''All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing'' - Edmund Burke


S I E R R A  H E R A L D

Vol XI No 1

The tendency sometimes to protect perpetrators for the sake of peace...doesn't help society. Impunity should not be allowed to stand. - Kofi Annan on Waki report

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Wednesday February 5, 2014 - Sierra Leonean lives on the cheap - the land where "investors" are encouraged by an uncaring and corrupt government to get away with anything including murder as the forces of law and order become slaves to the whims and caprices of the vultures at State House.The blood soaked body of the murdered Musu Conteh. She was killed while protesting for her rights in Sierra Leone

Some time in late December last year, we started getting reports of a boat incident involving one of our local sea transportation vessels known as pampa. Initially the death toll from that incident was reported to be in the region of five, but as the hours progressed, it became obvious that far more Sierra Leoneans could have lost their lives. Caring national newspapers wanting to alert the government of the rat immediately started running stories with the main thread being that the local sea craft was in collision with a boat controlled by one of the many "investors" now operating in Sierra Leone and who would want us to believe that they do care for the people of Sierra Leone.

After what seemed like a hesitation on what actually happened, one of the investors, named Beltship issued a press statement under the hand of one John McMillan, Director, Beltship Management (SL) Ltd. This was the statement -

"At approximately seven pm on the evening of the 28 December, a Beltship Management (SL) Ltd support craft returning to port with three crew members on board reported a collision with a small passenger boat close to Tagrin point. The vessel, a 15 passenger slow speed crew boat, was in normal operations returning after deploying local workers. Beltship Management (SL) Ltd immediately mobilised rescue craft to assist and are fully cooperating with the local authorities. Beltship Management will release further updates as and when they become available."

We would urge a closer look at this statement again - a Beltship Management (SL) Ltd support craft returning to port with three crew members on board reported a collision with a small passenger boat close to Tagrin point...Beltship Management (SL) Ltd immediately mobilised rescue craft to assist and are fully cooperating with the local authorities. Beltship Management will release further updates as and when they become available.

As simple laymen, we would applaud the above statement which admits that indeed there was a collision albeit with "a small passenger boat close to Tagrin point" and that the collision involved one of the vessels of Beltship. What is worth mentioning and again to be applauded is that Beltship was a part of the rescue attempt immediately after this incident and not only that but stated that it was fully cooperating with the local authorities.

That would show the hallmarks of a company that cares. It gets involved in a fatal sea accident, for that's how we see it, and promises to cooperate fully with the local authorities. "Local authorities" we would interpret as the traditional rulers of Tagrin, the naval wing, the police and of course the government of the Republic of Sierra Leone headquartered at State House.

The next statement from Beltship we got from a report published by the online Sierra Express Media (SEM) with this headline - Our Deepest Sympathy to Boat Victims and this statement within 24 hours showed that Beltship was quick to express regret, if not remorse -

"Beltship Management (SL) Ltd would like to express their deepest sympathies to the families of the deceased after the tragic accident at Tagrin Point on the evening of the 28 December. Beltship Management is cooperating fully with the authorities in the investigation of the circumstances of the collision and will provide further updates on that investigation when they become available. We would like to commend the actions of our Captain and his crew whose prompt actions saved many lives. The Captain of the Beltship craft, immediately after the collision, called the Sierra Leone Port Authorities and alerted a response whilst at the same time initiating a rescue operation. Life vests and life buoys were thrown into the water to assist those who were thrown from the canoe and one of the Beltship crew members (there were three on board) jumped into the water to assist those who could not help themselves. Two other Beltship craft were immediately summoned to assist and during the rescue operation the Captain and crew managed to save 49 passengers from the stricken canoe. Our crews and vessels stayed on station coordinating the rescue operations until stood down by the port authorities."

Throughout this whole tragic incident, Beltship's statements have always expressed the company's willingness to cooperate with the local authorities and to update Sierra Leoneans on the needed investigations after such an incident that no doubt claimed at least twenty Sierra Leonean lives and the fact that Beltship had to deploy life vests and life buoys points the spotlight on what is still going on that puts lives at risk. It would appear from reports so far that our very own Sierra Leonean folks using pampa vessels still continue to ply our rivers and creeks without the benefit of life vests and buoys.

Remember we reported on the contract for the supply of life vests that we suspected was pretty shady? We wanted to know who won the contract and how many such life jackets were actually delivered.

Kindly recall that on Tuesday September 8, 2009 a boat travelling from Shenge to Tombo was involved in an incident in which more than two hundred lives, including those of school children coming back from holidays and getting ready for the reopening of schools, were lost. Up to this time, the exact number of people on the boat has not been verified nor the exact number of those who perished.

