Analysis

On police brutality and suffering teachers

26 August 2008 at 19:24 | 721 views

Commentary

By Isatu Gbla, PV Correspondent, Freetown.

The recent ugly incident of members of the Fourth Estate being beaten and molested and some members of the opposition Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP)molested by the Sierra Leone police deserves to be looked into with a view of taking punitive measures to put this ugly practice to an end.

I watched painfully as my colleagues were being beaten, tortured and publicly molested by people who think they have power to do so. I wonder what would have been the case if it were ordinary civilians who do not have the power for their voices to be heard like the journalists who are using their newspapers and radios to make their plight known.

Journalists, especially in Sierra Leone, are seen as an endangered species although they have been contributing immensely towards the development of the country. And to treat them as targets by the society is just too unfortunate and of course unbearable. I call this a gross violation of human rights which I think needs to be condemned in its entirety.

We should appreciate, encourage and commend journalists for the risk they are taking as they take to the streets in order to get accurate information to inform and educate the public.

That is why I want to call on the authorities concerned to look into this sensitive issue of the journalists who were molested and beaten like common criminals at the headquarters of the SLPP and later before the entrance of no less a place than the seat of power, State House.

The fact that the government of President Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma has not been able to come out with a press statement condemning such barbaric acts is probably sending the wrong signals that such developments might have the blessing of the powers that be.

It must be noted that journalists contributed greatly towards the coming to power of the APC government and such developments have the tendency to sour the good and cordial relationship between the local press and the government as well as the opposition.

As a journalist and human rights campaigner, I want to call on those concerned to do everything possible to bring to book those security men responsible for those barbaric acts on very innocent journalists who were only carrying out their legal and democratic responsibilities to inform, educate and sensitize the public on issues of national concern.

SLTU Must be Investigated
I would like to commend the honourable Minister of Education, Youth and Sports for his nationalistic efforts in unearthing the mystery surrounding the plight of teachers in the country while unscrupulous individuals were making mince meat of the country’s wealth at the expense of innocent people.

It is disheartening to note that a group of people would have the guts to embark on such unholy practices while at the same time turning a blind eye on the plight of the majority of teachers especially at this crucial economic point in time.

This is why I want to reiterate my call for the Anti Corruption Commission (ACC) to speedily look into the activities of the Sierra Leone Teachers Union (SLTU). This is because, it is clear that such an unholy syndicate between the Ministry of Education and the Accountant General’s Office (according to the minister) would never go on successfully for years without the connivance and support of the union. Obviously not!

First of all, the insincerity of the union on the plight of the teachers is well exposed as evidenced in the conflicting figures it continues to present on the number of teachers naton-wide. For example, while the diminutive Secretary General of the SLTU, Davidson Kuyateh, is saying that there are 30,000 teachers nation-wide, his Financial Secretary is saying otherwise - 33,000. And now the minister during his verification exercise last week is putting the figure as 33,165. Is this not scandalous?

This means the SLTU has been collecting from the teachers (including the thousands of ghost teachers of course) Le7,000 dues for no good reason which is criminal to the highest degree.

It is obvious that Davidson and his bunch of corrupt and unpatriotic officials are not seeking the welfare of teachers - instead they are only exploiting them for selfish reasons.

Some of us know of cases of union executives converting scholarships meant for teachers into their personal use just to satisfy their sexual desires. A former female employee at the Stadium Hostel is one of the beneficiaries of scholarships meant for teachers. And we are also ready to go to town on a female employee at the union who is the secret concubine of a very senior executive member of the union (name withheld) and she too is in the pipeline of benefiting from overseas trips meant for teachers.

There are so many corrupt practices at the SLTU that need to be urgently exposed to save us from this ugly situation. Our teachers are being frustrated and made to look like beggars. The burden obviously falls on us the parents and our children.

The SLTU, as it is, is one organization that does not seek the the welfare of the people and what I am saying here is that its current executive is not a credible one and has no moral grip to serve as a pressure group because, “you cannot pull a speck on someone’s eye when there is a big log on yours”.

Once again, I am urging for the ACC to investigate the SLTU.

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