Titus Boye-Thompson, Media & Communications Unit, SLP :
The Sierra Leone Police is showing a resolve to deliver on its core function of maintaining peace, securing law and order in the country against the face of mounting criticism and a general aversion to the practical realities of the Police mandate by politicians and political activists. The Force is moving on with its operational mandate despite accusations of bias because as a professional law enforcement agency, the Sierra Lone Police has a duty to protect life and property of all law abiding citizens and corporate entities the country.
Inspector General of Police, Francis Alieu Munu has repeatedly taken the view that the decisions of political parties cannot be an issue for police concern until such decisions raise repercussions that threaten the freedoms and liberties of other law abiding citizens. The Police has moved on from the former days of inglorious incapacity when the experience that the public would have after an engagement with the force would have been a bad or unsatisfactory one. The force is more professional now, due to its focus on strategic training and leadership development skills for middle to senior level cadres. It is this enhanced capacity of the force to manage public order crisis situations that has strengthened its resolve to deal with serious issues before they degenerate into violence or anarchy.
The Sierra Leone Police has been at the frontline of fighting the Ebola virus disease (EVD) and its hemorrhagic fever. The Police hierarchy was quick to spot a gap in health service provision when it became clear that the most effective means of managing the spread of the disease was to isolate sufferers from other health cases. The Inspector General of Police, Francis Munu was visionary in surrendering a large section of the Police Training School at Hastings to set up the first holding centre in the Western Area. This centre became up and running long before the more expansive Kerry Town centre. It was also the first holding centre to successfully treat and discharge upwards of 45 patients with symptoms of Ebola virus disease in a single day, and they did this with mainly Sierra Leonean medical doctors and staff. In fact, the Hastings holding centre became so effective that a Doctor fighting for his life is on record to have opted to be treated at Hastings rather than at the better equipped Kerry Town centre Significantly also, it was the successes at Hastings that gave rise to a change in the messaging on Ebola to point out that seeking treatment early, increases the chances of survival from the virus. This battle has seen a highly focused contribution from the Sierra Leone Police and when all accounts are taken, it would show that the decision of the Inspector General of Police to transform the Police Training School to a holding centre saved a significant number of lives.
In a bid to frustrate violent protests that would necessarily emanate from any attempt at a peaceful demonstration like that called by the SLPP, the Sierra Leone Police engaged the political parties and other stakeholders to remind them of their duty to respect the law and to be mindful of Police powers to maintain law and order by reasonable force if necessary. Inspector General of Police admonished stakeholders that the Police is the only institution mandated by statute to unleash such reasonable force in the name of the State. That duty is one that is taken seriously by the Police force because any breakdown in the peace and security of the state would invariably lead to mayhem, riotous conduct, violence and death of ordinary citizens. That the Police had to take such a tough stance is undeniable. Sierra Leone’s experience of anarchy is not a good one and nobody in their right mind should responsibly take such a course of action. By all accounts, it is looking very likely that the influence of right minded institutions such as the Human Rights Commission and the very influential Diaspora organization in the United States of America, NOSLINA, calling for all sides to respect the rule and process of law, have engaged the minds of other more radical groups to be reconciled to the fact that under the circumstances of an extant state of public emergency, an illegal or unlawful call to demonstrations would not be appropriate at this time. The Sierra Leone Police no doubt welcome that responsible citizens would see reason to abide by the law and that no responsible group would align itself to such aggressive actions without due and proper cause or reasoning. There is scope for peaceful demonstrations to take place but under specific guidelines which include inter alia, a permit from the Police to undertake such activities. In the event, the Sierra Leone Police is mindful of the backlash it faces but is desirous of assuring the public that as a force for good, it hopes to get better by undertaking its duties in a very professional manner and that the conduct of the force in the coming days would be focused on securing the peace as a foremost duty. The best advice therefore is for all law abiding citizens to conduct themselves accordingly and refrain from any act that would be considered as intimidating, inciting or otherwise unlawful.