By KABS KANU :
Sierra Leoneans from different strata of society, even from the ranks of the opposition, are calling on the British Parliament and the British GUARDIAN newspaper to apologize to President Ernest Bai Koroma and the Government and people of Sierra Leone for recently perpetuating lies and contemptuous attitudes towards them –The same bias , contempt and disregard for truth the Western institutions and media ALWAYS expatiate towards African leaders and governments.
While they appreciate everything the British Government is doing to help Sierra Leone overcome the Ebola outbreak , Sierra Leoneans are very passionate about their calls for these two British institutions to apologize to the Sierra Leone Government because they are displeased with the length both institutions went recently to try to defame the Government. They think that the two institutions committed an evil against the government that Western institutions and their media have been guilty of committing from time immemorial : perpetuating stereotypical bias and fabricated stories against often hardworking African governments and institutions. As we said in this newspaper a month ago, there is this negative and stereotypical mindset about Africa that the West unfairly harbors which they have never been able to recover from , even in the face of mountains of evidence that not all African presidents are corrupt or inefficient or dictatorial.
An opposition newspaper editor , radio presenter and the nation’s no.1 media satirist, Abdul Fonti Kabia, who is no friend of the government when it comes to his biting criticisms of the establishment, is calling on all Sierra Leoneans to join his campaign to have the British Parliament and the Guardian newspaper apologize to our country . He sent the statement below to the social media :
“Fellow Sierra Leoneans, please join me in the campaign to demand, on behalf of Sierra Leone, RETRACTIONS and UNRESERVED APOLOGIES, from the British Parliament and the Guardian newspaper for FALSELY accusing the Sierra Leone Police Police (SLP) of torturing journalist David Tam Baryoh to the extent that the latter could not stand by the time he arrived at the Pademba Road detention center.”
“This international newspaper report and documented claim in the archives of the British Parliament have only succeeded in potraying the government and people of Sierra Leone WRONGLY and NEGATIVELY in the eyes of the world, at a time when we are struggling with a deadly virus. “
“While we appreciate the intervention of the British in the fight against Ebola, we condemn any attempt by them to misrepresent our authorities in such a manner.
“WE DEMAND AN APOLOGY AND RETRACTION.”
(C) Journalist Abdul Fonti
Mohamed K. Dembuya , a social critic on Facebook, writes : “But how on Earth can a bunch of well over 600 British Law maker act on such story without cross checking to get the truth behind it all? They really need to accept their blunders just like Tam has accepted his.”
Another Sierra Leonean , Rugiatu Samura wrote the following :
IS SALONE BEING BLACKMAILED?
Contrary to outrageous and unsubstantiated claims by the Guardian Newspaper in the UK that journalist Dr David Tam Bayoh was mercilessly tortured before taken to prison, the journalist has said immediately on his release that he was never beaten or treated bad since his incarceration.
The saddest part of it all was when the British Parliament as if they had nothing useful to do waded into the matter using unsubstantiated material probably from the misleading newspaper report that Dr Tam Bayoh was tortured and could not even stand by the time he arrived at the Pademba Road Maximum Prison few weeks ago.
It is expected that the British House of Commons and the Guardian Newspaper should take the high road by retracting their untruths against the people and government of Sierra Leone as well as issue an unreserved apology for this despicable sin. I personally don’t think this is something we should teach the British about as they ought to know better.
WE THE PEOPLE OF SIERRA LEONE ARE WAITING FOR THE RETRACTION AND UNRESERVED APOLOGY WITHOUT FURTHER DELAY.
Yes, it was very embarrassing for the British Parliament and the Guardian newspaper to have been caught red-handed in deliberate lies –That the erstwhile detained journalist , Dr. David Tam-Baryoh, was beaten up and maltreated by the Police , never more so than when it was the very journalist on whose behalf they seemed to have been conducting their botched advocacy who in fact rebutted the false allegations by the British Parliament and the Guardian newspaper that he was beaten, ill-treated or imprisoned among hardened criminals. When will Western institutions and their media cure themselves of such bias and contempt for our governments and institutions ? How can they just sit down and concoct stories against the Sierra Leone Police and government ?
