As Hinga Norman’s body was being handed over to his relatives yesterday afternoon by the Special Court for Sierra Leone, APC Councillors, Civil Society Activists and former Kamajor fighters were roundly blasting the Freetown Mayor, His Worship Winstanley Bankole Johnson.
The citizens are upset over the refusal of the Bankole Johnson led Freetown City Council to grant civic recognition to the late Norman in the form of a civic funeral service. The City father has been quoted in the local tabloids that the issue of whether the late Norman was a hero or not was a debatable matter since he died under the custody of the Special Court as an indictee. He was further referred to haven stated that being that the issue is a divided one, a referendum should be instituted to determine whether indeed the late Chief Hinga Norman was a hero or not.
However, several angry Councillors from the All People’s Congress have lashed out at the Mayor claiming that his utterances might affect the Party’s chances at the upcoming polls. They told Awareness Times that contrary to the assertion by the Mayor, there are no written criteria as to who merits such a posthumous respect.
According to them, the late Chief was a suspect at the Special Court and not been found guilty of any of the charges levied against before his death. Charles Mambu of the Civil Society Movement also told Awareness Times that as far as the civil society is concerned Chief Norman was a hero considering the sacrifices he made in restoring Sierra Leone to constitutional order when it was torn apart by the AFRC and the RUF.
However, speaking also to Awareness Times yesterday, a daughter of the late Chief Hinga Norman, Juliet Norman told Awareness Times that the Norman family is not bothered whether the Freetown City Council accords their late father a civic funeral, noting that it is left with the Bo City Council to decide as such, since it is there that their father is to be buried.
"Whether he recognizes the heroism of Chief Hinga Norman or not is not for his consideration. What we believe and indeed the majority of Sierra Leoneans believe is that my father played a vital role for the preservation of the dignity of the state of Sierra Leone and that he was accused wrongly of the charges levied against him on to his death. We are also fully convinced that he did not die a convicted man," Juliet Norman opined.
Also speaking to Awareness Times were several former kamajor fighters. Foday Musa Samba a former Kamajor fighter in his remarks also maintained that late Chief Norman by all indications merits a civic funeral because of what he did for the state of Sierra Leone during the nine months interregnum. He accused Mayor Johnson of deliberately refusing to recognize this fact about the late Chief Norman, which he attributed to his "lack of understanding of what is means to sacrifice for the national good."
A source at the Freetown City Council who explained the processes of a civic funeral to this reporter says that it entails the full presence of the Mayor dressed in his full ceremonial regalia at each stage of the funeral arrangement. According to the source, it starts with the receiving of the corpse and laying it in state at a designated place by the City Council, where the public is allowed to pay their last respect to be followed by tributes, to be followed by any form of prayer service before the burial.
It would be recalled that just about a fortnight ago, President Alhaji Dr. Ahmed Tejan Kabbah in a statement to graduands at the Njala University College in Bo, confirmed the innocence of the late Chief Norman, noting that he was never convicted by the Special Court for Sierra Leone for any of the charges for he was standing trial. In that regard, the President had stated that Chief Norman was not a criminal and that he died innocent of all the charges levied against him by the Special Court.
However, another concern raised by the Mayor in his interview was in defence of President Kabbah. The Mayor pointed out that certain people concerned with the funeral arrangements for Chief Norman had showed gross disrespect towards President Kabbah in both words and action and so he did not want the Council to be drawn into any ensuing controversy during the funeral rites.