By Charles Bamikole Carr, LLB (Hons) Law, LLM in Business Law, Lecturer in law, University of Westminster, England.
February 24, 2006
Well, before I go on to elaborate on my article, let me first offer my personal thanks to the Awareness Times (AT) for conducting such a brilliant interview with such an eminent diplomat, just as I also offer thanks to Your Excellency, Ambassador Thomas Neil Hull of The United States in demonstrating verbally his good wishes for our country during his response to the interviewer.
Both the questions asked and the Ambassador’s response at the interview have brought to light very important issues affecting post war Sierra Leone. These issues are tolerance, good governance, ethics, human rights, free speech and the tackling of corruption. I shall not only be examining, critically below, the issues, as mentioned, but also hoping that each one is given serious thought in the strategic plans for various developmental projects in Sierra Leone.
In terms of tolerance, our different political party Groups need to consider the degree of tolerance that needs to be demonstrated by their politicians in their ambitious activities to govern the country. In one of my earlier articles to AT, “Oh, What Are We Fighting For?”, I made a desperate plea to all the political activists in Sierra Leone to leave the youths to get on with their lives rather than recruiting them as militants to serve their political purposes, such as galvanising supports against their opponents, which in desperation always resulted to these youths orchestrating violence against other citizens, whom they think are not within their individual camp. This kind of behaviour, which I am sure may not have been the intention of the good politicians, is a blatant disregard of tolerance. Moreover, it is one of those kinds of conducts that intimidates all good and peace-loving citizens in the country. Thus, it builds chaos in our country, just as it did for the civil war that has rampaged the country.
In the Ambassador’s words, ?.we all have to be vigilant to make sure that there is no recurrence of violence in the country.”
For God’s sake, let our politicians fight their election battle with the utmost tolerance, fairness and respect for the rule of law. Let them stop influencing the youths with few Leones, or Dollars, or Sterling, or with any amount of currency to engage them in violence for the politicians’ purposes during election period, only to dump them afterwards.
If our politicians have good intentions for our country, ?let them deal with the issues rather than the personalities’, as acclaimed by Ambassador Hull. Then, and only then would Sierra Leoneans feel and know that there are now men and women with the right objectives to rule/govern our Land.
Let the politicians engage the youths in agriculture and development projects, as these will help to bring about that collectivist approach which is lost in our communities throughout the country. It will help to demonstrate their good intentions for our blessed Sierra Leone.
There cannot be good governance without constant communication to the citizens in particular and to the international community in general. Our government must learn to meet the people and share with them both the good and bad news about the country and even ask for their opinions and supports.
One of the failures with our African governments, including Sierra Leone, is that our leaders fail to communicate with the people. This is not good governance.
Our leaders must now realise that Sierra Leoeans have gone through lots of problems, which have imbibed in them great experiences and eagerness to know what is going on as at anytime within their Land. Such constant communication will not only bring awareness to the citizens of their rights, but, will also make the works of the police and military easier, especially as every citizen would become aware of their rights and individual role at such crucial times.
Our leaders must realise that the Sierra Leonean citizens are an important group of stakeholders to their governance, whom they are to be accountable in running the country, otherwise the investments of the country, e.g., developmental projects, peace, moral disciplines and many more, will be devalued. Thus, leading to a bankrupt (chaotic) state.
Good governance must look forward to feedbacks from the people, its citizens. It is from the people that our leaders can know whether the Sierra Leone police, army and all other essential services in the country are functioning within reasonable standards. Training alone on the essential services will not yield the high standards of performances we are expecting to keep the Sierra Leonean institutions going.
The Sierra Leone Executive and Judiciary are to take up the ambassador’s call for new laws to modernise and govern our country democratically.
The country is to take up more disputes resolutions approach within our different communities in the country, as the ambassador’s responses suggested. This should be the approach, especially at this time that Sierra Leone has insufficient trained legal personnel.
Our government must be inclusive of various anti-preventions committees, which should be examining policies and give feedbacks. All such approaches will create competent checks and balances resulting to good governance within the country.
Those Sierra Leoeans, including myself, who are professionals in our varied vocations may have long realised that we are obliged to conduct our professional duties within the ethics of our individual professional discipline. For example, A solicitor must act within the principles of The Guide To Solicitors’ Conducts. Thus, enabling a solicitor to carry out his/her duties fairly and without prejudice. Similarly all Sierra Leoneans are to conduct themselves in an ethical manner so as to prevent a recurrence of the violence that led to the civil war for a greater part of ten years past.
One of the issues in Modern Sierra Leone is that most organisations and/or professionals fail to conduct themselves ethically. This brings not only their profession, but also the country into disrepute.
One such thing I observed in the Ambassador’s responses to the TA throughout the interview is that he never failed to conduct his response within the ethics of diplomatic behaviour. The Ambassador’s tone of language were diplomatic and to the appropriate points. Perhaps, I may be sounding funny at this point, but, on reading the interview carefully, one would realise what I am desperately considering at this time, especially that some of the professional citizens in our country, Sierra Leone, have, in most times, failed to conduct themselves honourably.
Some of the things these so called professionals, in Sierra Leone, say and do, fall short of honorary conducts. Particularly some of the journalists in our country are culprits of the unethical behaviour which, in my opinion, is bringing our country, Sierra Leone, and not only their journalist profession, into disrepute. Professionals must not be using slang or abusive language. Instead they are to act with reasonable care and skill.
