Salone News

Press Release on St. Francis Issue

15 October 2006 at 05:47 | 400 views

Press Release

14th October 2006

London, UK

Makeni Parishioners in the United Kingdom Demand Immediate Retraction and Unqualified Apology from Standard Times

We, concerned parishioners of the Diocese of Makeni, currently residing in the United Kingdom, are appalled by the torrential and unwarranted libellous attacks on the reverend person and office of the Bishop of Makeni, His Lordship George Biguzzi, by the Standard Times Newspaper of Freetown, Sierra Leone. We take great exception to these attacks not least because Standard Times has stepped too far beyond responsible investigative journalism but also because of the gratuitous nature of the attacks and the breadth of the damage caused to our Bishop’s hard earned reputation.

The article, “At St. Francis Secondary School....Makeni Bishop Accused of corruption” published on Standard Times online service on 9th October 2006 at 14:48, is believed to have also been published in Freetown on the paper’s hard copy on Friday, 4th October 2006 as a front page news item. A subsequent article has also been published online on 12th October 2006 at 23:37 by Standard Times with the caption: “State Lodge captures Makeni saga......Ministry impounds St. Francis vouchers”.

We appreciate the rejoinder by the Awareness Times Newspaper of Freetown Sierra Leone, published on Tuesday, 10th October 2006 at 16:38 on their website at: http://news.sl/drwebsite/publish/printer_20053827.shtml with the title “More Shame for Sierra Leone Journalists as irresponsible journalism besmears Bishop Biguzzi and Makeni goes mad”.

We also commend the responses of Paramount Chief Bai Shebora Kassangha II (a Board Member of St Francis Secondary School), Mr Benjamin Kargbo (Chairman of Makeni Town Council), Mr Massie Bah (a representative of the Civil Society), and Mr Samuel Turay (a representative of the Diocese of Makeni Laity Council) and their participation in Radio Maria FM 90.7 talk-in show against the Standard Times publication. This broad representation of Makeni town dignitaries can only indicate one thing: that the authorities in Makeni disagree with the sensational journalism of Standard Times and dissociate themselves from comments contained in the paper’s article.

We take this opportunity to put straight some facts which were deliberately distorted and/or intentionally misrepresented by Standard Times:

o that Bishop Biguzzi did not contribute whatsoever to the current impasse over the principalship of St Francis Secondary School in Makeni. His membership of the Board of the School does not give him a veto on the choice of principal and as such, we fail to see how the Bishop could be the master schemer, the main player at the centre of this fiasco;

o the claim that the Bishop “was avoidably absent” from an emergency meeting held by the Board of Governors of the school on Wednesday, 4th October is a gross misleading and calculated effort to deprecate our Bishop when in fact Bishop George was transiting Liberia from Italy during this period.

Most people most who have read that malicious article of Standard Times would accept that it is a deluge of misrepresentations, unfounded allegations and reeking claims of alleged corrupt practices. For these reasons, we conclude that Standard Times and the author of that article have failed to exhibit any form of journalistic professionalism. Would it not have been reasonable and professional for the author of that article to cross-check their facts and give the Bishop or his office the opportunity to air their version of events? By choosing not to do so, Standard Times woefully failed in its duty as a responsible media house to give an accurate, balanced and clear report. There is no reference in that article that Standard Times even attempted to contact the Bishop or his office for comments. This is a one-sided story. We therefore condemn Standard Times in very strong terms for its despicable and defamatory article on the person and office of our Bishop.

We fail to see any reasonable grounds to justify the factual distortion in those articles and believe that this was done to hurt the Bishop with a degree of xenophobia unseen ever before in Sierra Leone. There is no justification to attack our Bishop’s Italian origin and if anything, the author of that article has simply revealed their ignorance in who Bishop Biguzzi really is. Bishop Biguzzi has given up the majority of his life time serving (not Italians, if Standard Times needs a reminder, but) the people of Sierra Leone as a missionary priest, a teacher, a human rights, justice, peace and development worker, and now an investor in people.

In truth, no amount of character assassination will exsanguinate the enthusiasm and commitment of Bishop Biguzzi or the Catholic Diocese of Makeni to abandon its support to the people of Makeni, the North and Sierra Leone as a whole. Bishop George and the Diocese of Makeni will continue to reach out to the poor and the neglected masses of Sierra Leone. Standard Times’ backstabbing will not distract the Bishop and the Diocese. We call on all reasonable people and well-meaning Sierra Leoneans to condemn Standard Times and support the efforts of Bishop Biguzzi and the Diocese of Makeni towards the development of the Northern Province and Sierra Leone.

His Lordship respects the authority of the state of Sierra Leone and has no motivation to disobey its laws or the lawful directions of its officials, including those from the President, his ministers or any other state authority.

There is therefore no reason to smear the character of this Goodman. We urge all parties concerned to desist from involving His Lordship in their politicking and respect his authority and office.

To this end, we call on all Sierra Leoneans to join us in our condemnation of the irresponsible journalism of Standard Times. We demand an immediate and unqualified front page retraction of the malicious articles and an apology to the Bishop, the Diocese of Makeni and the people of the Northern Province.

Failing which, we demand that Standard Times make public the particulars of the basis of the allegation of corrupt practices including documents, papers and any other evidence connected with the matters alleged when it reported that: “...the Bishop of the Makeni Diocese whose administration is now replete with corrupt practices ranging from sacrilege to administrative corruption” and that “Bishop George Biguzzi, who was implicated in the affair, is reportedly frenzied about the manner in which the truth is being slammed in his face, and why he has allowed incompetence and corruption to hit the school so hard”. To make such allegations does leave a dent on the immaculate character of our Bishop.

In the alternative, we draw the attention of the Anti-Corruption Commission of Sierra Leone and submit that the Standard Times articles which alleged unsubstantiated corrupt practices by Bishop George and his administration may constitute a referral to the Commission “by complaint or otherwise”. Further, we believe this is wilfully making or causing to be made to the Commission a false complaint or report that an offence has been committed or it is misleading the Commission by giving false information or making false statement or accusation. In the circumstances, we entreat the Commission to apply the law as stipulated under the Anti-Corruption Act of 2000 against the person(s) who so make such false statements or accusations.

Signed for & on behalf of the said parishioners by:

Patrick Matthew Hassan-Morlai
10 Granville Place Elm Park Road Pinner MiddlesexHA5
3NFUnited Kingdom
Mobile: +44-79-6098-5679Tel/Fax: +44-20-3226-0063
Email: makeni_parishioners@yahoo.co.uk

Photo: St. Francis Secondary School, Makeni.

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