Dear Mr. President:
Before foraying into the main subject, I have to apologize to you and the numerous readers for misspelling “Excellency” in the caption of both Volumes I and II. It is important to point this out as there are students who read newspapers and with their impressionable minds it is very necessary not to confuse them about the spelling of words in the Queens language. Thus the correct spelling is “Excellency” and not “Excellency”. In this age of cut and paste, it was very easy to just transpose the caption from Volume I to Volume II. Students not only learn in the classroom, they also get educated through the print and electronic media. I therefore cringe when I read or hear the English language being butchered, especially over the electronic media. This is done even by government functionaries, including your Ministers and Deputy Ministers. So when the standard of education is being criticized, the blame is not only on the students but on those from whom much is expected.
It has been widely reported that you had to travel to Germany for medical treatment for some ailment, after visiting your wife, who is also currently ill and in London for treatment. Let me take this opportunity to wish both of you a speedy recovery. As the saying goes health is wealth, and no matter what riches we as mortals amass on this earth, without good health it is all for naught. It has also been widely reported that our former President, Alhaji Ahmed Tejan Kabbah is receiving and his Vice President, Solomon Ekuma Berewa received medical treatment out of Sierra Leone. When I hear about these incidents of medical treatment out of country, I ponder about the failure of successive governments to seriously address our medical facilities in Sierra Leone, necessitating medical attention being sought either in Ghana, India, England, Germany, the United States, etc. etc.
Mr. President with that state of our medical affairs, can we really say we are developing as a nation? Of course, the short and simple answer is NO. Do we hear of Ghanaians coming to Sierra Leone for medical care? No, because there is not one modern medical facility in the whole of Sierra Leone. Therefore, those of our compatriots who could afford it, mostly through government coffers and by extension through the money of the ordinary Sierra Leoneans, like me, fly out of the country, for even the simplest of medical procedures. Why cannot the government focus in upgrading at least one of our hospitals to a first class modern medical facility?
Mr. President, the Sierra Leone School of Medicine has been producing top notch doctors, nurses and paramedics, to compliment those trained overseas, but alas what is lacking is a modern hospital with modern equipment, which would correctly diagnose, treat and cure the ailment of all those who present themselves at the hospital. We cannot be claiming to have friends in high places in foreign nations and not call on them to help us to have at least one modern medical facility fit for treatment of even presidents and first ladies. I do believe that on this issue that you would agree with me that our priorities are completely out of place. There is nothing more important than the health of a nation. It is not enough to have a free health care for pregnant women, lactating mothers and children under five to dispense free drugs. When the medical condition of those presenting themselves for medical attention cannot receive even the correct medical diagnosis, because of lack of lack of equipment, the much vaunted free health care leaves much to be desired. Mr. President I think you will agree with me that the cost benefit ratio of upgrading the hospitals to first class modern hospitals, starting with the Connaught Hospital, far outweighs the cost of flying out to seek medical attention in foreign lands.
Mr. President I have always wondered why when presidents assume office, they throw caution to the wind and never think of their own self preservation as far as their health is concerned. In a scenario where a president needs emergency care, in case of an accident or sudden illness, how does travelling out of Sierra Leone fit into the equation of providing medical care for the president? Travelling out of Sierra Leone takes time, since presidents do not have their own personal jet and in that case it is obvious that failing to prepare would result in the country loosing a president. Therefore, Mr. President, since there are those who believe that you are a listening president, a point of view to which yours truly does not subscribe, it is hoped that you would give this issue the serious consideration it deserves. I would be pleasantly surprised if unlike the advice concerning the disarming of the Operational Service Division (OSD) personnel, of the Sierra Leone Police (SLP), you give the serious attention to this issue that it demands and deserves. It would benefit all and sundry, including you. Your Agenda For Change and Agenda For Prosperity would then begin to not just be lip service. As you are very much aware, nothing could be more important than the health of the nation.
Mr. President, in my Volume I of the series of Open Letter, I dealt extensively with your failure to heed the advice given to you by Charles Margai concerning the disarming of the OSDs, by letter dated April 24, 2013. For ease of reference, this letter is attached to jog your memory. I dare say had you paid attention to the contents of the letter, the lives of several of our compatriots would have been spared. The killing of innocent civilians by your OSDs has now occupied center stage again. This time with the killing of a very innocent student of the Ansarul Islamic Secondary School, who was in uniform by a trigger happy OSD. The matter is even exacerbated by the shooting two days later of a successful female student of BECCE from Ahmadiya Secondary School at Ferry Junction, who was taking refuge in a home to avoid being shot by the OSDs. There was another male victim also taking cover in the same home. These latter shootings were all connected with the funeral of the student. Additionally, the Principal of the Ansarul Islamic Secondary School and the Uncle of the murdered student were also arrested and thrown into a cell by the police at Eastern Police. This is the most callous story I have ever heard, where the victims of a killing become arrestees.
