GOVERNMENT OF SIERRA LEONE
THIS, CERTAINLY, IS NOT A ‘MUMU’ GOVERNMENT
The Ministry of Information & Communications acknowledges and appreciates the efforts of members of the public in utilizing the current democratic and media-friendly environment that allows all and sundry to air their views without let or hindrance. It is however a bit too harsh for anyone to insinuate that this is a ’mumu’ government, i.e. a government that does not speak out on relevant issues. It is especially absurd to make a comparison with the former government, as ours has been an administration on a totally different pedestal.
Our attention has particularly been drawn to statements made by Dr. Sylvia Blyden, the publisher of Awareness Times newspaper, on radio and television stating that the government is a ‘mumu’ one. We have to categorically state that the way a government is run – the way a government responds to issues raised by either members of the public or of the press – is totally different from how others would do it. Government does not do knee-jerk reactions or impulsive responses to issues. A responsible government uses various methods – including directly talking to media houses – in responding to issues.
Now we would go to the specifics:
ACCUSATIONS OF MISSING 30 BILLION LEONES
Dr. Blyden is saying that Government did not dispel a story in the Democrat newspaper accusing the Central Bank of having siphoned Le 30 billion. First of all, at times a publication that does not attract a wide readership is not worth giving a lot of publicity through a reaction. However, what is more important is that a reaction should be measured and appropriate with adequate information. Such information has to be got from the relevant authorities. With regards the so-called missing billions, we needed to contact officials of the Bank of Sierra Leone and for it to be first thoroughly ascertained that there was no missing money, as indeed there was no missing money. What obtained in this instance was that the new bank notes that were recently brought to the Bank totaled Le 30 billion. Whoever thought this was stolen money was making a big mistake and should have at least contacted the Bank before going to press.
GOVERNMENT REACTION TO AL JAZEERA BROADCAST
Dr. Blyden also had a swipe on the Government on the issue of the official reaction in the wake of the Al Jazeera broadcast. Apparently, what she wanted or desired was for Government to quickly dismiss the broadcast as a fake one. We wouldn’t have done that. It had international ramifications – even drawing the attention of US Congressmen and women who wrote to US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton with the impression that the whole government was involved in a timber-gate cover-up.
The Government’s reaction was appropriate, and was done in the presence of the Vice President. The current indictments by the Anti Corruption Commission (ACC) of two of the persons shown in the broadcast only go on to explain the wise decision the government took in allowing an independent investigation into the matter.
Apart from holding weekly press conferences in a consistent manner throughout its first term, this government has been very outspoken and proactive in a very mature and calculated manner. The vibrancy of the communications network of this government is seen in the various press releases, radio and television discussions, on-line forum participation, outreach programmes through the Open Government Initiative and the Attitudinal and Behavioural Change Secretariat among others, and the writings of our Information Attaches spread across the globe. Even Government Ministers, apart from those at the Ministry of Information, have been participating in radio and television programmes. The President’s own activities are being covered and relayed to the public in a regular fashion by a dedicated press corps at State House.
We have to state, however, that we are in governance, and not in opposition; we are therefore very much aware that while we are always ready and willing to react, over-reaction could actually be seen as reactionary.
OFFICE OF THE GOVERNMENT SPOKESMAN
MINISTRY OF INFORMATION & COMMUNICATIONS
YOUYI BUILDING, FREETOWN
Photo: Information Minister Ibrahim Kargbo.