PUAWUI DR SAMA BANYA: Sierra Leone Telegraph: 19 August 2019:
Readers must forgive me for opening today’s column by acknowledging the compliment paid to me last Friday by no less a person than my nephew, who has become a legendary columnist not simply in his own right, but among the best, in his style, humour, and his play with the Queen’s language in his very popular and educative regular “Ponder my Thoughts” column.
Yes, Andrew Keilie, also fondly referred to by his middle name of Karmor, is an acknowledged literary gem among his peers; no, compared with the majority of his peers in the journalism profession (it’s a misnomer when applied to him because he is by profession a distinguished engineer of some repute rather than a journalist).
Andrew is a member of the very successful Sierra Leonean Engineering enterprise CEMATS. There is very often in the best of us a “BUT” and my nephew is no exception, as on one occasion when I and many others thought that he went a little too far. He had reached up for my jugular in 2016.
I had in a public statement advised the SLPP family to unite behind the then Presidential aspirant Retired Brigadier Julius Maada Bio, our current “Talk and Do” President. Poor Andrew, he was attacked from every angle. That was then; thank you Kamor for your lavish compliment. No one can now rightly accuse you of family bias for your expressed opinion.
But this column is neither about the Engineer/Literary guru/ newspaper columnist, but about my encounter with a “Saturday Police;” as a matter of fact there were three officers including an attractive female one who on that occasion almost destroyed her appearance by a persistent and defiant angry countenance.
I have a business friend along ECOWAS Street and like I wrote recently, his is one of those places that I always freely visit and sometimes relax for several hours especially now that I have nothing in particular to do down town except for a necessary business.
Many readers must be familiar with ECOWAS and Abacha Streets, where despite whatever the police do, traders persist in occupying half the width of the streets with their wares. The crowds themselves are nothing to write home about.
There are regulations about where not to park vehicles, especially unattended ones. Many of the older traders have locked shop simply because they and their customers had difficulty with access to their premises. My friend is one of those who continue to stick it out.
Because of the ECOWAS Street’s traffic situation, his delivery vehicle delivers goods from his main store mainly on Saturdays. He had not had any problem with the police over these many years except on that particular Saturday.
The account varies at that point. The police insisted that the driver had disobeyed their directive to move his vehicle away from near the centre of the road. The poor driver insisted that it was as far as he could park without damage to the wares of our stubborn street traders.
The police were indignant that the driver was defying their lawful instructions and ordered him to drive his vehicle accompanied by them to their local traffic office. The crafty driver moved his vehicle further down the road where there were lots of other goods trucks.
It was at that stage that I appeared on the scene, and like always, I let the officers understand that I was on a “Mission of Mercy” and that I had no intention of undermining their authority. I pleaded that they could take the driver’s particulars including those of his employer, and that the driver could then report to their sub office as demanded. No dice, the driver was to take his loaded vehicle along with them there and then.
I gently pointed out that the driver didn’t have to either take his vehicle to the station nor did they have to take possession of his driving licence. After more than twenty minutes of pleading with them in vain they clamped the vehicle and walked away. It was then two o’clock on a Saturday afternoon; it had drizzled but the “gron was dry.”
Just then, a kinder more senior officer turned up and inquired why I was standing by a clamped vehicle. On hearing my story and my description of the “three musketeers”, he said to me “you may go on your business now doctor while I personally accompany the driver to the station. Still I followed them to the Traffic office of the Central Police station.
I didn’t mind the initial none recognition or absence of courtesy and concentrated on my mission of mercy theme. At that point the local head of the substation entered the office and the first thing he did was to offer me a chair.
To further put me at ease he inquired about the Puawui column and why it had ceased to appear regularly. I felt as if I was in Soumasa’s, Chris Charley’s, Kadi Fakondor’s, Francis Munu’s or Morie Lengor’s office.
As if reading my thoughts he asked whether I had forgotten the adage of the “Saturday Police.” There was an appearance of discomfiture in the behaviour of the junior officer who initially dealt with me. Soon the three musketeers were contacted and after a brief exchange with them the officer in charge asked me to go home and that all was well.
There continues to be a lot of reports about police corruption, particularly among the Traffic division; and this incident reminded me that the senior cadre of the Force for Good still has a Herculean task in the area of police corruption.
More importantly, I was reminded that there were still courteous and disciplined senior officers in the Force who could be relied upon to uphold the motto of “Force for Good.”
Post script: Saturday Police are said to be heartless and uncompromising in dealing with offenders. In short, “Satiday police nor dae take baig.” The reason being that they need the proceeds of their graft in order to satisfy their weekend desires, even if that inflicts hardship on a vulnerable public.
There is need to constantly remind officers about the limit of their authority with driving offenders.