Mr. President, you have been very quiet concerning these bad acts by your police officers. In fact I heard that you left for Kuwait at about 4:00a.m. on Monday November 18, 2013, leaving behind a boiling cauldron. Mr. President, I believe you would agree with me that all these shootings and killings are not good for your human rights record. Believe you me the international community is watching us in consternation. The police kill innocent citizens without just cause and those responsible are not brought to justice. Only one incident of police on police killing is currently being prosecuted. This was the killing of the security assigned to one of your advisers, Alhaji I.B. Kargbo. Is it that the lives of all the others killed by the OSDs do not deserve justice? Would you advice the relatives of the victims to resort to private prosecution for the unjust killing of their loved ones. Mr. President, you know that the world is a global village and if justice cannot be obtained in Sierra Leone, there are international justice fora available to victims who have been recklessly killed by your OSDs. Seeking justice outside Sierra Leone would not be in the interest of our beloved country and your attempt to rebrand Sierra Leone, which so far has not got off the ground, would be moribund.
So, Mr. President on your return from Kuwait, kindly pay personal attention to the crisis that your police, specifically the OSDs have brought to a climax. Frankly, I was surprised to hear that you had travelled out of the country, at a time when the incidents outlined above were swirling around us, right within your hearing. Normally, heads of states return to their citizens at a time of a crisis not travel out in the middle of the crisis. Maybe, you do not consider what is happening in Sierra Leone as a crisis, when one of those whom you had vowed to die for, a youth, is recklessly killed by a law enforcement agent. Leaving for Kuwait certainly speaks volume for your leadership and governance style. You fail to go to the United Nations General Assembly to hobnob with a panoply of world leaders, for some spurious reasons, yet you leave a festering crisis to go to an African Arab Summit.
By the way Mr. President, how do we allow a crisis such as students versus the police to rear its ugly head at a time when Alshabab is threatening us as a nation? The National Union of Sierra Leone Students (NUSS) is calling for justice for their fellow students.
Mr. President, in Volume II, I had intimated that you should not to be taking advice from those who do not love Sierra Leone and are still wet behind the ears, in other words unpatriotic and inexperienced in the ways of the world. Whoever advised you to leave for Kuwait falls in that category of your unpatriotic advisers and those who do not mean well for you and for Sierra Leone. How they cannot have seen that this would further batter your image is unfathomable. However, if when you return you take charge of this matter, you may just reverse the callous effect of your leaving the country during what objective observers have analyzed as a politically incorrect timing and inhuman move on your part.
Mr. President in your absence, your friend Mohamed Bangura has been vociferously calling for the resignation of your appointed Inspector General of Police (IGP), Mr. Munu. Interestingly, he has stopped short of calling for you to fire Mr. Munu. What I gathered from Mohamed’s vituperation is that he is really mad at the temerity of the IG to withdraw his two OSDs who were protecting him after elections were long over. Frankly, I never even knew that he had been given five OSDs during the election period, including plain clothes officers. The human interest story about all this is that this is the same Mohamed who had called for the police to arrest and detain Charles Margai for informing the nation that OSDs had connived with your wife the First Lady of Sierra Leone and the Parliamentarian representing the Aberdeen area to grab Charles and Vivat Margai’s land, burglarize their property and assault and batter their caretakers on the land.
Charles Margai had indicated at a press conference that he would summon kamajors to defend his family property, since the constitutionally mandated police force could not protect their persons and their property. It was with this as a backdrop that Mohamed Bangura had called for Margai’s arrest and detention . The latter had made the statement subsequent to several complaints to you in your personal capacity as husband and President and the involvement of the Vice President, with both of you telling the First Lady that the land was not state land but the property of the Margais. Indeed Margai was arrested and like a surreal scene coming to life, in front of my very eyes Margai was detained for three days at the Criminal Investigation Department (CID). Prior to this incident Mohamed Bangura had boasted over Radio Democracy that whatever he tells you is what you do in governing the country. True to form therefore when he called for Margai’s arrest and detention, IG Munu complied. Surprisingly, as is your style you left the scene on the Friday when Margai was being arrested and went to Makeni. You later claimed that you had no knowledge of Margai’s arrest and detention. This has become your modus operandi of feigning ignorance of oppressive acts on political opponents. Following Margai’s arrest and detention, an arrest effectuated with a truckload of OSDs as if going for a warlord, the OSD attached to Margai was withdrawn, detained and interrogated about the happenings in Margai’s home. What is Sierra Leone reverting to? Yet there are those who claim that you are Mr. Clean when it involves your human rights record. Mr. President, there are those of us who know better.
So when Mohamed and the IG are sparring, it is quite hilarious for some of us, especially me, who passionately detests injustice, which was very glaring in the arrest and detention of Charles Margai.
