Wey we res? Where is our rice?
It came as a bombshell as it was intended to be. “It was only after the Libyan Leader Colonel Gadaffi had revealed it at the national stadium that the people Sierra Leone learnt for the first time that Libya had donated quantities of rice and other gifts to Sierra Leone!” or words to that effect, ran the now notorious front page lie in the Standard Times newspaper by its managing editor-in-chief Philip Neville. Confident that it was a lie, that it was a complete fabrication meant to discredit the government at a crucial moment, the government of President Tejan-Kabbah wasted no time in calling a news conference and with supporting documents, told the people what the true picture was.
There were references to the leader of the minority APC in Parliament being involved in the distribution mechanism that was being put in place in Parliament building. That not withstanding the opposition APC made great propaganda out of the falsehood which they used to optimum effect to deceive a gullible electorate of the corruption of the SLPP. Â It was so effective that on the last day of our final campaign rally, unruly but well coached APC elements and hooligans kept yelling at our motorcade, “wey we res?” (where is our rice?). We did that within 24 hours, because we didn’t have to make up stories or fortify documents. And like I have said and will continue to repeat, there were representatives of nearly the whole newspaper establishment when some of those gifts were being received or in the specific case of the rice, even as it was being offloaded down the Quay, the press was being briefed as to how the government planned to dispose of it so that all Sierra Leoneans would stand to benefit.
How many such newspapers, including that of the then President of SLAJ endorsed the government’s story? The leader of the Peoples’ Movement for Democratic Change PMDC went further and told the audience in his campaign speeches that the SLPP government HAD SOLD THE LIBYAN RICE IN GHANA. But somebody in the audience in Koindu told him that he was lying.
We are running into a week now since the SLPP national chairman John Oponjo Benjamin addressed a serious letter of concern to his Excellency President Koroma on governance and development issues in which there was specific reference to the Indian rice. There has been no formal response and I don’t accept that his Excellency’s absence from the country as any excuse for the delay.
As Shekitimus Saffa admitted in an article in the We Yone newspaper, government is a continuing process. Should we wait until his Excellency’s return before we hear their version? What is disturbing for now is the clumsy and futile attempt by some of the people named in JOB’s letter and some APC apologists to respond only to certain portions of specific areas in the letter and then go on the offensive with insults. Paul Kamara’s jokers in For di People newspaper have gone as far as saying that Tejan-Kabbah’s government was corrupt. And so what? Is that what is of concern right now, and admitting for the sake of argument that the SLPP was corrupt, is that any justification to abandon the slogan of attitudinal change and justify a misdeed?
There are specific pieces of information that the public would be interested to know about the rice. At what price did the Indian government offer it to the government of Sierra Leone? How was Sylvanus Koroma’s company selected, was it by tender or by special interest? Has it been in the rice business? AT WHAT PRICE DID THE COMPANY SELL THE CONCESSIONARY PART TO THE PUBLIC AND HOW WERE THE OUTLETS SELECTED? Did that selling price take into consideration the duty-free waver that the company enjoyed? Why wasn’t there an across the board duty waver to all importers seeing the pathetic state in which the public was? Was any part of the other consignment diverted to Dubai? Would any explanations be accompanied by documentary evidence?
In the absence of credible answers to any of the above questions, our people will continue to ask, “wey we res?”
So Lamin Vonjo has not been a prospective candidate for the ruling APC. Congratulations to Charles and Mohamed Bangura. “He who lives shall see”
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