The two institutions also told a whopping lie that David Tam-Baryoh was detained because he questioned the government use of Ebola funds.
David Tam-Baryoh was not arrested for questioning use of the Ebola funds. He was incarcerated under the provisions of the State of Emergency , for preaching “tribalism, divisions and hatred” which has the potential of disturbing the peace and stability of the nation , according to a Government statement from the office of the Attorney General and Chief Justice.
For the information of the misguided British Parliament and the Guardian newspaper, the Government of Sierra Leone does not mind journalists asking questions about how the Ebola funds were being spent because the government respects freedom of speech and secondly the government knows that it is keeping good records as a government of transparency and accountability and the Ebola money is being put to proper use . Do they know how many journalists would have been arrested if the Government cared about the questions pressmen were asking about the Ebola funds ? The Ernest Koroma Government has a very impressive record for its respect for fundamental human rights and for freedom of speech. This is one of the only governments in Africa that does not bother anybody for their opinions, however scathing , and Sierra Leone has no prisoner of conscience under President Koroma’s rule ! ! ! Sierra Leone has over 50 newspapers with over 90% of them belonging to the opposition. The country has over 15 radio stations and most of them oppose and criticize the government on a daily basis. President Koroma has a better record than these Western nations when it comes to upholding the tenets of press freedom and honoring the fundamental human rights of his people.
The talk of Ebola money is becoming monotonous and ridiculous. In his seven years of leadership, President Ernest Koroma has demonstrated an exemplary record for utilizing donor money for socio-economic and political developments in the country. The British Parliament and British media should come to Sierra Leone and see the infrastructural developments President Koroma had undertaken before Ebola struck. Need we to remind them that before the onset of Ebola, Sierra Leone had one of the fastest growing economies in the world, a feat celebrated by the IMF and the World Bank, and even the international media ? Need we to remind them that Sierra Leone, before Ebola, was developing at about the fastest pace than many countries in the continent ? President Koroma achieved these laurels by his prudent and scrupulous utilization of national resources and donor funds.
The notion from both institutions that Dr. Tam-Baryoh was illegally arrested was also contradicted in some way by the journalist himself . Below is a statement that Dr. Tam-Baryoh released through his lawyers while in detention. This statement ridicules all claims and insinuations from the British Parliament and the Guardian newspaper about his arrest. Dr. Baryoh has proved to be a very honest and truthful person and we hope western institutions and media would learn from him. Here is the statement :
We write on the instructions of Dr. Tam Baryoh, as his retained Solicitors in respect of his arrest and detention allegedly on “Executive Detention orders”.
In accordance with our instructions, we met with Dr. Tam Baryoh at the Central Prisons at Pademba Road on 5th November, 2014 to assess his detention conditions and advice him on legal issues.
Based on our advice, he has instructed us to pursue a non-litigious means, but dialogue and negotiations, without prejudice to other available legal options to secure his release in view of his health conditions and concerns for the psychological well being of his wife and daughter.
Dr. Baryoh’s health situation has improved considerably compared to when he was arrested. His doctor has visited him twice since his arrest.
Dr. Baryon has not complained about detention conditions and is coping with the situation. He is grateful to his friends and colleagues for their support including press releases issued out during this difficult time. He is appealing to the President Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma to show mercy and forgiveness. To err is human and to forgive is divine.
By Melron C. Nicol-Wilson Esq. and Emmanuel Siaffa Abdulai Esq. – Barristers and Solicitors of the High Court of Sierra Leone, 5thNovember, 2014
In the light of all these facts which have discredited the claims, assertions and innuendos of the British Parliament and the Guardian newspaper , there is no doubt that the two British institutions bungled the facts and needlessly defamed the government and the most honorable thing for the two institutions to do now is to retract their lies and apologize to President Koroma and the Government. The people of Britain and the world expect both insitutions to be paragons of truth and fair play. They have failed in justifying the confidence reposed in them. If the two institutions care for their credibility, this is only one course of action action they must take immediately. They must admit guilt for spreading lies about an innocent and hardworking Government and apologize.
It is indeed a pity that old habits die hard.