Even after what we can now describe as poor judgment on the part of Mark Heiligman, I still will not dismiss his allegations as nonsense because we have witnessed how in the United States, in Sierra Leone and in other parts of the world, Millionaires have lost millions of dollars in hard cash and property; all in the name of the unfortunate “Global Economic Meltdown”. Mark, from what we now know, is one of those who were hardest hit by this poor economic tsunami. But we have also seen how those who were hit by this situation continued to do what they possibly could, in order to get back up – and that does not include trying to extort money from others or slander them in the name of trying to make a penny here and there.
It all started when Minnesota-based Billionaire Dave Koebler and Mark Heiligman entered into a legitimate diamond business with Vice President Alhaji Samuel Sam Sumana and created a company called United diamond Mining Company as far back as 2000 – a time when Mr. Sumana could only wish for the Vice Presidency of Sierra Leone. the business went on smoothly up to the time Mr. Sumana was appointed Vice President by President Koroma. Thereafter, and according to Mark, things started going wrong between them.
Let us look at some of the things that we didn’t know about this business partnership. Mark Heiligman was one of 3 main persons who formed the upper management of this company – Vice President Sumana being one of the three. In the slanderous article, Mark claimed that Vice President Sumana owed the company $300,000 which was accumulated from clothing that he and Dave shipped out to Mr. Sumana in Sierra Leone to sell and transform into cash. What Mark did not mention in this allegation is that the money was meant to service the business expenditures that Mr. Sumana was incurring on behalf of the business at the time. I started questioning Mark’s credibility in this matter after I called him three different times on his phone and identified myself differently in all three calls. In the first call, I identified myself as a member of the opposition SLPP responsible for Media operations. Mark gave me information that was strong enough to unseat even President Obama if Obama were involved in this matter. The mention of President Obama’s name is only meant to lighten up things and ease the tension that has built up in people’s mind about this matter prior to this moment.
In the second call, I identified as a Freelance Journalist; and he gave me information befitting a Freelance Journalist. In the third call, I identified as someone who has had a bad experience doing business with the VP and would like to know what exactly the VP did to him.
Each conversation I had with Mark Heiligman had a different theme and purpose and from those moments, I came to the conclusion that Mark is not only fighting to get money to solve his mammoth financial problems but also wants to make the President and Vice President look terribly bad in the eyes of the Sierra Leonean people. Mark may not have intended this outburst to make any difference in the political lives of the President and his Vice President other than the mere attempt on his part to get paid; but with barely three months to the Presidential and Parliamentary elections, in which both men are expecting to be reelect, one would see how such allegations could be politically upsetting and certainly damaging. No one wants to dismiss Mark Heiligman as a liar or a scammer but with the new revelations from him; followed by his recent apologies for attempting to implicate the President of the nation, one can safely conclude that Mark’s credibility was on the line at this point. He also alleged in the same article that he and Dave gave a loan of $34,000 to the President Koroma and Vice President Sumana to finance the elections run-off inSierra Leonein 2007.
Let me, for the sake of argument; assume that Mark was right about the $300,000 and then the $34,000 loan to the President and Vice President. Knowing also that Dave Kloeber, the Financier in this business, is a Billionaire, could he (Dave) not have been a more appropriate person to bring both President Koroma and Vice president Sumana to justice? Dave has the ability to fly a hundred times to Sierra Leoneor any other part of the world to pursue a case against these two men. Why didn’t he do that? Why was it that Mark was the only one who was crying for cash? Well, could it be that after he had lost ties with Billionaire Dave Kloeber; lost his home; his business concerns; and his partners and is now cash strapped; Mark decided to come out publicly against the President and VP with the hope that both men could simply be shaken and try to prevent further damning allegations and just give Mark some money? I say this because at this point, the world now knows that Mark Heiligman is no longer a partner in this business and therefore does not have the legitimate authority to represent the company or go after anyone on behalf of United Diamond Mining Company.
