Former Minister of Finance, John Oponjo Benjamin over the weekend lambasted the Ernest Bai Koroma led All People’s Congress (APC) Government over the repeated harassment and intimidation of supporters of the opposition Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP), especially in the South East and the country as a whole.
Mr. Benjamin was reacting in an exclusive interview with this medium to certain sections of President Koroma’s address during the State Opening of Parliament that run contrary to what obtains in real terms.
The erstwhile Minister disclosed to the Awareness Times the APC is now bent on perpetuating all forms of intimidation, unlawful arrests and detention of perceived SLPP supporters around the country as manifested on Friday 10th October 2008 at a village called Gbeika near Daru when locals were unlawfully arrested and detained on flimsy grounds that they were planning a coup against the APC government.
"This is no responsible way to run a government that claims political tolerance," Mr. Benjamin said, while explaining that SLPP supporters continue to suffer all forms of intimidation in the hands of the APC which is unacceptable.
"How can President Koroma boast of running a politically and religiously tolerant government when the SLPP Headquarters, both in Freetown and the provinces, continue to suffer vandalisation at the hands of APC thugs?" Mr. John Benjamin questioned, while stressing that victimization and intimidation of SLPP supporters by both the Police and youths believed to be thugs of the ruling government continue to ravage the country’s hard won peace and national reconciliation.
The Erstwhile Finance Minister pointed out to the fact that the country is presently enjoying a hard won peace that the former SLPP regime shed sweat for, adding that the present challenge should be the preservation of that peace.
"During the reign of the SLPP, we were able to achieve peace as well as religious, political and tribal tolerance," Mr. Benjamin told this medium, adding that the SLPP had always recognized the APC as their friends albeit their political differences.
Mr. Benjamin in no uncertain terms lambasted the ruling government over what he described as the introduction of northernization concept being practiced by the Ernest Koroma led government, stating that there is an urgent need to change that concept of leadership and adapt a leadership style that will be favorable to all and sundry.
"It is very obvious that the APC government does not in any way practice what they are claiming, as the flaws of their claims are clearly manifested in the composition of their northern cabinet, the recruitment of people into the police and armed forces, appointments to foreign postings, parastatals, and memberships of boards," Mr. Benjamin disclosed.
He also raised grave concern on the alleged practice of the ruling government to banish Paramount Chiefs from their homes simply because they are perceived as supporters of the SLPP, adding that such practice does not in any way depict political tolerance.
Speaking on achievement claims being trumpeted by the APC, Mr. Benjamin emphatically stated that those achievements were made possible through the solid foundation laid by the past SLPP government.
"If the APC is able to take credit for certain achievements like the World Bank's Doing Business Report, it was because the SLPP made the country credit worthy through the introduction of certain reforms," Mr. Benjamin boasted, adding that the SLPP handed over a government that was debt free as most of the debts were written off during their reign.
"Most of the tractors were distributed to the northern farmers and all the tangible hydro facilities that President Koroma spoke of are those based in the north," Benjamin pointed out his opinion insofar as Agriculture was concerned. He observed that the president only spoke of feasibility studies to be carried out in the south east of the country.
Mr. Benjamin also informed the Awareness Times that the APC has difficulties in maintaining gains made by the former government as recently manifested in the poor performance of pupils that sat to the West African Senior Schools Certificate Examination (WASSCE).
"Why the sudden drop in our country’s education system when we still have the same teachers and the same school facilities?" Mr. Benjamin questioned, while pointing out that the country only had a change of government within twelve and the education system is nothing to write home about.
Mr. Benjamin strongly asserted that the economy is collapsing the hands of the APC while education continues to suffer a massive decline. He also stated that students were performing excellently in the midst of blackout and questioned the sharp decline in performance.
"It is not just possible for pupils to perform excellently or concentrate on their studies with empty stomachs," he said.
"The APC is quick to claim responsibility for good things while they are always bent on shifting blames on the SLPP when it comes to bad things," Mr. Benjamin disclosed and called on the APC to change their attitudes if only the betterment of this country is serious in their minds.
© Copyright by Awareness Times
Newspaper in Freetown, Sierra Leone.