From the Editor’s Keyboard

The politics of blame

22 November 2016 at 20:59 | 1270 views

Commentary

By Titus Boye-Thompson, Freetown.

The fiasco which now surrounds the botched attempt by opposition activists to make political capital out of the recent removal of subsidy on petrol and petroleum products has engulfed even the courts of law.

The issues under consideration are simple and straightforward. Those who go by the name of the Sierra Leone Renaissance Movement have proved themselves to be uncaring even for the personal safety of an unwitting and immature young woman, who has caused herself grave harm by forwarding a message that was outrightly seditious and tantamount to incitement. She cannot accord herself the liberty to say that she did not know that the message she forwarded on social media was harmful or portended any harm to anyone.

As a university student, the phrase "ignorance of the law is no excuse," is not an obfuscation to her. She cannot feign ignorance nor can she cry to the gallery for pity. This is because she is someone who should have had the ability to discern what is right from wrong. Nonetheless, she posted and forwarded such an obnoxious message under the guise of anonymity or under a false impression that she was safe behind her phone.

Having berated such a young and impressionable woman for her folly, attention must be turned on those who put her in such critical danger. Anecdotal evidence exists that she is the girlfriend of one of the leaders of the Sierra Leone Renaissance Movement. In that case, it is easily discernible how she can get so caught up in the ranting of an opposition political activist and for her to be brainwashed into believing that all is lost for Sierra Leone unless they take some decisive action by posting seditious and callous statements urging people to burn vehicles and use the children of members of the Sierra Leone Police Force as human shields. It is utter nonsense and a complete lack of social or moral awareness that would cause the publication of such grave words against the state and its institutions.

The language of the post is so bereft of rationality that it is a cause for serious concern that those who aspire to political leadership could be so callous. This brings one to the realization that the text of that message could not have been written by the very same lady who now stands trial for its contents. The combination of words and the contextual import of the message was crafted to cause fear and consternation in the general public. At no time would any reasonable person be excused for such outright attack on the state and its institutions but moreover, the matter is even more damaging when you consider that the target for such violence was intended to be school children and university students. How would those who aspire for leadership contemplate the use of our young to be fodder for martyrdom? In the event, the arrest of this naive woman was but a strategic step taken by the police to arrest what would have been a very unstable period for this country.

Had the Black Monday call for peaceful protest been left at that, one could have recognized such a protest as peaceful and indicative of the depth of feeling within sections of our community that are very much aggrieved at the removal of subsidies. However, the economic straitjacket that has been imposed on the country needs to be recognized as a justifiable inconvenience in a world of such uncertainties as we see now.

The exit of Britain from the European Union in Europe and the election of Donald Trump in the USA are pointers to a high state of nationalism that is spreading around the world. The result of such tendencies to be more insular and protective of individual economies destabilises the hitherto neo-liberalist model that preaches a more dynamic market driven global economy. The result as we now begin to see are fundamentalism and nationalist fervour that shut down economies and distort the equilibrium of the market dynamic. For now, this is an uncertain world where small countries dependent on external markets for their goods and commodities are now under threat of destabilization through harsh economic decisions that have to be taken in order to avoid unconventional financing of their developmental programs.

Sierra Leone needs to be stringent in its expenditure, more resourceful in its income generation and overall, more efficient in the way things are done here. To start on that road, the President saw reason in starting with austerity measures for government to send the signal that all is not well and secondly, the removal of subsidies was designed to arrest the unhelpful smuggling of petroleum products to neighbouring countries. That these decisions are directed at the core of governance means that politics should not be a primary consideration. The effect of such political brinkmanship is confused by the inundation of openly apolitical messaging and the indications that are now tending to anarchy. In the event, the politics of blame takes precedence over a rationalisation of just and proper actions taken to arrest a decline in the economic and social environment.

Recovering from the twin shocks of the Ebola Virus Disease and the drop in commodity prices at the world market means that Sierra Leone now has very little to hang on to except its main natural resource ( land for agriculture), and a rationalisation of attributes to consolidate economic realities such as to reduce importation of food and staple items and to reduce dependency on imported goods and luxurious items that could easily be manufactured here.

Going back to where we started, it is still folly for those who ought to know better to have taken such callous decisions so as to politicize what is in effect sound judgement because it offends their earning capacity or that they anticipated a sense of unease that would have assisted their cause to make political football of our economic situation.

Sierra Leone is not the only country feeling the pinch. They should go ask the Americans. For the first time, there is open protest against a President elect in the world’s foremost democracy!

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