Generally speaking, Sierra Leoneans are a law-abiding people , by nature. That is why citizens of the nation at home and abroad were perplexed, stunned, surprised and disappointed yesterday to learn that the Minister of Defence, Major Palor Conteh, was manhandled by some ex-servicemen of the Sierra Leone Military Forces who had gone to his office to demand payment of their overdue benefits. According to a photo of the event circulated on the internet by the POLITICO Newspaper, the minister’s safari shirt was torn off his skin, leaving him with white under-vest.
THE DEFENCE MINISTER IN WHITE VEST AFTER HIS SAFARI SUIT IS TORN FIGHTS BACK HIS ATTACKERS:
Though the attack was not as bad as was first narrated to the the world by detractors of the Ernest Koroma Government , including supporters of the opposition Sierra Leone People’s Party ( SLPP ) ,who gloated about it and as usual blew it out of proportion and tried to make political capital out of it, , still it was a disgrace to the nation that former soldiers of the army were so indisciplined that they did not flinch to pounce on a government minister, the Defence Minister, for that matter. Attacking the Minister of Defence was tantamount to attacking state power and the soul of our nation. The Defence Minister is a symbol of our state power and CONTROL. When he is brazenly attacked physically by anybody , it is an attack on state power and state control. In the U.S, the punishment is very stiff for people who assault federal officials because they represent state power and state control.Warnings to that effect are posted in Federal buildings and in buses.
There is no way that the seriousness and the dangerous implication of yesterday’s event should be downplayed or sugar-coated. It is a very serious matter . Many questions come begging. For instance, where was the minister’s security detail ? Did the Minister of Defence step out of his office to address angry and disaffected former soldiers, many of whom were deranged, without any security cover ? If so, then it is high time that we rethink our security arrangements for public officers. It is sheer folly to underestimate the security dangers facing our ministers and public officers. Security should always be beefed up around the President, ministers and public officers to avoid wildcats reactions on them from troublemakers.
Whether the men who carried out the attack were of mental incapacitation or not, the incident illustrated colorfully and graphically that indiscipline has taken a serious grip on our society . From all the facts heard, their checks were being prepared and the minister explained this to them, but yet they still attacked him. While we hope that their checks be made available to them soon , we do not think that attacking the Defence Minister was the solution to the problem.
People no longer seem obligated to obey the laws of the country. Okada drivers have the temerity to attack police stations and set them on fire. Political agitators think nothing about taking the law into their hands and kidnapping or stabbing opponents with fiendish ease. Musicians and their fanatics do not flinch to go on the rampage, attacking rivals and damaging public property. The public’s sense of safety has been seriously eroded by these acts of lawlessness and public disobedience in our society. It is time for strong action against offenders of the laws .
Sociologists posit that Lawlessness does not result from a lack of law, but from rebellion to it. . Sierra Leone is a country of laws but what has happened is that the spirit of impunity has taken hold of our society because offenders do not feel threatened by any deterrent . They know that they will either be let off the hook by law enforcements officers who have no stomach to prosecute or given a slap on the wrist by our courts not determined to set deterrents. Imagine that the culprits who almost killed the female political leader in Bo and those who kidnapped their rival in Moyamba as well as those who almost took the life of political activist Lansana Fadika were given punishments that could best be described as Child’s play.
There is a sense too that some of the acts of lawlessness in our society are politically orchestrated and motivated. Sierra Leone is faced with a situation where everything has become politicized and opposition party members nose around like hungry hounds for potentially explosive situations to exacerbate and stir up into public disturbances . The sadistic glee with which members of the opposition SLPP welcome, aggravate and seek to amply every chaos in the society caused by lawlessness is clear manifestation that in their inordinate lust for power, the SLPP is playing a part in the covert orchestration of these problems for political capital. The internet , especially the social networking site, FACEBOOK, and the online forums went viral with the attack on the Defence Minister, with SLPP supporters clearly gloating and wishing that the situation lead to the 1992 calamity when a protest at State House for benefits by soldiers from the warfront degenerated into a full-blown military coup that toppled the old APC Government.
The Government has demonstrated enough tolerance . Understandably, in its quest to promote the noble ideals of national reconciliation and peace consolidation as Sierra Leone strives to build a stable and democratic post-conflict state dictated by national cohesion and national integration, the government has tended to be very forgiving to its opponents and detractors who break the law. It would now seem like this spirit of tolerance and national reconciliation by the government are being taken advantage of by sections of the society, including our politicians.
In this regard, it is time to bring an end to the honeymoon and ensure that those who want to continue breaking the law with impunity are made to feel the bitter pinches of the law. The government has done its best to demonstrate that it wants to be tolerant with its citizens. Now, the gloves should be off. An example must be set of the soldiers who felt no restraint to attack the Minister of Defence yesterday. The culprits should be arrested , tried in court and, if found guilty, given very stiff prison sentences so that people would stop making light of our laws. The attack on the Defence Minister was the ultimate in lawlessness and public disobedience. Let the culprits pay a dear price so that others will see and fear.