The government then, under one Ernest Bai Koroma before he became a rat expressed deep sorrow and promised that as from then on all vessels plying our waters will see all passengers wearing life vests with names on manifests that will be overseen by one of Sierra Leone's finest, the navy or rather the naval wing of the Sierra Leone Military Forces.

At that time the opposition Sierra Leone Peoples Party under the hand of its National Secretary-General one Jacob Jusu Saffa issued a press statement which in part read -

"The Sierra Leone People’s Party would like to bring to the attention of the general public the efforts made in the past to promote passenger safety at sea. During the last SLPP administration, Sierra Leone ratified international safety codes including Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) under the aegis of International Maritime Organisation (IMO). The regulations provided for capacity limit for passenger and cargo boat indicated by visible load lines on the outside of all boats. Water level above the load line shows that the boat is overloaded and should not be allowed to leave the harbour. Other regulations include use of spare engines, life jackets for all passengers, adequate fuel at sea and regular inspection of the engines by Marine Engineers.


The last administration also acquired huge quantity of life jackets and started nationwide sensitisation on use of life jackets and other safety rules. Also, Marine Monitors were employed and trained to ensure compliance to the safety rules. These monitors should ensure that all passengers have life jackets before departure. Coxswains (Pampa operators) were trained in navigational skills and safety rules.


It is, however, disheartened to know that since 2007, these regulations have not been enforced. The Ministry of Transport and Aviation and the Maritime Administration, the lead government agencies for sea transportation has failed to enforce the safety regulations. Even in Freetown, the use of life jackets is not enforced. There are inadequate Marine Engineers and Monitors to enforce compliance.


The SLPP therefore calls for immediate investigation into the accident. The investigation should propose recommendations with clear implementation plans indicating timelines for action. This Plan should be made public and monitoring mechanisms put in place. In addition, the SLPP calls on full implementation of all international regulations and local laws relating to maritime transportation."


We are not so sure if this strongly-worded statement at the time was one with a political tinge but it was quite clear that something had gone wrong and that the new government of Ernest Bai Koroma needed to do something to prevent the loss of a single Sierra Leonean life - more so when such incidents could have been prevented if the necessary regulations were enforced. As with all investigations promised/ordered by the government of the rat, Sierra Leoneans still await the findings of those investigations.


And now this - why has the government kept sealed lips on the matter? Surely the rat cannot say he is under pressure not to investigate the Beltship incident and make such proceedings public given the initial statements and promise from the Beltship Management that they will cooperate fully with the authorities and update Sierra Leoneans on the issue. Or is it that Beltship has been ordered not to make any more public statement?


This we doubt because if those lives were British, Australian, American or nationals from any democratic and caring government, they would be requesting a full investigation into the matter. Our hunch tells us that Beltship is quite willing to make public just what happened and to institute the much needed compensation procedures for all those affected by that tragic incident.


That the government has still not come out with a full statement updating Sierra Leoneans and friends of Sierra Leone within and outside the borders of Sierra Leone again puts the spotlight on an uncaring government, the head of which is only interested in what swells his foreign currency bank accounts and safe deposits at State House and the Lodge.


On the "investors" getting away with murder remember Bumbuna and how the rat's security forces reacted after the murder of poor Musu Conteh -According to the final report of the Human Rights Commission of Sierra Leone that investigated the incident independent of the government's promise


"The police marched behind the women and physically and emotionally intimidated them thereby disrespecting the women’s secret society. According to them, the police were raining the worst forms of verbal insults saying they will ‘’fire gunshot into the sexual organs of the women’’ and “vaginate” their new weapons. The women reported that they were traumatized because the police operation reminded them of the rebel war. “It was like any rebel attack”, the women repeatedly said. “Due to this incident, our memories of the nineties were recalled when the rebels attacked here in 1994. All what we saw on that day [of the police operation in Bumbuna] can be compared to what we went through during the war. We were worried to imagine we were going to lose all we have worked for a second time. We even thought it was another war.”

Or as a quote in the film Cassablanca states -


"My dear, perhaps you have already observed that in Casablanca human life is cheap. Good night, mademoiselle."


We are talking of a Sierra Leone in 2014 and not something fictional depicted in a 1942 film.


We hope the rat would not want us to believe that only the lives of rats like him are more important and that the lives of real human beings, Sierra Leoneans to boot, are cheap and can be sacrificed on the altar of what can be harvested from the vultures in the extractives industry in Sierra Leone.



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