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SLAJ AGM, Passport Fiasco & VP Sumana


SLAJ AGM, Passport Fiasco & VP Sumana

By Sorie Fofana…………..
For the past twenty years or so, I have been actively involved in the affairs of SLAJ (Sierra Leone Association of Journalists). I have attended several of the association’s AGM (Annual General Meetings) and Biennial Conferences, where we normally elect our national officers (or executive).
In 1993, we converged at the Miatta Conference Centre in Freetown and elected the late Siaka Massaquoi (the then Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of the Vision Newspaper) as President of our association (SLAJ). Siaka took over the Presidency of SLAJ from one of Sierra Leone’s most colourful Journalists at the time, the late Franklyn Bunting-Davies of the “New Shaft” Newspaper.
I was elected (unopposed) to serve as Vice President of the association, when the late Ibrahim El-Tayib Bah resigned from the post. I served under the Presidency of the Right Honourable Frank Kposowa of the SLPP (Sierra Leone Peoples Party) Parliamentary Group.
Quite frankly, I enjoyed working with Hon. Frank Kposowa. He gave me the opportunity to attend a conference for Journalists in London, in the year 2000. That was my first-ever trip to the United Kingdom.
In 1998/99, Hon. Frank Kposowa nominated me to attend a training program for young Journalists in the Egyptian capital, Cairo. Those were glorious moments in my Journalism career.
The last SLAJ AGM held in Kenema, from June 4-6, 2015 turned out to be a watershed moment for an association that recently celebrated forty years of its existence. SLAJ has come a long way. A long way indeed!
The issue of accountability of public funds should not be treated with kid’s gloves. All those who took part in the handling of public funds meant for Ebola sensitization must be made accountable, not only to the association but to the general public, as well.
I still have serious reservations over how funds meant for Ebola sensitization were handled by SLAJ and its partner organizations including IRN (Independent Radio Network) and Dr. Julius Spencer, trading as Premier Media.
Dr. Spencer has been severally accused of awarding a US Embassy funded contract to Premier Media, for the production of ninety episodes of a radio soap opera without any public or limited tender. Dr. Spencer has denied any wrong doing.
I am opposed to the position taken my SLAJ, to denounce any public discussion of issues of transparency raised at the association’s AGM in Kenema. That will undermine the credibility of our association. A re-think is in place.
Very soon, some of us will make our views known about the way forward for an association that we have served and continue to serve to the best of our ability.
The President of SLAJ, Kelvin Lewis has a lot of work to do if he should continue to serve in that capacity, now and going forward. I will have to have a private audience with him, because, I vigorously campaigned and voted for him to become President of our association. So, my voice and my views must count and must matter to him. Period!
The Passport Fiasco
The “Torchlight Newspaper” owned by the Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs (the Ministry that supervises the Immigration Department) has been in the forefront of raising serious transparency issues in the way and manner in which the contract for the printing of Biometric Passports was awarded to Netpage (SL.) Limited. Netpage, according to Mr. J.B. Dauda (Minister of Internal Affairs) is owned by a naturalized citizen of this country, Mr. Jamel Shallop.
Mr. Shallop recently told the Global Times that his company was merely pre-financing the printing of Passports because De La Rue (the company that prints security documents) had refused to supply Passports to the Immigration Department on credit basis because the Government of Sierra Leone owes the company hundreds of thousands of US dollars.
The passport contract has been described as one of the several corridor contracts awarded by this Government to friends and associates of some party big guns. The call for an investigation into the award of this and many other corridor contracts (including the contract for the supply of sixty ambulances after the Ebola Virus Disease had ebbed), is gaining currency in civil society circles. The opposition SLPP will soon jump on the band wagon in calling for a public probe into those APC corridor contracts.
On this particular matter, the “Torchlight Newspaper” must be commended for its unwavering stance eventhough it is still very supportive of the ruling APC Party. I dare say that the paper’s position on this matter is pro-people.
I hope other APC leaning newspapers and Journalists will borrow a leaf from the position taken by the “Torchlight” Newspaper on the award of the passport contract.
VP Sam Sumana
The elected Vice President of Sierra Leone, Alhaji Chief Samuel Sam Sumana continues his legal battle in the Supreme Court, to have the decision taken by President Ernest Bai Koroma to sack him, overturned.
In the midst of all of that, he has replaced his lead counsel, Blyden Jenkins-Johnston with the outspoken Charles Francis Margai.
In accepting his replacement, Blyden Jenkins-Johnston has stated, for the record that, he firmly believes that VP Sam Sumana has a good case “on the law” and wished him all the best and success in the fight of his life.
What more can Chief Sam Sumana ask for?

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