Prior to establishing a company in the United States, one has to go through the legal process first. Assuming that United Diamond Mining Company is a legal entity in the USA, don’t we believe that the company has the right to sue and be sued? Why didn’t Mark sue on behalf of United Diamond Mining Company to which he, Vice President Sumana and Dave Kloeber are partners? If Vice President Sumana took a loan from a company to which he is a partner, as Mark stated, I am sure the company must have established terms for loan agreements that must be signed before a loan is extended to a partner or customer, as the case may be. If United Diamond Mining Company did not have those terms and agreements already in place, or never really thought about implementing them, for whatever reason, why would Mark, who was only a partner in the business, come out so unprofessionally against his fellow partner, Vice President Sumana?
The other amazing part of the article from Mark is that the face you see on that slanderous article is not the face of Mark. It is the face of Dave Kloeber, the Billionaire! Why would Mark write an article against the President and Vice President ofSierra Leoneand deliberately put the photograph of someone else in the said article? Is he attempting to absolve blame and prevent direct recrimination? Mark, in my opinion, was attempting to play on Dave the same game that he tried to play on President Koroma and VP Sumana. Mark knew that by including the President’s name in the thieving allegations, more attention will be drawn to the matter. Mark also knew that by putting Dave Kloeber’s name on an article that he (Mark) wrote, he is, in essence, drawing Dave into his foolishness so that if President Koroma and VP Sumana decide to take action against him, he would have Dave, the Billionaire, by his side to help him fight the case. This was a clever move by Mark Heiligman but certainly not enough to sooth some of our curious minds!
These are all factors that could have been borne in mind before we started crucifying Vice President Sumana in our court of public opinion. Mark called our President and Vice President thieves. We, as Sierra Leoneans, politics aside, have a national obligation to take our time and look at the underlying factors to this issue before we started judging VP Sam Sumana and assigning to him all the ugly labels that we saw in most of the discussion forums. Were we, as fellow Sierra Leoneans, more interested in damning our President and Vice President than taking action against Mark Heiligman? The man who called them thieves; I mean our President and Vice president? I don’t know what became of us, Sierra Leoneans during the last two weeks. Did we see what partisan politics did to us? Did we see how we compromised our “National Pride” for political gains? Is that really what we are? Alhaji Samuel Sam Sumana may not be the darling Vice President of all Sierra Leoneans; and it is understandable but please, he is a Sierra Leonean, just like all of us, and the least we could have done was to have made sure we properly verified all the allegations against him before throwing him into the “Samba Gutter of public damnation”!
We know it is election year – actually less than four months from now, to be specific. The Vice President, who carries the most lashes from these allegations, understands this more than most people out there. As Vice President, he has come under more attacks in such a short period of time than any other Vice President inSierra Leone. We cannot condemn him entirely for having a “Business Oriented” mind. Mitt Romney, the potential Republican Nominee in theUSA, has been a business man throughout his life; both as an ordinary citizen and public servant. We cannot discourage the entrepreneurial spirit of our leaders just because we think they will make more. We have to protect and regulate such entrepreneurial spirit by all means appropriate.
I was saying to myself that it wasn’t necessary for Vice President Sumana to make a public statement about this matter because I was looking at it from the point of view that if he didn’t make a statement on the other allegations before this one, why would he make a statement on this last one? My argument was that we have not found anything significant in this matter that would have warranted a public statement from the Vice President. I was thinking that Mark Heiligman and Dave Kloeber could have first come up with a credible case against the President and his Vice if they believed that they had a strong case against the two; before the APCadministration considered making a public statement as they see appropriate. Until then, I also argued that this matter should have been relegated to its place of origin, which is, the Newspapers.
I was also saying that If the opposition wants to play politics with this, our political players in the APCwould have been ready as well; and if anyone within the APCwas intending to play games with this, which I wasn’t speculating or anticipating, we, in the APC, could have handled it because we also know how to settle our internal matters in-house. The fact that Vice President Sumana came out and had a Press Conference on this issue is, in my opinion, very brave and commendable. This should therefore bring a closure to this matter. We, in the APC, and indeed the entire nation, will remain united as we go to November 17. Our indifferences will be put aside and our ingenuity, as members of different political units and people of one nation, will be demonstrated between now and the elections; so that at the end of the day, we will come out stronger and victorious as a nation than we ever were! May God bless us all as we continue to make efforts to neutralize the criminal enterprise of political propaganda and the usual façade, “Dabaru”, for the sake of making a buck or two!