An Opinion by Abdul Malik Bangura
During an immigration meeting with a bipartisan group of senators in January this year, President Donald Trump is quoted to have described some countries populated by us black and the Latino people as “shithole” countries. At that time, some of us were very annoyed and we were blazing in anger because we felt the statement from the white US President was racist and did not show any respect for us black Africans.
However, here in Sierra Leone, when we look at the way our current SLPP led government is handling the employment and welfare of our political diplomatic staff and other political appointed persons, we will sadly vindicate the statement of USA’s Trump. Indeed, the vulnerability of our citizens has been nicked by the very government that sworn to protect them.
Last month, our new President Julius Maada Bio issued a very ‘disrespectful’ Executive Order for which he dismissed all Sierra Leonean ambassadors and all political appointed diplomats, warning all of them to cease operations in our foreign embassies effective less than four days from the release of the Executive Order and that expired on 1st May 2018. To me, this is such a very outrageous way to handle our diplomats, people who have gone through hard time and difficulties to represent our country in foreign lands.
The actual process is that a formal letter of recall is issued to each diplomat and afterwards that diplomat should take formal leave of the host country’s President before a new Ambassador can take charge. However, due to vindictiveness and anxiety to nail APC stalwarts, the President has inaccurately and horribly in an Executive Order sacked ALL political appointed diplomats. This has put more financial burden on the Government of Sierra Leone because government needs to now “IMMEDIATELY” take care of all repatriation packages of all sacked diplomats (this is going to cause us hundreds and possibly millions of dollars). This impatience of President Bio to plant into appointment his party’s folks in less than 2 months in governance is now going to cause our government huge of tax payers’ sum of money.
Sadly, even in rich countries, ambassadors and other country’s diplomats are given the very well respects they deserve. I can recall that it took President Trump of USA over six months for him to replace former Ambassador John Hover with current Ambassador Maria E. Brewer to Sierra Leone. So my point here is why the rush to replace our ambassadors, when the President has himself admitted that our country’s economy is in shambles and according to him it is in its “worst state since independence”? Or is President Bio planning to abandon our sacked diplomats abroad?? I ask because since their recall, not a single political appointed diplomat has received his/her repatriation costs or has received salary for the month of May 2018.
President Bio should know that these political appointed diplomats are foreigners in the country they are assigned to, if you actually sacked them give them their repatriation costs or if you cannot pay them give them reappointment letters and apologies to them for embarrassment caused by your Executive Order.
Meanwhile, another wasteful move that President Bio has undertaken amongst this presumed turbulent economic quagmire is that according to Section 5(2) of the Telecommunications Act of 2006 President Bio actually has the power to sack the NATCOM Chairman. However the Telecommunications Act as amended in 2009 says “The Chairman and other members of the commission shall hold office for a term of five years and shall, subject to this Act, be eligible for re-appointment for another term only.” From my sources, Mr. Momoh Konteh, who was until yesterday Chairman of NATCOM, has only served three out of his legal five years term. Section 6 of the same Act says the Chairman of the Commission, Momoh Konte must be paid fully of all his remuneration and should be reimbursed of all expenses he incurred as a result of his dismissal, and must be paid all his salaries for the remaining two years of his contract.
My same positions remains as to why is President Bio who promised to be a “President of all Sierra Leoneans” rushing to weed out the very Sierra Leoneans he sworn to protect, at the expense of the country’s economy and also exposing our beloved country to both national and international ridicule in order to just satisfy his political folks?? Notwithstanding, however, it is very clear that when our leaders do not respect our citizens in public national and international offices, especially some of whom are representing Sierra Leone in USA, then Trump’s metaphoric “shithole” assertion is clearly qualified.