According to my observation, some of the journalist in Sierra Leone have an attitude that they can write about anything and anybody without ensuring that there facts are correct. Again, in my opinion, and in the opinion of any peace loving Sierra Leonean, such an attitude is wrong. Moreover, in the law, such writing is considered as gross misinformation to which such a writer must be prepared, not only to pay damages to the victims but to apologise unreservedly to the nation.
Let us remember that our country, Sierra Leone, has been one of those countries where good morals have been the norms of its society. Therefore, let all peace loving citizens in our country rise up to conduct themselves ethically, as that would re-affirm morals in our society. Thus, the school teachers will realise that they are models for our Tomorrow generations just as the journalists, like all other sierra Leoeans, would realise what brave and fair contributions they have to make in the development of the country.
We Sierra Leoeans must not forget that one of the fundamental rights of any citizens in any sovereign state is the right to free speech. Nonetheless, we must also not abuse such a right to free speech. We must learn to respect and show love to one another. Consequently, we will be sensible and be prepared to act wisely at all times (we go capu dee sense nor capu dee word).
Therefore, as Sierra Leone citizens, if we are to demonstrate tolerance, we would have to accept that our companions must exercise their right to free speech.
We Sierra Leoeans must be encouraged to use the media to criticise each other, especially those in authority whom we have observed are failing to deliver with efficacy and competence. It is only by criticisms that we human beings can become aware of our failings, probably our weaknesses. Thus, with criticisms, all the citizens in Sierra Leone will be prepared to build up their strengths, make use of the opportunities available to them and plan sensibly to control any threats that might face the nation’s developments.
No one Sierra Leonean citizen must feel or conduct in a manner that demonstrates that he/she is above the law. If, whosoever is, criticised vociferously in the Sierra Leone media, or even charged with litigious conduct, it is their responsibility to take a good look at the sought of criticism and consider what change now. Citizens in public offices are to conduct their responsibilities with the utmost tolerance and skills of good governance to ensure that we move forwards and not backwards.
We, Sierra Leoneans, should have learnt lots of lessons from our colonial masters, the British, in terms of free speech. We must also consider that if it was not for free speech, the very Ambassador, His Excellency Mr Hull would not have agreed to the TA’s interview with him.
As the ambassador has already pointed out, Sierra Leone has a good record of human rights. Therefore let us urge ourselves to maintain that good standard of human rights record on our country.
The police, army and prison services should be well aware that they must perform their duties according to the laws of our Land. Those public servants in these departments must not use their positions to intimidate the citizens as well as visitors coming into the country.
All officials in the different services must realise that harassment and bullying, of all sorts, will bring the country into disrepute and so, hold back development in the land.
On the other hand, the police and the military, upon which the responsibility for security of our land lies, must be prepared to always act independently. They must act appropriately in dealing with any individual who fail to conduct themselves under the laws of the country.
In another response by His Excellency, Ambassador Hull during the interview, he stressed “Development takes a very long time.” Well, We Sierra Leoneans must consider this with all seriousness, especially if we are to tackle corruption in our country. We have to act swiftly but sensibly.
We are to urge our government to encourage deregulation throughout our markets, just as it has happened in the Sierra Leone telecommunication industry where, with the installation of mobile telephone system, the pay-as you go method of payment for the service, the Sierra Leone consumers are now enjoying a kind of telephone system with less corruption, interruption and fierce competition in that market. Similarly, the holders of such a market are benefiting immensely from the effective collection of payment for the services they are offering to the nation.
In a considerable manner, if we are to tackle corruption in Sierra Leone, most of the utilities services are to be deregulated and made to be operated under the strict codes of Best Practice. It is in that instance will all the citizens enjoy good services, as paid for, and in return, the workers will then be receiving good wages/salaries to enable them to cope with the cost of living at any current time.
Sierra Leonean entrepreneurs must transfer that apparent success being enjoyed in the mobile telephone market in the country to all other essential services needed by all the citizens. This will lead the country to rapid development.
Sierra Leoneans, I am sure, have not forgotten the corruption in the days of land line telephone system, in our country, from both the workers producing the services as well those consuming it. We all should remember that a majority of the consumers were consuming the service without paying bills, just as well as some of the workers were exploiting and harassing the consumers to give them bribes in order to keep their lines constantly in good order.
We must realise that businesses have moved on from the days of serving free lunches to a new market order. Unless the citizens are prepared to welcome the deregulation of all our essential services, at which point the holders of interests in those industries, (such as electricity, water and sanitation/health), will not only be operating their businesses with the utmost efficiency but also realising their investments benefits, will the country continue to go deep into corruption.
The citizens should be warned of the harsh treatment they may be faced with when caught in their misconducts. Those throwing garbage in the streets must be severely punished within the law when caught, just as those selling, with fraudulence, land sites (property) that is not theirs, must be given long jail tariff when proven. The citizens are to be reminded that constant unjust enrichment of citizens in any sovereign state leads the country’s economy into inflation.
The Sierra Leone citizens are now to be prepared to accept change. This should not only be a cross road change but a drastic change that could help to eradicate corruption, collect our falling parts together and put us in the situation where the working population in the country will be enjoying a ?living salary/wages’.
Now, having considered the very important issues affecting our country, as stated above, that emerged from the interview by the TA of His Excellency Ambassador Thomas Neil Hull, it is hoped that the citizens of Sierra Leone will be prepared to act smartly but with wisdom, show respect for the rule of law to resolve the problems currently affecting the nation.
Remember, capu dee sense nor capu dee word.
God Bless Sierra Leone
God Bless the people and government in Sierra Leone
God Bless Sierra Leoneans wherever they may be.