly what is due process and then ask Mr. Mansaray what it is that he is referring to as due process, which he as a reasoned person believes would yield the truth in matter. For now, Mr. Mansaray acknowledges that he has heard from the Journalist who is the accuser, he has heard from Dr. Francis who is one of the suspects. However, he seems to have not heard from the ACC and the police that have jurisdictions over this matter and the bank and the Mining Company who are the other likely suspects in this matter.

      According to the Encyclopaedia Britannica, “Due Process is a course of legal proceedings according to rules and principles that have been established in a system of jurisprudence for the enforcement and protection of private rights. In each case, due process contemplates an exercise of the powers of government as the law permits and sanctions, under recognized safeguards for the protection of individual rights.”

      What due process is Mr. Mansaray conjuring would give us the truth about whether or not the allegations or information in the hands of the Journalist against Dr. Francis is true or not? Legal matters can be criminal or civil. For a criminal matter to go to the next threshold in the legal proceedings, that is court of law, it has to be investigated and a crime establish with all the elements of that can establish, that is the Mens Rea (Intent) and the Actus Rea (the guilty act). An investigation is part of the due process. If the investigator cannot establish that a crime has been committed, he is not going to send the matter to court just because it involves a politician or celebrity or because the ilk of Mr. Mansaray are only satisfied when it is sent to court.

      In situations where a criminal intent is not established, civil litigations or organizational inquiry can be initiated. Here, you do not need to prove your case beyond reasonable doubt. The proof of burden is based on balance of probability. So let us assume that this is what Mr. Mansaray would have loved to see. If the ACC or the Police or even a civilian can establish that Dr. Francis had a Bank Account with Eco Bank or any other bank and that within the last few months, a mining company or a suspicious person or organization has paid into his account huge sums of money (it does not have to be $1.5 M), then the probability is there for either civil or organization enquiries to be initiated and the burden would shift to Dr. Francis to defend himself.

      But this is not the case, and yet we are looking for that truth which up to this moment has not found. There has not been any publication from either the paper of the journalist concern or his sister newspapers that he quoted are investigating the matter. The bank has denied they do not have a saving or current account Dr. Francis, they have presented the statement of account for the credit card which has never be credited or debited, the mining company has denied and yet we are looking for that truth. The burden is therefore on any of us as we all have lien in the country called Sierra Leone to present that evidence which the institutions that have jurisprudence over such matters are yet to find.

      Interestingly, the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) that some are saying was looking into a matter involving the suspect Dr. Francis is yet to make anything known to the public. But one thing that is clear is that the FIU has a memorandum of understanding with the ACC and Police and this has been there since the establishment of the FIU. The FIU would refer matters of corruption to the ACC that has jurisdiction and fraud to the police promptly. Likewise the ACC and Police would do the same if a matter involves Money Laundering and Terrorism to the FIU.

      By the way, I am sorry if I refereed to your article as “opinionated”, I was not trying to be disrespectful. I have known you since your days back home as someone who expresses his ideas strongly and that you are undeniably clever. When we meet one day in Bombali, I would apologize in person. Fil Bothi Korthor

  7. Too many hypothesis based on repeated hearsay leaves the people with so many doubts. This is compounded by so many opinioted articles like this one. The text to the chief minister was sent on 8 November 2019. The journalist was arrested on the night of 11 November 2019. Why did the journalist not publish his article on the 9, or the 10, or even in the morning or afternoon of the 11 November before he was arrested? Was the journalist invited but refused to go to the CID before he was arrested?

    The FIU investigates money laundering and terrorism. Is Mr Mansaray insinuating now in this opinion article that the Chief Minister was also involved in money laundering and or terrorism? The trush shall make us free. Sierra Leone is full of Muslims and Christians who will say prayers at the start of the day and yet go about the very next hour to back stab or say twisted things disguised as truth. May Jehovah God have mercy.

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