Erstwhile Deputy Minister of Information and Communications, Internal Affairs in the former APC-led administration of President Ernest Bai Koroma, Sheka Tarawallie aka Shekito says he will not honour a Commission of Inquiry (COI) invitation for him to testify before the Commission.
In the article below, Shekito explains why he will not attend the COI as invited but rather, he would send the COI his book which is now internationally acclaimed and about to be launched in Sierra Leone.
Shekito writes: What a great coincidence that it is now (after your Commission has been in operation for several months) – at a time just when my autobiographical book has been published by Troubador (UK) and is gaining popularity both inside and outside Sierra Leone and is about to be launched in-country – that you have written to me with regards testimonies “on issues pertaining to the Ministry of Information during your tenure”. A striking coincidence indeed!
But that was a digression, which normally does not come at the beginning. But these are not normal times!
I received a call on 24 June 2019 at about 15:43 from Mr. Morie Lenghor (a man I found very amiable and diligent when I was Deputy Minister of Internal affairs and he was a senior police officer) saying there were issues to be addressed at your Commission with regards the Ministry of Information (where I was previously Deputy Minister) and that he would need my address for a correspondence to be sent to me to that effect. I supplied him with the information.
At about 17:44 on the same day, a friend sent me a WhatsApp message with a letter purportedly from the Commission, bearing the letter-head of same plus my name and address. Before long, I saw the same letter in several WhatsApp groups. I only actually received your letter (signed by the Secretary to the Commission but without his or her name) at about 14:00 on 25 June 2019 and found out that indeed it was a true replica (or vice versa) of the one circulating on social media.
I found this strange and astonishing – for an institution of this nature. At least, they should have waited for me, and the others addressed, to have received the correspondence before circulating it to the public (as I would do shortly). Running the Commission of Inquiry in a town-crier fashion is not fashionable at all. An institution of this magnitude of national seriousness should be operated with some office decorum and etiquette. It can clearly be seen that the WhatsApp circulation of the letter emanated from the Commission, as all the letters were from the same file which had ‘Notice of Hearing’ written on it in ink.
However, be that as it may, and coming to your secretariat’s alerting me about this development of a hearing, I appreciate the effort at reaching me. However, since there is no specific allegation against me, I would say I find it unnecessary to attend the session or even send a representative. If indeed there were, I am sure I would have been notified with the details which would be used by my legal representative to make any submission or cross-examination – even as I know that witnesses often make written statements first before their oral testimonies. Representation can therefore not be made in a vacuum, as the present scenario is.
I would like to categorically state that my position has nothing to do with the no-attendance stance of the All Peoples Congress (APC), the now Opposition which was in power within your jurisdictional timeframe. After all, many former officials have had representations made on their behalf at your Commission. I just basically do not see the necessity when there is no particular case to answer – as per your correspondence.
The fact that the substantive Minister at the time I served as Deputy Minister is around further erodes the necessity for my attendance. This is because, as Deputy (even when Acting while the Minister could be away), you do not have the capacity or authority to make any major decision without the prior approval of the Minister – as per ‘civil service protocol’ which especially Permanent Secretaries would always strictly adhere to.
To this end, I would say the letter written to me is a waste of resources. Calling someone to attend or send a representative when he or she is neither a witness nor has any specific allegation to respond to is a most unwelcome drumbeat bordering on scaremongering, as far as I am concerned. Therefore, I would crave your indulgence not to write to me if there is nothing specific to respond to in future – a future I definitely believe would not come because I am confident of the way I conducted myself in office.
Meanwhile, I am taking liberties to send you a complimentary copy of my just-published book in which I have highlighted some of my activities in Government, which I left in March 2016. Sincerely, I already had the intention of sending a copy to the Commission, but – to be sincere still – I had planned to send it to Justice Biobele Georgewill (who perhaps due to his Nigerian background – I am sure you know the links with Sierra Leone especially in contemporary times and particularly during the war period – has been more publicly trumpeted). However, as someone with a firm belief in God’s interventions in the affairs of men, I take the correspondence from your Commission as a direction to send it to you instead (and your being a Sierra Leonean makes it really better, I admit) – while I would be happy that it is shared within the three commissions.
Please forgive the fact that I have written this letter from a layman’s point of view. Perhaps, in the process, I am speaking the minds of many more laymen, who normally are in the majority.
Thank you very much for your understanding.
(Editor’s Note: published unedited)