Mr. President your Attorney General in a most inconsistent fashion drafted and forwarded an All People’s Congress (APC) Bill entitled the 2013 Constitutional Amendment Act. Unfortunately this Bill has been unanimously passed on the third reading. Shamelessly the Parliamentarians of the Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) have allowed themselves to be bamboozled resulting in their capitulation to the APC and thus are also guilty of being complicit with your APC in passing this Bill.
Why is it an inconsistent act by your Attorney General? The inconsistency and even ingenuity of your Minister lies in the fact that this is the same APC government functionary, who is spear heading the Constitutional Review Committee, which you your very self launched and the Committee has started work in earnest. These are 80 patriotic dedicated men and women who give up their time and energy to spend about four hours on the average a week to work on reviewing the 1991 Constitution. Part of the Constitution encompasses Section 73 dealing with the qualification for the Speaker of the House. It therefore is an affront to the dignity of the Committee and a morale buster that at a time when the Committee has set the parameters for its operation, a bill with the complicity of the APC Parliamentarians and most likely with your approval is sent to the House, the most significant provisions being that the speaker should be a member of parliament with five years experience or if a former parliamentarian with 10 years experience. Also the requirement is removed that the speaker should be have at least ten years experience as a lawyer and thus qualified to be a judge of the Supreme Court of Judicature or a sitting judge. The Bill has now been selfishly and expeditiously passed, without the necessary consultation with the people who sent them to the House or even at least seeking to be enlightened by the drafters of the 1991 Constitution.
Mr. President as you know prior to the 1991Constitution coming into being there was no requirement in the 1978 Constitution that the speaker should be a lawyer or a member of the House. There was thus a Speaker of the House called William Conteh, an ex-policeman. The drafters in their wisdom had inserted the qualification of the speaker possessing a standing in the legal profession for at least ten years in the 1991 Constitution. Sierra Leone was transitioning from a one party state to a multi-party democracy. Is it that the APC wants to take us back to those dark days or is this all the subterfuge surrounding your succession? The move is too sinister for well meaning Sierra Leoneans.
Mr. President why this whole affair is shrouded with intrigue and an ambush on our democracy has been outlined above, as your Attorney General and APC Parliamentarians have provided no tangible reason for the move, except that it is in line with international best practice that the requirement should be removed and that the state should revert to a one party provision existing ante 1991.
Talking about international best practice, Mr. President, where was the consideration for best practice when your APC Parliamentarians bulldozed the SLPP and PMDC Parliamentarians in 2012, in passing the illegal astronomical nomination fees for candidates for the offices of the president, parliamentarians and local council, in total disregard for the ECCOWAS Protocol on Good Governance. This protocol, which you did not seem to be aware of, until it was brought to your attention by the representatives of political parties who visited you at State House in the company of the Political Parties Registration Commission (PPRC) Chairman, provides that the election laws for members of the ECCOWAS countries should not be significantly altered within six months of an election. If raising nomination fees for presidential candidates from Le1,000,000 to Le100,000,000 million and the fees for parliamentary candidates from Le500,000 to Le10,000, 000 is not significant, one wonders what is considered significant?
So, Mr. President that is when best practice should have mattered. How about a bill separating the office of Attorney General from that of the Minister of Justice? That is when your APC members would be showing us best practice. Let your APC Parliamentarians know that they “could fool some of the people some of the time and not all of the people all of the time.” This is the time when you can do the right thing as I had advised you to do in Volume I of the Open Letter series. Show the nation that you are not a “partisan warrior”, but that you have heard the voices of the people on this issue and refuse to sign this most unnecessary and untimely bill. Mr. President, by doing so you would have displayed mature statesmanship, good sense, and you would even be helping to begin to leave a positive legacy. You would above all restore the morale and dignity of the Constitutional Review Committee of which I am a member.
In Volumes I and II, I referred you to The Concluding Payer of Governor Clarkson for Sierra Leone, especially this very poignant section “SHOULD any person have a wicked thought in his heart or do anything knowingly to disturb the peace and comfort of this our Colony, let him be rooted out, O God from off the face of the earth; but have mercy upon him hereafter.” I am a firm believer in these words of Governor Clarkson and in my estimation they are beginning to come to pass.
It is never a dull moment in Sierra Leone and I do not intend to renege on my promise to continue to engage you through the print and electronic media, albeit for the record. What causes anarchy in a nation is when good men and women keep quiet when the sky is falling around them. Some of us do not intend to let history be unkind to us. Whatever we have been prophetically proffering as good and eschewed as bad for the State have all been coming to pass.
Among other issues, Volume IV will address the failure of State institutions to take actions adverse to the interest of you, Mr. President and the ruling party. PPRC’s failure to act on a complaint filed by the PMDC against APC concerning the composition of its National Executive is a case in point. This Complaint has been pending before the Commission for several months. A demonstration of why Sierra Leone “needs strong institutions and not strong men”.
Raymond Bamidele Thompson, Sr.
Presidential Candidate 2002
Citizens United For Peace and Progress (CUPP)
The Indefatigable Patriot and Democrat
Representing The Voice of The Voiceless