By Sorie Fofana.
A Public Notice dated 14th June, 2018 was issued by the Financial Secretary, Mr. Sahr Lahai Jusu. In that Public Notice, the general public was informed that the sum of Le2,412,734,976 (Two Billion four hundred and twelve million, seven hundred and thirty four Leones and nine hundred and seventy six cents) had been remitted to our overseas missions for the repatriation cost of “former Ambassadors and Press, Cultural, Economic and Security Attaches’.
Barely few hours after the publication of that Public Notice on social media, some former Ambassadors and Press Attaches took to the same social media platform, claiming that they had not received a dime as repatriation cost from the Ministry of Finance.
Few hours later, some other set of recalled diplomats took to social media to concede that indeed some amount of money had been remitted for the sole purpose of their repatriation but that the money was not enough for that purpose.
At least, most of them claimed that they have a spouse, three children (under the age of 18) and were entitled to the payment for a 40ft container to bring home their personal belongings including one vehicle.
A senior diplomat even argued that his name and the names of some of his colleagues had been deleted from the salary/wages vouchers for the month of June. All the Ambassadors affected by the Executive Order to recall them have written a letter to President Bio, requesting his intervention.
A senior official in the Ministry of Finance argued that even though they were entitled to travel with their spouses and three children (under the age of 18) , some of them traveled alone but claimed the allowances due to three children under the age of 18. Both parties have stubbornly refused to compromise.
The Director General of Foreign Affairs should ensure that the welfare of all diplomats in our foreign missions is properly taken care of. He should also ensure that all recalled diplomats either return home or their repatriation packages are given to them in full.
We should not treat those who have served our country in our foreign missions shabbily. That will dent the image of our country and give a bad name to the new government.
Let us find an amicable settlement to this issue as soon as we possibly can. We cannot allow this issue to drag on endlessly. The Ministers of Finance and Foreign Affairs should get together and find an amicable settlement to this issue.
We call on all parties concerned to take politics out of this issue and do the necessary. Some of these recalled diplomats are not even entitled to a severance allowance or a gratuity payment.
Let us therefore give them their entitlements and allow them to return home in dignity and with great fanfare.
The current plight of recalled diplomats is, to say the least, appalling. We have to do something as a government to put an end to the stalemate between the Ministry of Finance and recalled diplomats.