Deputy Information Minister pleads with ‘HANCI parents’
Sierra Leone’s Deputy Minister of Information & Communications, who doubles as Co-Government Spokesman, Sheka Tarawalie (in photo), has said that the issue of the children adopted and taken to the USA through Help A Needy Child International (HANCI) “will not be resolved through emotional outbursts and anger.”
“This is a problem that we inherited as a government; this adoption was done during the previous government about fifteen years ago; but we have decided, as responsible government that cares for all it’s citizens, to pursue it to its logical conclusion. And this can only be done in a calculated and less passionate manner if we want to get the desired effects,” he averred.
The Minister was speaking in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, where he spent a night on transit to attend an ITU-organized ICT conference in Rwanda, responding to reports that the parents of the adopted children had held a press conference denouncing Government’s efforts, through his visit to the USA, to start preliminary contacts towards establishing relations between the adopted children and their biological parents back in Sierra Leone.
“I never said I met with the children. I never even said I met with any of the parents that adopted these kids. What I said was that I was able to get the views of the adopted parents through an intermediary acting on their behalf. I listened to him, I listened to the side of the American parents who by and large are not against re-establishing contacts between the children and their biological parents, but are dismayed that their humanitarian gesture of helping children in need during our war period is being misinterpreted,” Minister Tarawalie further maintained.
He went on to dilate that, ” We set up a commission of inquiry and then came out with a white paper suspending the activities of HANCI while police investigations were conducted on those responsible for the wrongful processing of the adoptions. But I believe, or I should think, what the biological parents really want is to re-connect with their children with the hope of getting them back. And in a journey of a thousand miles, there’ll always be the first step; which is why we took the extra effort of making initial contacts that would lead to that. I think the parents should have come to us and say ‘how do we proceed from here’, instead of misquoting me or be unsatisfied with Government’s efforts. The mere information that the kids are well and are being taken care of should be welcomed. I find it strange that the parents did not denounce the white paper, but are denouncing the efforts that positively follow-up on that white paper. I think we should all come together in following up on this matter, and not allow tempers to unnecessarily flare.”
The Minister went on to acknowledge that apart from the bungled adoptions, HANCI has actually been doing a tremendously good job in Sierra Leone by helping thousands of children. He also acknowledged that the leadership that presided over the adoptions has ever since changed. “There’s a new crop of leaders at HANCI, and adoption is no more part of their activities. We cannot permanently ban HANCI or punish its new leaders for the mistakes of others,” he asserted.
Minister Tarawalie said there’s an urgent need to forget about rhetoric and follow-up on his initial contacts in the USA “so that the connections with the kids would be established, even as the intermediary had insisted that the parents in the USA are concerned that most of the kids would soon turn 18, an age during or after which, according to American law, they could move home without being obliged to leave contacts behind.”
“I plead with the parents to exercise patience. They have already waited for fifteen years in vain; they could endure a little bit more, now that we have started seeing some silver lining in the dark horizon of this sad chapter,” he appealed, before boarding Ethiopia Airlines for Kigali on Tuesday 9th May.
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